(Hawaii) – South African Hank McGregor scooped his third title in one of the world’s toughest paddling events – the Maui Jim Molokai Challenge. In doing so, he led home fellow SA paddlers Sean Rice and Jasper Mocké in the gruelling 53km crossing between the islands of Molokai and Oahu.
The race for the overall singles title quickly turned into a five boat affair with the South African trio dicing with Australian defending champ Cory Hill and his compatriot Clint Robinson, each seeking their own lines across the channel that was offering no swell, runs or downwind assistance.
McGregor, who finished fourth last year in equally tough conditions, was able to use his accumulated experience in the closing stages of the race to choose quicker lines to get to the finish at Maunalua Beach Park a minute and a half clear of winner of the ICF ocean racing world title Sean Rice with Mocké just over a minute further back, making up an all-South African podium for the first time.
The podium race was moulded by drama right at the death as the leaders approached China Walls, within sight of the finish, when defending champ Cory Hill rode a wave too far at the fabled point and smashed the rudder into the hull of his surfski.
In the rest of the large field of South African paddlers Herman Chalupsky finished tenth, winning the Masters age group ahead of US Olympic legend Greg Barton, Eastern Cape stalwart Richard von Wilderman was 11th and Tom Schilperoort 14th, ahead of former Molokai champ Oscar Chalupsky, who lost time after also being wiped out on the reef at China Walls, damaging his rudder.
The women’s race was dominated by Queenslander Liz Pluimers, finishing 15 minutes ahead of Kiwi Rachel Clarke, with another Australian Tania Moohin completing the women’s podium.
About the Molokai Challenge
The Molokai Challenge, originally named Kanaka Ikaika, is a true test of paddling skill, endurance and knowledge of ocean surfing. It tests a paddler’s ability to maneuver against unpredictable weather conditions in the Kaiwi Channel. The Kaiwi Channel, more often called the “Molokai Channel” is an expanse of ocean between the island of Molokai and Oahu. It is considered one of the roughest ocean channels in the world when the ocean is angry.
The start is off the west end of Molokai near Kaluakoi, and traditionally finishes 32 miles away in the Marina off Hawaii Kai. In 2007 the race finished in Waikiki as a test to see if the extra 8 miles would be accepted by the paddlers. There was no wind, 44 entrants pulled out, and the winning time was 5 hours and 20 minutes. The course returned to Hawaii Kai the following year and has not changed since.