News & Events
Clint Robinson - Molokai Race Report
Molokai World Championships 2011
By Clint Robinson
One of the most interesting things about the Molokai Ski Race, especially over the last 5 years, has been the lack of exciting downwind runs across the channel, which this race is renowned for. The Molokai race is known as the most challenging Ski race in the world. Not only is the race challenging in respect to the conditions, but the endurance component can also be mentally difficult, holding it all together in that last hour. It is a tough challenge to chase the runners for over 3 hours, as the water and swell move quickly in Hawaii.
In 2010 the race delivered 3 4 foot of swell and 15 - 20 knots of wind, which is still mild conditions for the Channel, however in the 2011 race it started out flat and developed into 2 foot of swell with 10 12 knots of wind for about 1 hour total and then dropped away quickly to near on nothing! This was certainly disappointing, but they were the conditions, and it pretty much followed the pre-event predictions (that most of the field were hoping would change.) However in saying that, anyone that competes in this race really enjoys the experience and challenge. The challenge to get the best out of your body over such a long race is an experience in itself.
The race in 2011 provided a physical and psychological challenge, as early in the morning reports were that the wind was up and there was going to be a small consistent swell all the way across, plus there was to be an incoming tide for the whole race, and the swell angle (while is wasnt heading directly from behind us) was a slight easterly direction. So all in all, if the reports stayed true it was to be quite a quick Channel crossing.
After the gun went at 11.00am we had about 15 minutes of quite flat paddling, and no swell big enough to pick up any real decent runners. It was very much a flat paddling race at this stage. With these conditions, approximately 6 8 paddlers started to separate from the pack. Leading the race at this stage was Dane Sloss who went out quite hard, whereas I tried to stay in a relaxed and steady rhythm. At approximately the 20 minutes mark I caught up to Dane, around us at this stage was Sasah, Tom, Zoslt and the pack behind that was Dean, Martin, Brad and Paul from what I could see.
Not long after that I passed Dane, and Tom from South Africa was just behind me, Dean and Martin took a southern line to stay with the runners and on the Rhumb Line. Once we got near the 30 minute mark some decent small runners started to shape up. These runners were approximately 2 2 ½ foot, and the wind was around 12 knots. This lasted for about 40-45 minutes and at about the 1 ¼ hour mark was when all the wind seemed to die off and the conditions became very calm. These calm conditions lasted for approximately 20 minutes.
After this the swell picked up ever so slightly to enable us to run a few bumps again and to break the oily service off the water. This helped to relax a bit once you got onto the runners. However, it only lasted about 20 minutes, and from then on the runners and swell were nearly non-existent for the rest of the race. There was no wind what so ever to generate any runners on the water.
Therefore the race became a hot slog, there was no wind in your face and the reflections off the water from the 25-28 degrees made for a tough race. Once I got to the 1 ½ hour mark I heard that Dean Gardner was down on my left and about 4 minutes behind, and Tom was in line with Dean looking quite good on my right side - Oscar said to keep an eye on this young guy Tom, as he was quite a good talent. I believe the race pack separated quite a bit due to the conditions wind no wind wind, as it was hard to stay in a stable pattern. After this point in time, I felt the race was a real lonely paddle of course I had my guide boat with me and both my support crew where extremely experienced men and did an excellent job, but the last two hours of the race I did not see anyone, as I kept building to the 10 minute lead.
It was quite a strange feeling racing across the Channel and not seeing anybody. Around the 2 ¾ hour mark the only other major info I heard was that Dean Gardner had pulled the pin. I believe that the conditions were a factor for Dean pulling out. The rest of the race was quite straight forward I was happy to get around Portlock and work a few small waves to the finish.
This was my 9th time crossing the channel ( 7 times in the Ski Race & 2 times in the 6 Man Outrigger Race) and I still get new experiences every time. So it was interesting to hear Geoff Graf say to me after the race, you look like you finally get what this race was all about. After the 2009 experience, which I stuffed up majorly and it ended in the worst result I have ever got it changed me as an endurance paddler and I have learned so much from that race. I really look forward to competing in this event each time I do it, and I hope to have some really challenging wind and big surf in this race in the near future I also believe this will bring back some more major paddlers. I believe the support Epic has given me and the V12 has provided me with exactly what I was looking for in the race. I hope in the near future Hawaii can provide 20 plus knots of wind and solid swell, as I believe when I get to race across the Channel in these conditions I may be able to retire a very happy man.
Finally to Geoff, Shelley and all their team, I would like to say thank you very much for running a great event and making us all feel so welcome, which is a great attraction for me in coming back each time. For me no other event rates close to this race in Ocean Ski racing and the day the conditions present a real wild challenge I can only hope my butt will be there!!!!