Guy Wilding, Hawaii - In the much anticipated single ocean ski showdown, 49 years old Oscar Chalupsky, a South African kayak Olympian in 1992 and a previous winner of this race a record 11 times, turned the clock back and returned to Hawaii to have another crack at the channel. The winner of the previous two MOLOKAI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, Clint Robinson, 39 years old, an Australian 5 x Olympian and the winner of Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals in the kayak, was returning to defend his MOLOKAI title. Local all round waterman Patrick Dolan, 23 years old, fresh from winning the 2012 OC1 relay in record time and a great 3rd placing in the 2012 OC1 solo – both across the same stretch of water that is called the Kaiwi Channel - looked ready to challenge the big guns.
Just to add to the potent mix of talent assembled for the big race, at the 11th hour, 9 time winner of this event and another MOLOKAI legend, Dean Gardiner, 46 years old, from Australia, announced he too was entering. Add the tough South African Matt Bouman, plus Aussies Marty Kenny - here for his 18th crossing – Grant Kenny, also an Olympic bronze medalist in the kayak and also a 5 time winner of this race, plus Bruce Taylor, Kurt Tutt and a host of other legitimate contenders and the scene was set for an awesome battle ! We were not to be disappointed…..
From the outset young gun Patrick Dolan raised eyebrows as he turned hard left and set the most southerly of courses. He broke away from the pack immediately and would paddle 95% of the distance on his own. Angles could have been deceiving but it appeared that early on young Pat was actually in the lead ! Clint Robinson led out the rest of the field on a more northerly course just north of the rhum line, with the double ski of Barton and Szadovski. South African Matt Bouman, and Aussies Marty Kenny, Bruce Taylor, Kurt Tutt and Dean Gardner were all close, as well as the double ski of Patrick Hemmens and Sean Lupton-Smith. Oscar Chalupsky looked like he was in a little trouble early as he was caught up in the escort boat wash, but he remained in visual contact with the leaders – just….. But the pace was on early and the field strung out for miles very, very quickly.
Bouman looked strong for the first 2 hours of the race and seemed to be executing a controlled and well planned assault. Robinson as usual looked very efficient and established the early pace and a slight lead – at least on the bulk of the field that made up the more northern group. Gardner was hanging back a little playing a waiting game. But as the group pushed out further into the channel and the surf started to pick up so did Gardiner. Bruce Taylor and Marty Kenny were battling it out with each other wave for wave and staying right in touch with the leaders. Just back a little bit from this group was Kurt Tutt who was also looking strong and determined.
Strung out for miles behind this lead group the whole field of competitors were all doing their own personal best to cross the 30+ miles of the Kaiwi channel.
Meanwhile Pat Dolan was out of sight as he continued on his more southerly course. After a couple of hours Clint Robinson made a move and also surfed down a little more to the south of the rhum line. He appeared to open up a little more of a lead at that stage, but very soon after Matt Bouman started to work a bit harder and the gritty South African pushed right up on Clint. Bouman appeared to be equal with Clint, but he was still on the straight line to Portlock whilst Clint continued a little more south. However, Pat Dolan was still the furthest south by a long way and we could only just see his escort boat from the group staying on the straight line across the channel. Pat appeared to be dropping back a little ….BUT…. the angles out in the open ocean could be deceiving….. and we would find out if they were a little later in the day ….
Not long after Bouman had made a charge up into the front of the race he appeared to pay the price for the extra effort as he appeared to falter a little and his pace dropped. We took a closer look at Matt and he was suffering big time – (he later said he started to feel ill with about an hour to go – not sure if it was dehydration or something he had eaten…). Dean Gardner must have a sixth sense in this race and as Matt Bouman slowed just a little Deano made his move. He took full advantage of Bouman’s pain and he pushed very hard, surfing like a man possessed. With about an hour left in the race Dean Gardiner looked to have moved into the outright lead. Looking at Dean’s incredible boat speed at that stage of the race and the fact he was on what appeared to be a more direct line to Coco Head, he was looking to be the likely winner and if so would grab his tenth title! BUT…..little did we know that this race was far from over......
Back about a quarter mile we could see a big black ski making a move towards the front. We soon saw the big red headed South African champion, Oscar Chalupsky was on board and he had found another gear. So far he had worked just hard enough to stay in touch, but now he was absolutely flying! He was making up ground very quickly and he moved past Kenny and Taylor like a bullet. Almost as quickly he then caught and passed the suffering Matt Bouman. Dean was still looking strong out in front…… but not far from China Walls Oscar pushed up into yet another gear and challenged the race leader. BUT…. even though we were right at Coco Head and the two leaders of this race were a previous 12 time winner and a previous 9 time winner this was still much more than a two horse race!
Emerging from his more southerly course, the current and two time defending champion Clint Robinson was not going to give up the title without a fight – a BIG fight. He surged towards Coco Head and as the leaders came together it was clear that Clint was still in the hunt ! Not too far back local hero Pat Dolan also came into view. The young gun was also moving up fast and he actually now looked the strongest of the chase group! And as they rounded China Walls and the head wind hit them all full in the face, 49 year old Oscar Chalupsky was clearly in the lead. Simply unbelievable ! But it wasn’t over just yet….. Oscar was still followed closely by Dean Gardiner. But then another change. Clint Robinson put the hammer down as he entered he bay and quickly overhauled Dean and then set out after Oscar! Oscar was not far in front of Clint now……Surely the five time Olympian and 1992 Olympic 1000m kayak gold medalist would pass Oscar in the flat water ??? But then Clint's speed looked to drop off a little……and almost at the same time Oscar miraculously caught a small bump and edged just a little further ahead ! (We later found out that Clint had been cramping for much of the second half of the race and he could not grip his paddle during the last surge towards the finish line.) Meanwhile, Dean Gardiner was still pushing hard but he was hurting after his huge effort to try and steal the race. Pat Dolan looked like he sensed Deans pain as he firstly came up alongside Dean and then sprinted past him and set out after Clint. What a race!!!
Meanwhile, just before Coco Head Matt Bouman was not a well man and he was passed by both Bruce Taylor and then Marty Kenny who were still battling each other wave for wave, as they had done all the way across the channel! Bouman was clearly suffering now, but he was still aiming for the finish and pushing himself to (and beyond) his limits. A very, very tough competitor! Again - what a race!!!
Try as he might, Clint could not catch Oscar and once again it now looked like it would be the BIG ‘O’s day in the Kaiwi Channel! Oscar continued to paddle as hard as he could under the bridge and right up to the finish line at Hawaii Kai Towne Center, as he knew Clint was not far behind and still chasing and would never give up.
Big Oscar Chalupsky hung on grimly to win this iconic race for the 12th time in 3hrs 24min 07 seconds ! At 49 years of age : simply AMAZING ! His winning margin was a scant 19 seconds from a gallant Clint Robinson who finished in 3hrs 24 min 26 seconds. Pat Dolan finished third to a well deserved local heroes welcome, just one minute and sixteen seconds back from these champions and the best finish by a Hawaiian paddler for many years. What a great year Pat has had and to finish off the season as part of todays unbelievable contest between some of the best ever ocean paddlers and some of the rising stars, over one of the toughest stretches of water in the world tops it all off nicely!
WHILST LOGISTICAL CONSTRAINTS FORCED THE REPORTING BOAT TO STAY WITH THE LEAD GROUP THROUGHOUT THE RACE WE SALUTE EACH AND EVERY ATHLETE IN THIS DIFFICULT EVENT. FROM THE LINE HONORS WINNERS GREG BARTON & ZSOLT SZADOVSKI ON THE DOUBLE SKI, TO ROWENA COGHILL THE FIRST WOMAN ACROSS THE LINE, AND RIGHT THROUGH TO THE FINAL FINISHER, WE KNOW THERE WERE MANY 'RACES WITHIN THE RACE' ITSELF AND WE KNOW THERE ARE MANY MORE WONDERFUL STORIES TO BE TOLD. PLEASE SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES WITH US!
First woman : Rowena Coghill (Australia) in 4.21.42
First double ski (& line honors) : Greg Barton & Zsolt Szadovski (USA) in 3.21.32
First 18-29 : Michael Booth (Australia) in 3.38.24
First 30-39 : Matt Bouman (South Africa) in 3.29.04
First 40-49 : Tim Altman (Australia) in 3.40.27
First 50-59 : Kala Judd (Hawaii) in 3.50.07
For full results see: http://www.pseresults.com/events/413/results