A test of stamina
By STEVE ARCHBOLD
IT'S the ultimate torture test of mental and physical stamina. Members of the Coffs Coast Outrigger Club have left for Hawaii to take part in the gruelling Molokai to Oahu race for the Na Wahine O Ke Kai trophy. Andrea Polkinghorne will be a member of the Mooloolaba open women's crew led by former Olympian Lisa Curry-Kenny who will return to Hawaii on Sunday as defending champions after winning the 2003 race in near-record time. Her husband, Gordon, and Mike Mills-Thom will paddle in Mooloolaba master men's crews 10 days later. At the end of what has been a long and highly rewarding season, Andrea said while it is difficult to maintain her focus the opportunity is there to compete with and against some of the best outrigger paddlers in the world. Awaiting her in Hawaii is a 73km paddle where a crew of eight interchanges two people every 20 minutes for a 10- minute break in a race which lasts nearly five and a half hours. "Depending on how they are going some people might spend longer stints in the boat if the combination is strong and going well," she said. "Last year I thought we were getting somewhere and when I looked at my watch I realised we still had another three hours paddling left. "You can prepare for the physical demands through training but there is also the mental pressure of having to get into and out of the boat and maintain your focus while battling a lactic build-up. "There is no time to warm-up so you are going from doing nothing to join a team who are paddling flat out. "Your muscles are aching and your body is screaming out for the pain to end but everyone has to keep going to achieve the ultimate prize." Andrea has been working on a program provided by Lisa Curry-Kenny which gives them the perfect build-up to this gruelling race which can bring even the most seasoned paddlers to the brink. "I did a paddle from Urunga in a one-man leading up to this event to build myself up, everything is aimed at having us primed to be at our peak on the day," she said. Andrea said the team is hell- bent on beating the world record which they missed by only two minutes last year. "Our goal is back-to-back titles, we finished 10 minutes in front of the next crew last year but we know the Hawaiians won't be lying down because it was a bit of a culture shock for them to lose last time," she said. To compete at this level has been a real thrill for Andrea who has thrived in this relatively new sport. "Being part of this race last year really boosted my own career and spurred us on to bigger and better things, I can't wait to be there again," she said. "This is the holy grail in outrigger events, it is such a satisfying feeling when you can say you are part of the best team in the world particularly when the event is so tough and the opposition are busting themselves to knock you over."