Robinson, Bartlett paddle to victory
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
During the early 1990s, Australia's Clint Robinson was regarded as the world's best flat-water sprint paddler.
Now thanks to a convincing victory in the Moloka'i World Championships yesterday Robinson can be considered the world's best long-distance ocean paddler.
Robinson paddled to a breakthrough victory in the prestigious race, completing the 32-mile course from Kaluako'i, Moloka'i, to Koko Marina, O'ahu, in 3 hours, 23 minutes, 2 seconds.
Maui's Lauren Bartlett continued her amazing mastery of the Kaiwi Channel in the women's division. She set a new women's record with a time of 4:00:12. It came just a month after she set the women's record in the solo canoe world championship race.
Yesterday's race is considered the world championship of long-distance ocean racing for solo surfskis.
"This is my sixth crossing, and tactically I've been right there a couple of times," said Robinson, 37. "I just haven't been able to finish it off."
Robinson is a former Olympic medalist in flat-water kayaking. He won a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics, and a silver at the 2004 Olympics.
His participation in the Moloka'i championship race has been sporadic due to Olympic-training conflicts in past years. Still, he placed second in the 1994 Moloka'i race, and third in 2003 and 2006.
Last year, Robinson was near the lead before falling off the pace due to muscle cramps.
"I never ever thought I couldn't do it," he said. "It was just a matter of getting it right."
Yesterday, he got it right from start to finish. Robinson paddled to an early lead, and maintained it the entire way.
"From probably about an hour into it, I led and people attacked me from every angle," Robinson said. "It's a big ocean out there. I kept plugging away and kept my line ... it worked out."
Robinson pulled away during the stretch run to win by a comfortable margin.
His breakthrough victory meant Australian Dean Gardiner was denied his 10th Moloka'i title.
Gardiner, who won his ninth Moloka'i championship in 2002, placed second yesterday with a time of 3:27:32.
"I'm actually very happy with second on a day like today," said Gardiner, 45. "I feel like I paddled the best race I could. Clint was just way too good today."
Favorable winds and tide contributed to a fast crossing. Robinson's winning time was around two minutes shy of the course record.
Gardiner set the course record of 3:21:26 in 1997.
"Yes," Gardiner exclaimed when told of Robinson's time. "At least I still have the record."
Gardiner hinted before the race that this might be his last attempt to win his 10th Moloka'i race. But yesterday, he said he'd return if conditions are comparable in future years.
"There were moments out there when I told myself I'm never doing this again," he said. "But there were also moments when I said I can't give this up it's too much fun. Of course, the conditions make it fun, so if it's like this, I'll race again."
In the absence of South Africans, the Australians dominated the race.
Rounding out the top 10 were all Australians: Jeremy Cotter was third, followed by Tim Jacobs, Martin Kenny, Mark Anderson, Michael Clues, Mike Murray, Damien Daley and Brett Monaghan.
The top South African paddlers did not enter this year due to a conflicting race in their home country. Among the no-shows were 2009 champion Hank McGregor and veteran Oscar Chalupsky, who owns a record 11 Moloka'i titles.
Mark Sandvold of Hawai'i Kai placed 15th overall and was the first Hawai'i finisher with a time of 3:51:14.
He was a last-minute entry, signing up only after scouting the weather forecasts.
"I actually haven't been training this year," Sandvold said. "But when I saw how good the conditions were going to be, I wanted to be out there no matter what."
Sandvold was in admitted physical pain after the race, but said "it was worth it."
"There were some sets 6 to 10 feet," he said. "You had to work really hard to get on some of them, but when you did, it was a fun ride."
A total of 55 paddlers from around the world participated.
MAUI'S BARTLETT SETS WOMEN'S COURSE RECORD
The most impressive performance of the day may have come from Bartlett.
She placed 19th overall, and Sandvold was the only Hawai'i paddler male or female to finish ahead of her.
Bartlett's winning time of 4:00:12 beat the previous record by more than two minutes.
"That was some of the best conditions, some of the biggest surf I've seen in the channel," said Bartlett, 30. "It was just awesome to be in that water."
Kelly Fey of Honolulu set the previous women's record of 4:02:47 in 1997. Fey was on Bartlett's escort boat for yesterday's race.
"For the record to stand that long, it shows how good Kelly really is," Bartlett said. "The equipment she had to use back then compared to what we use now, it's amazing that nobody has touched that record all these years."
Now, Bartlett has the rare distinction of holding the course records for both the solo surfski and canoe races. Last month, she won the women's division of the solo canoe world championship race with a time of 4:13:43.
Bartlett said she focused most of her training for the canoe race, but spent the last month practicing on her surfski.
"I think the two are complementary," she said. "As long as you're out on the water putting in the mileage, it helps either way."
Bartlett and Fey are the only paddlers male or female to have won both the solo surfski and canoe world championships.
Bartlett is also part of the defending championship team in the Kaiwi Channel Relay and the Na Wahine O Ke Kai.
Maggie Twigg-Smith of Hawai'i Kai was the second female to finish with a time of 4:33:47.
Katie Pocock of New Zealand won the race last year, but did not enter this year.
1, Clint Robinson, 3:23:02. 2, Dean Gardiner, 3:27:32. 3, Jeremy Cotter, 3:28:05. 4, Tim Jacobs, 3:29:38. 5, Martin Kenny, 3:30:00. 6, Mark Anderson, 3:31:56. 7, Michael Clues, 3:38:08. 8, Mike Murray, 3:39:16. 9, Damien Daley, 3:40:57. 10, Brett Monaghan, 3:42:05. 11, Tim Bird, 3:42:24. 12, Matt Carter, 3:47:08. 13, Steve Coulter, 3:50:32. 14, Danny Topfer, 3:51:02. 15, Mark Sandvold, 3:51:14. 16, Michael Locke, 3:52:23. 17, Robert Barry, 3:52:46. 18, Patrick Purcell, 3:57:11. 19, Lauren Bartlett, 4:00:12. 20, Karl Treacher, 4:02:33. 21, Darren Naylor, 4:03:18. 22, John Hoogsteden, 4:03:49. 23, Edmund Joy, 4:04:44. 24, Will Hardman, 4:07:33. 25, Gary David, 4:08:15. 26, Stewart O'Regan, 4:09:35. 27, Grant Hughes, 4:15:54. 28, Andrew Wheeler, 4:17:07. 29, Angus Sprott, 4:18:06. 30, Robin Graham, 4:18:44. 31, James Kincaid, 4:19:47. 32, Ian Parmenter, 4:23:17. 33, Cameron Middleton, 4:28:19. 34, Maggie Twigg-Smith, 4:33:47. 35, William Meheula, 4:36:41. 36, Kenny Howell, 4:36:43. 37, Eric O'Brien, 4:44:16. 38, Ken Vidler, 4:48:52. 39, Adrian Petrie, 4:48:58. 40, Shaun O'Sullivan, 4:49:36. 41, Anthony Williams, 4:54:30. 42, Glen Forbes, 4:57:00. 43, Tim Burke, 5:05:23. 44, Shun Shirata, 5:10:42. 45, Bruce Fincher, 5:15:00. 46, David Stiles, 5:19:09. 47, Jeffrey Morris, 5:21:37. 48, Jim Nurse, 5:35:48. 49, Hideaki Itoh, 5:37:59. 50, Chris Quirk, 5:38:06. 51, Fukiko Sato, 5:39:16. 52, Richard Germain, 5:39:39.
1, Lauren Bartlett, 4:00:12. 2, Maggie Twigg-Smith, 4:33:47. 3, Fukiko Sato, 5:39:16.
1, Steve Coulter, 3:50:32. 2, Mark Sandvold, 3:51:14. 3, Michael Locke, 3:52:23. 4, Robert Barry, 3:52:46. 5, Darren Naylor, 4:03:18.
1, John Hoogsteden, 4:03:49. 2, Gary David, 4:08:15. 3, Grant Hughes, 4:15:54. 4, James Kincaid, 4:19:47. 5, William Meheula, 4:36:41.