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PAPE‘ETE, Tahiti, French Polynesia (October 19, 2001 – Tahitipresse)---For the first time, a Hawaiian team has won a segment of the Hawaiki Nui Va’a Race.

Hawai‘i Kukio won the third Taha‘a-Bora Bora segment.

Overall, however, Pirae Va'a Mobil ranked first and won the contest for the third time.

The Hawaiki Nui Va'a, from October 17 to 19, 2001 through the Leeward islands of Huahine, Raiatea, Taha‘a and Bora Bora, saw the involvement of 81 crews of six paddlers each: 51 from Tahiti, 7 from Raiatea, 3 from Taha‘a, 1 from Huahine, 4 from Bora Bora, 5 from Tuamotu, 3 from the Australs and 1 from the Marquesas.

There were 4 crews from abroad: 1 Hawaiian (Hawai‘i Kukio led by Jim Foty), 2 New Caledonian (one of which was supplemented with paddlers from the Leeward islands) and 1 from France (Kayak Club of Seals’ Bay, in the Somme region).

The first day saw Pirae Va'a Mobil victorious, the second Maitai Shell.

For the last race, in the open sea between Taha‘a and Bora Bora, a duel of giants for first place was expected between these two teams, who were tied.

But sometimes there is a surprise in the last moments. And Friday there was a surprise indeed!

A lot of sun and wind

Upon the departure at 7: 30 a.m. from Patio in Taha‘a, the two favorite teams, Pirae Va'a Mobil and Maitai Shell, took the lead in the race, but were soon caught by the Hawaiian team.

The Hawaiians’ Kukio team, from Lanikai, are specialists in open sea racing. Their "peperu" (coxswain), Jim Foty, is winner of the Molokai race, which was held just before the Hawaiki Nui race.

The Hawaiians lead the race in the open sea, surfing on small 3-5 foot south swells, with accelerations up to 70 strokes/minute, and even up to 76 strokes/minute at times (the record was 80 strokes/minute held by the paddlers of Pirae Va'a Mobil on the first day).

On approaching Bora Bora, the gap widened, more than 500 yards between the Hawaiians’ va'a and Pirae’s.

Ten minutes before noon, after 4 hours and 24 minutes of effort (down 1 minute from the record for the crossing), the Hawaiian team crossed the finishing line, in front of the beach at Matira, where a huge crowd awaited the winners.

Pirae followed 3 minutes later, preceding Maitai Shell, unlucky in their choice of course near Bora Bora.

Overall, undisputedly, Pirae Va'a Mobil is the winner, for the third time (1998, 1999 and 2001), rewarding the efforts of the paddlers led by Hans Salmon (nicknamed "Robocop"), fa'ahoro (front paddler) of the canoe, and its peperu (coxswain), Heitara Tehahe.

This tenth edition of the Hawaiki Nui Va'a will remain in memory as the one which saw, for the first time, a foreign crew -- of Hawaiians -- win the most famous stage of the race: Bora Bora.

For additional reports from Tahiti Press, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources: Agence Tahitienne de Presse.

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