The GhostHope Kaku, with her razzle-dazzle of matte-white and off-white and blemishes of sunbeam yellow, was as anxious to get on the water as I was. We reviewed the short course of the Milford OC1/OC2, Surfski and SUP race but were encouraged to just go for the long race. I countered to the organizer, Ted, that the Luau would be held up by your humble narrator, but he insisted, saying "Everyone has a first race."
Canoes Lining up on the Milford Gulf Beach
A few words about the Gulf Beach: it's a beautiful sandy arc and home of the Manu'iwa Outrigger Club. If it weren't for the interconnectivity of the sport and our planet's waters, I would scarcely think of visiting these waters, which are fairly spectacular. Charles Island, in the near distance, gives the racing eye a focal point beyond the endlessly unrolling shore and seductive points - you know, those points you look at during a race, thinking the finish is just around those rocks?
Charles Island, Audobon Bird Sanctuary and Eye Relief to the Ocean Racer
The morning was gauze gray, great racing conditions, nice and cool for July. The water was flat with intermittent rolling swells and ambitious schools of fish. During the race orientation Ted of Manu'iwa went on at length about rocks and how far to stay off the rocky shore. He gently warned ambitious racers about the dangers of hugging the coastline and off we all went to line up.
Milford 2017 Race Lining Up
Bright Orange Shirt to make it Easy for Rescue
Having spent most weekends working on the Kaku, diligently razor-knifing away chipped gelcoat and sanding, sanding, sanding, I held back on the race start and steered very clear of the first rocky point, which we clear prior to paddling into the open Long Island Sound. I was a few minutes into the start when I had to slow my 60 strokes per minute down due to an OC1 drifting across my path. An OC4 behind me exchanged dialogue with the craft, and it was discerned they had hit rocks, hulied and had rudder damage. Let's just say, I pulled away from the rocky coast and easily added a mile to the 9 mile race. My goal was firm: finish alive without a huli or a scratch to the beloved Kaku.
It was a wary paddle thereafter, with this novice zig-zagging through some rolling bumps and puzzling about how to paddle through schools of pronging fins. Eventually I caught site of racers on the return, which gave me hope I too would find the green buoy, pivot and return. Ted had nicknamed the green buoy the huli buoy, so I made a long languorous graceful arc around it and finally found my groove. I was going to make it. Many thanks to Manu'iwa! See you on the water.