In 1943 a Hawaii race began that has created quite a legacy. 72 years later, the MacFarlane Regatta is the longest running canoe race in the world. On race day the Waikiki shoreline becomes base camp for well over a thousand paddlers and tens of thousands of spectators. The first race was for the military and all branches were represented. Even a canoe for wounded warriors competed in the competition. The regatta is held in partnership with the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, which doles out more than $160,000 in grants and scholarships for Hawaii students.
Jane’s club, Outrigger Canoe Club, hosts the 4th of July McFarlane regatta in front of Dukes Waikiki every year since the 1940s. The open men and women’s divisions are divided into four races, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior. The ‘Premier” races to win are Sophomore and Senior, and if you win the Senior you get to drink champagne from a silver bowl after the race! The Soph race is one mile and Senior is mile and one half.
Most outrigger regattas plot a course that runs parallel to the beach. In the McFarlane Regatta there is a fair amount of surf potential and the course runs out through the surf and then back in. Jane McKee explains, “For the 2015 regatta there was surf, and extreme tide changes. Those conditions made for a very disorganized wave and unpredictable conditions. Many canoes hulied, broke or were swamped.
We were racing in the Sophomore race, and coming into the last leg for the finish. We were winning with a good lead. We went to get on a wave but it was a double wave. As we came down the face of one wave the manu, or nose of the canoe, stuck in the wave in front of us essentially slowing us down long enough for the back wave to wash over the entire canoe and sink us. This all happened within seconds!
I love the faces of the paddlers as some are laughing and others look totally dismayed. That is the great thing about this race it is a total luck of the draw who will win because mother ocean gets the last laugh! Anything can happen and there are no guarantees
This very same crew went on to win the Senior race and drink from the silver bowl, so in the end it was a great adventure with lots of laughs and a good story to tell.
The girls in the canoe are: Tracy Phillips, Jane McKee, Donna Kahakui, Blair Grant, Amy Lawson, and Simeon de Paloma is steering.
We have the men steer because they are better able to handle keeping the canoe straight when the wave are big or the canoe starts going out of control!
In our Senior race it was the same girls, but Marc Haine steered us to victory.
It was a great day!!”