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Beautiful outriggers set sail for the Solomons

NOCC members lift canoes to start the journey to the Solomons
Noosa canoeists lift one of the outriggers to start their journey to a new life in the Solomons (Noosa Today)


NOOSA - Chaplin Park, home base for the Noosa Outrigger Canoe Club, was a busy riverside greensward last week as club members loaded and farewelled two canoes bound for the Solomon Islands.

It seems a bit like taking coal to Newcastle or coconuts to Kokopo, but these sleek racing lovelies are as rare as rocking horse poo in the Solomons, which is looking to build the sport of competitive outrigger canoeing.

Of course the people of the Solomons archipelago know more than most folk about canoes and how to sail them.

But their craft tend to be heavy wooden models used for transport between the Solomons’ 1,000 beautiful islands or the more fragile contrivances put together for local fishing.

Sleek, modern racing outriggers are hard to come by in one of the poorest nations in the world, but the Solomons is highly enthused to get involved in the sport of competitive va’a racing.

It’s getting on with this through the go-ahead Poly Va’a Club of Honiara (va’a being the Hawaiian, Samoan and Tahitian word for ‘canoe’).

Outriggers have been the stalwart of Pacific exploration, fishing and trade for about 3,500 years.

It’s believed they were developed by the Austronesian speaking peoples of the islands of Southeast Asia around 1500 BC.

They were really a solution to a problem caused by another development - the instability of single-hull watercraft after the invention of crab claw sails.

It took until 1908 for the first outrigger canoe club to be formed in Hawaii and another 70 years for the first club in Australia to be established on the Gold Coast.

The sport in Australia is governed by the Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association which has 104 affiliated clubs including five on the Sunshine Coast where the Noosa Outrigger Canoe Club is to be found.

Anyway, let’s get back to the Poly Va’a Club of Honiara from where Steve Tomoana has spent the last six months in Queensland organising the collection of outrigger canoes donated by clubs and the transport required to get the boats to Honiara.

Well Steve managed to persuade the Australian Defence Force to lend a transport aircraft to carry two canoes from Noosa and half a dozen from other Queensland clubs.

In Noosa a respectful ceremony was held to bless and farewell the canoes at Chaplin Park on the Noosa River.

The two canoes were some of the first craft owned by the club. They’re not examples of newer, lighter technology but they carve out an impressive sight on many mornings each week as they skim along the Noosa River, all six paddlers in perfect synchronicity.

So those beautiful craft have now departed from Amberley air base in Queensland and any day now will be seen gracing the Solomon Sea, welcomed and appreciated by a new paddling community.

Source: Noosa Today

Link here for more interesting stuff on outrigger racing


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