The participants at this year’s Vaka Eiva were welcomed in the traditional Cook Islands way during the event blessing ceremony at Avarua harbour yesterday.
Among them was Hawaii-based Team Kai Makana who are here to raise awareness on the need to take care of the ocean.
The open women’s paddling team is led by Donna Kahakui, who is the founder of Kai Makana – an organisation founded and supported by those who love the ocean.
Kahakui said the team comprise of members who believe in the cause Kai Makana is advocating for.
“This is a group of women who came together with the value of taking care of the ocean,” she said.
Kahakui, who took part in the inaugural Vaka Eiva in 2004, said they were drawn to the event due to the beauty of Rarotonga.
She also said returning to Rarotonga was like “coming back to our ancestors”, given the Cook Islands’ rich Polynesian history.
“It’s a chance to build lasting relationships with each other as well as meet new friends around the world. Some of us have decades of experience while others have a few years, but either way we come together to enjoy the opportunity.”
Kahakui, who is one of the most experienced paddlers in the team, has won several top competitions in Hawaii. She has been paddling for over 40 years.
The other senior member in Team Kai Makana is Carleen Ornellas, who also competed in the inaugural Vaka Eiva.
Ornellas is one of the best international steersman competing in this or any race, Kahakui said.
She has been a part of outrigger canoe paddling for over 50 years and played a vital role in organising the first Na Wahine O Ke kai race in 1979.
Ornellas has also been a crew member of several winning international masters crews in the last two decades.
Kahakui said their team also has two new paddlers who were looking forward to a tough and exciting battle in the Vaka Eiva.
The 16th Vaka Eiva started yesterday with the blessing from Pastor George Ngarima.
Today the V6 12 kilometre Iron Races in the under-19, open, and all masters divisions will be held.
This will be followed by the Matson Vaka Eiva 2019 official opening and prize giving for the V6 Iron Races at the Vaka Village, starting at 5.30pm.
Registration for the 6km “On The Rock Mixer” race which will be held on Monday, will also be accepted during the day.
Tomorrow is a rest day. On Monday, the OC1/VA Iron Races and 6km “On The Rock Mixer” race will be held.
The Vaka Eiva is an international paddling competition that sees paddlers from all around the world competing against the best of the best in an intense but fun filled, week-long event.