Canoe race challenges captains

Outrigger canoes line the beach at Laura in anticipation of the start of the October 1 Culture Day race to Delap Park. Photo: Gary Ehrsam.

Last Friday’s Culture Day Litakboki canoe race was a challenge in multiple ways.

Majuro’s version of the famous Ailinglaplap Jebro race featured a nearly 30-mile-long course from Laura to Delap — nothing like the usual downtown races that run a triangle route from Delap to Ejit Island and back. Some 15 outriggers representing different atolls lined up at Laura for the start of the race.

Friday’s weather made it a test of skills for the canoe captions, with winds changing direction, particularly at the start. “We left Laura at 9am,” said race organizer Alson Kelen as the race was in progress Friday. “It’s 10am and we’re still in Laura, though farther from shore. The wind is a challenge, it keeps changing direction.”

This is why experienced canoe captains are worth their weight in gold. Perhaps fittingly, it was the canoe representing Majuro that won this race.

By mid-afternoon, Albert Alberttar’s canoe “Atama” was way out in front of everyone else and sailed into the Delap Park finish line to claim this year’s honor as the fastest canoe. “Atama,” which represented Majuro, was captained by Johnny Jone.

Coming in second was the Jabat Island canoe “Miss Miko,” owned by Daryl Matalang and captained by Kelly Katjañ. In third was Mejit Island’s “Jabkwõn,” owned and captained by Clansey Takia.

For their stellar sailing efforts, the top three winners received $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.

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