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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 29, 2002

Australians take top spots in Moloka'i-O'ahu race

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

The winning course went north, but the top finishers went Down Under during the Quiksilver Silver Edition Moloka'i to O'ahu Paddleboard Race yesterday.

"This is the best feeling of my life," said Australia's Jamie Mitchell after capturing the Moloka'i to O'ahu race yesterday. "I really wanted to win this one." The lifeguard finished the 32-mile course in a time of 5:44:40.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Relying on a northerly course across the Kaiwi Channel, Australians took the top four places in the event that is considered the world championship of long-distance ocean paddleboarding.

Jamie Mitchell, a lifeguard from Queensland, led the Australian charge. He completed the 32-mile course from the Kaluako'i Hotel on Moloka'i to Maunalua Bay, O'ahu in 5 hours, 44 minutes, 40 seconds.

"This is the best feeling of my life," said Mitchell, 25. "I really wanted to win this one."

A strong current pushing from north to south and relatively calm winds made for a slow crossing. Mitchell's time was the slowest winning mark in the six-year history of the event.

Aaron Bitmead, the 2001 champ, placed second at 5:50:31, and was followed by Jackson English (5:52:58) and Mick Dibetta (6:04:41).

All four Australians paddled identical paddleboards: 17-foot models called "Classic Waterman." Paddleboards are streamlined boards powered only by arm strokes, much like paddling a surfboard.

Even if the conditions were not classic, Mitchell's victory was.

He trailed his fellow countrymen by as much as a half-mile early in the race before catching and then passing them down the stretch.

From the start, the Australian contingent took a northerly route. Mitchell, however, took it to an extreme.

"It was cloudy at the start; you couldn't even see (O'ahu)," he said. "I ended up too far north and before I knew it, (Bitmead and English) had a sizeable lead on me."

Australia's Jamie Mitchell trailed his fellow countrymen by as much as a half-mile early in the race.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Less than two hours into the race, Mitchell said he was "shocked" at how far Bitmead and English were ahead of him.

"But I never panicked," he said. "I knew if I went after them real hard, I could blow myself up. I just pegged away and pegged away and slowly they started coming into site."

About halfway across the channel, Mitchell, Bitmead and English paddled like a pod of dolphins.

"We were all right there, taking turns catching waves," Mitchell said. "It was quite fun at that point."

A few Hawai'i paddlers were on a southerly course, but with the current running against them, they soon fell off the lead pace.

Mitchell made his finishing push about four miles away from the finish line.

"I just started to feel better and my arms came alive," he said.

Bitmead said of the stretch run: "There was a lot of wash coming off the rocks (near Portlock) and I was getting a little bit tippy. I wasn't handling that too well because of fatigue and everything."

The victory capped a six-week training campaign for Mitchell in Hawai'i. He has been staying on O'ahu's North Shore since June 17. Since then, he has won all five paddleboard races he has entered, including yesterday's.

"I don't know if that's the entire reason why I won," he said. "But it certainly helped."

Mitchell has won the Moloka'i to O'ahu twice before, but both times as part of a two-man team (competitors can either enter as individuals or with a partner; two-man teams alternate throughout the course).

Brian Rocheleau of Hawai'i Kai placed fifth overall at 6:05:31, and was the first Hawai'i finisher. He said he paddled alone for much of the course, on a path somewhere between the Australians to the north and the Hawai'i paddlers to the south.

A current going from north to south and a lack of wind made Jamie Mitchell's winning time the slowest in the six-year history of the event.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It was pretty tough," said Rocheleau, 26 and a student at the University of Hawai'i. "At the start, it was real nice, and then it got ugly as we went along. It kind of got real sloppy and it was hard to catch any good (wave) bumps."

Rocheleau's finish was impressive considering he was crossing the Kaiwi Channel by himself for the first time. Last year, he entered as a team with his brother, Marc.

What's more, Rocheleau was also the first Hawai'i finisher in the Moloka'i Challenge surfski race in May. That race also traveled from Moloka'i to East O'ahu.

"It's been a good year so far," he said. "But this was the hardest thing I've ever done so far. Halfway through, your mind starts to wander a bit and you think, 'What am I doing out here?' "

Kanesa Duncan, a University of Hawai'i graduate student, broke her own women's record, finishing in 7:08:05. It was 28 minutes faster than the mark she set last year.

Duncan was the only female in the field both last year and yesterday. She is originally from San Luis Obispo, Calif.

O'ahu lifeguard Dolan Eversole won the stock paddleboard division for the third time in four years. All competitors in the stock division had to paddle on identical 12-foot boards. Still, Eversole finished an impressive seventh overall with a time of 6:17:45.

The second-place finisher in the stock division, Shaun Jappe, came in almost 20 minutes later at 6:36:20. However, at 17 years old, Jappe became the youngest competitor to ever complete the race. He is a high school student in Ojai, Calif.

Todd Bradley and Chris Miller were the first two-person team to finish at 6:14:03.

• • •

Final results

Open class boards (any size)

Elite: 1, Jamie Mitchell (Australia), 5:44:40. 2, Aaron Bitmead (Australia), 5:50:31. 3, Jackson English (Australia), 5:52:58. 29-younger: 1, Brian Rocheleau (Hawai'i), 6:05:31. 2, Hayden Smith (Australia), 6:20:00. 3, Brendon Ross (Australia), 6:40:30. 30-39: 1, Mick Dibetta (Australia), 6:04:41. 2, Dawson Jones (Hawai'i), 6:39:50. 3, Chad Noble (Australia), 6:44:02. 40-49: 1, Sean Richardson (California), 7:10:00. 2, Gregory Quinn (Hawai'i), 7:14:28. 3, Chris Owens (Hawai'i), 7:20:22. 50-54: 1, George Ramos Jr. (Hawai'i), 7:12:24. 55-older: 1, Buddy Sheppard (Hawai'i), 7:22:26.

Stock boards (12 feet long)

Elite: 1, Dolan Eversole (Hawai'i), 6:17:45. 2, Shaun Jappe (California), 6:36:20. 3, Gary Fortune (California), 7:00:17. 30-39: 1, Matt Sack (Hawai'i), 7:19:12. 2, Bill Taylor (Hawai'i), 7:30:35. 3, Thierry Krawiec (France), 7:37:52. 40-49: 1, Jack Gillen (Hawai'i), 7:48:18. 2, Carl Kim (Hawai'i), 8:21:56. Women: 1, Kanesa Duncan (California), 7:08:05. Team, combined age 59-younger: 1, Victor Hemmy III/Marc Rocheleau (Hawai'i), 6:21:27. 2, Will Estes/Michael Pietsch (Hawai'i), 6:28:43. 3, Aamion Goodwin/Keith Malloy (Hawai'i/California), 6:32:39. Team, combined age 60-79: 1, Kai Bartlett/Aaron Napoleon (Hawai'i), 6:30:08. 2, Victor Lopez/Kiva Rivers (Hawai'i), 6:40:02. 3, Lenny Martin/Zadok Brown III (Hawai'i), 7:02:22. Team, combined age 80-older: 1, Todd Bradley/Chris Miller (Hawai'i), 6:14:03. 2, Dave Daly/Dave Kalama (Hawai'i), 6:19:13. 3, Philip Ninney/Buzzy Kerbox (Hawai'i), 6:20:33. Team, combined age 90-older: 1, Ernie DeSilva/Mike Takahashi (Hawai'i), 6:39:14. Team, women: 1, Chitose Iwanami/Susan Stewart (Japan/Hawai'i), 7:45:16.