Its April and the Molokai OC1 Solo race is coming up in the next two and a half weeks! This year I really think its going to be an exciting race. For me, im most excited in seeing which new OC1 will fair better. With the “New” Pueo out and people joining sponsors, leaving sponsors, and I think we’re all hoping that John Puakea’s new OC1, the Ehukai, will make a debut. Both Jimmy Austin (last year’s champion) and Danny Ching (Former Solo champ) have left Kamanu and are now riding for Puakea Designs. I am not sure if they even got their OC1s yet but I would think it would place them at a slight disadvantage this year considering the learning curve in really figuring out how your OC1 surfs. As I understand it, John Puakea had a lot of design influence on the original Pueo and if the Ehukai hull is similar (having a tall and slim “V” shape hull) hopefully its an easy transition for Jimmy and Danny, they only have a month if that.
As for the contenders, its got to be these guys again, Jimmy, Karel, Pat Dolan, Danny, Manny and if Kai is back, watch out, its going to be a boat-builders ocean shootout! Kamanu has to be a little disappointed having their defending champs move to a different OC1 with their new Pueo just coming out. They will be banking on Manny to bring it home for them, added pressure for the elite paddler and race organizer. But I think more pressure will be on Jimmy and Danny, moving from one canoe sponsor to another. They’re going to want to prove that the Ehukai is the better canoe and that the decision to move was a right one. That and being defending Solo champ is a lot I think for Jimmy to carry on his shoulders. We shall see.
Karel Jr. has to be on a mission this year. With his close second place finish last year I bet he is hungry. The Oc1 Torrent he uses hasn’t really taken off here in Hawaii, Outrigger Connection I think needs a solo win this year to help sales. If junior isn’t pressured, hasn’t overtrained and goes in fresh and relaxed he may pull it off. I dont know how the Torrent runs, they’re just no Torrents around.
Pat Dolan, third last year is a strong and focused paddler. I think he has the physical and mental strengths to win this race, I just wonder if the XM is a slightly harder canoe to catch bumps for a 4hr+ race. I found that you gotta muscle it a bit to jump on the bump where the Pueo is such an efficient canoe, I found it much easier to initially get on the surf. The question could be, does Pat have enough to muscle the XM first across the line. In years past, Kai has.
And Kai Bartlett, if he enters this year Im sure he will have prepared and trained for it. He has the depth, experience and muscle endurance to win.
Good luck to all participating this year, to train for the 32mile, 4:30hr+ Kaiwi crossing, I know how much time you had to put in and how hard you all have trained to get there. Awesome!