It has been 12 years, but now a team of local paddlers has done it again: paddle across the Cook Strait in a W6. A big thanks to Interislander and Fergs Kayaks for making this possible.
Jörn Scherzer, organiser of the team, says the idea for the Cook Strait crossing came about because he sometimes gets asked about running a race across the Strait. And of course, paddling across the Strait is one of those things you have to tick off your bucket list.
(For a full set of pictures, please click on the picture above, or follow this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hoetonga/sets/72157651212863038/. (Video coverage will follow in the near future.)
But what many people don’t realise is that the Strait is one of the most unpredictable stretches of water you can find, with strong tidal flows and often strong winds. So organising a crossing does not come easy, planning of this venture started in August last year.
On the day it meant an early start at 4am, with the team starting its paddle at 5.30am from Mana in Porirua. The team members were Matt Archer, Lawrence Hynes, Pa Taikato, Grant Barriball, Marianna Hodges, and Jörn Scherzer.
The forecast for the crossing was for light conditions, with a Northerly kicking in from the afternoon. Turns out it was pretty flat all the way in the morning, except for a light Southerly swell and plenty of rips and eddies near the Brothers Islands and around Cape Koamaru. (Click on the picture below to replay the crossing. Note that cell phone coverage in the Sounds is poor, so the replay only covers the crossing up to Cape Koamaru / Arapawa Island.)
For the first hour the team paddled in complete darkness, and it’s only once the team had passed Mana Island, over 12km into the crossing, that the first signs of morning emerged. 4 hours and 40 minutes later, having covered a distance of 55km, the team reached Ship Cove in the Outer Marlborough Sounds.
Ship Cove gave safe harbour to Captain James Cook on five occasions during the 1770s; it now makes for a picturesque location to finish a venture such as this.
The team then caught a water taxi to Picton with the canoe in tow (with Mattie loving the ride). The team then enjoyed the comfort of the Interislander ferry on their return journey to Wellington.
The team would like to thank Interislander Ferries and Fergs Kayaks for their outstanding support for this venture. A big thank you also to support boatie Murray Leacock and assistant Lei Faletolu, and Porirua Canoe Kayak Club for providing crucial equipment support.
For the past two years, Jörn in collaboration with Lei Faletolu and James Sadler has organised the Mana Super 6 Ocean Challenge, a one-way ocean race between Porirua and Kapiti. W6 teams paddle a distance of 39km, preferably with the wind on their back, in what can be demanding rough water conditions. The race is the longest waka ama marathon race in New Zealand.
For 2016, they will be investigating in further detail the financial feasibility of adding a Cook Straight crossing as a potential race course option. Securing sufficient logistical support and sponsorship would be essential.
Today’s crossing was a test of whether the distance of 55km can be done by a team in an iron-man format, if the conditions are right. The answer is yes, it can be done.