Where to even begin?! Leading up to the 52km crossing across the Kaiwi channel I was feeling well prepared, mentally strong & I had a good feeling about it. I felt like I was the fittest I had ever been and had done a mixture of flat water vs downwind paddling. It always plays on paddlers mind’s whether the typical ‘trade winds’ would grace us with their presence, I know that everyone who raced the Molokai crossing in 2018 had high hopes. For me, the first 3 years racing across the channel it was dead flat, so I wasn’t holding high hopes going into my 5th crossing.
Thankfully this year our flight on the Tuesday wasn’t cancelled! Sam and I arrived in Hawaii early Tuesday morning with 5 days to aclimitize, adjust to a different time-zone, get my ski all set up and do a couple of final preparations on the Hawaiian waters. Upon arriving everything ran smoothly, I met with Epic’s awesome Kenny Howell to collect my V11 Elite (same ski as I used last year) and jumped straight on the water for an easy 45min jet lag flush out. From there we checked into our hotel and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon. Wednesday was another lounging around type day, checking into Shaw & Partners Race Team HQ art the magnificent Halekalani which is in a class of it’s own. The next couple of days were much the same, chilling out, staying off the feet as much as possible and a couple of paddles in the mornings.
Race morning = Sunday 4:45am alarm goes off, shower, zinc on face, walk across the road for a hearty Denny’s breakfast (only thing open at that time) Uber to the airport, jump on a miniature plane and 30minutes later we land on Molokai! From the sky we could see white caps going in the right direction and you could see a sense of excitement we would have some downwind fun! As for the support crew I’m not sure of this excitement for them as this would mean a bumpy ride on the boat!!!
This year the women were starting in the second wave with the men following 30minutes behind. The forecast looked awesome with possibly better conditions than last year so it was a good possibility the records could be broken! A large shore break at Molokai was testing and you definitely had to ‘plan’ your entry quickly between sets and make a run for it!! I had my own race plan for the 52km’s but also knew I might have to be flexible if it didn’t go to plan. 9AM came around quickly and the women were away. Paddling into the distance with Oahu nowhere to be seen. The first 5km’s went by quickly with Jordan Mercer leading the women and Georgia Laird and I not far behind. Both Georgia and I caught up to Jordan throughout the next 20kms and we were side by side chasing runs until about the 25km mark. Up to this point I was feeling great! Comfortable in the downwind, HR was good, taking in fluid and things were looking good. Georgia and Jordan then upped the pace and I couldn’t reel them in, I felt like I was paddling so hard, trying to catch the runs I should have been catching but going nowhere, I felt powerless and actually sometimes wondered if I was moving forward!!!! Sam and Noah on my escort boat were always giving encouragement but I just felt terrible, with a sense of sickness. I stopped for a couple of seconds, shake’d out my arms, had a gel and thought to myself, “right let’s go Rachel” but nothing changed. From here on in, the girls had gotten further away from me, now it was a matter of finishing. I was approaching China Wall and saw Hayley coming in my inside but I couldn’t stay with her, Bonnie Hancock having an awesome paddle coming on my outside. As I came around the wall I went close to the channel as China Wall looked HUGE, and I wasn’t risking anything. I looked behind me as Sam was cheering so loudly and there was a nice 3ft wave I managed to pull onto and ride it pretty much the entire way in. I was thinking to myself DO NOT BROACH when the wave started top crumble. I looked to my left as I passed Bonnie where she was in the middle of the channel with no waves. I was able to put my paddles down for a good 2 minutes! This was probably the highlight of the entire 52kms!!!! Under the bridge I went and a right hand turn for the final 1km. I crossed the line absolutely relieved to have finished! I may not have got the end result I wanted finishing in 4th but I guess there’s always next year!!! I was 5 minutes slower than last year in better conditions this year, so I definitely wasn’t having a good day!! Big congratulations to the top 3, Jordan, Georgia and Hayley it’s awesome to have more and more women racing Surfski at an elite level!
Next up for me is the Canadian Downwind Champs in July and then straight to the Gorge for a week of downwind fun and racing!!!
Thanknyou to Sam for being on my support boat and the continuous support (maybe I will support you next year?!) , Noah for your awesome escorting and my sponsors for getting me here today and your belief in me!