By STEVE ARCHBOLD
MANY lonely hours training in a one-person outrigger canoe proved to be the perfect training program for Andrea Polkinghorne's second assault on the prestigious Molokai Cup in Hawaii.
Andrea again joined the Queensland-based Mooloolaba crew for an event regarded as the pinnacle in marathon outrigger events in the world.
Not only did the Australians record back-to-back wins over their fierce Hawaiian rivals, they also smashed the world record by two minutes.
The event lasts more than five hours with a squad of 10 regularly interchanging in the crew of six.
Andrea said winning the event for the first time last year was a fantastic result although being part of a team which defended the title and smashed the world record was something she would always remember.
"Last year Hawaii opened my eyes as to what I could achieve in outrigging," she said.
"I went last year as a borderline 10th-ranked paddler but I was determined to be better so about a month after that event I channelled all my energies into improving my ranking in the team.
"I did the one-man series over the course of three months and that led to the six-man races later in the year."
Andrea believes this extra commitment and the fact she was more confident and relaxed than last year made a big difference.
"Knowing what is required both physically and mentally made it easier for me second time around," she said.
After the Australians gave the Hawaiians a kick where it hurts last year there was a lot more pressure on the team to repeat their performance, especially after the Hawaiian press claimed the visitors only won because the event was paddled in flat and calm conditions.
A stronger wind and rougher conditions made no difference to the Australian girls who powered away to win by four minutes.
"In outrigger racing you are conscious of wearing the other teams into the ground without wearing yourself out ? we actually paddled faster this year but the winning margin was smaller so everyone lifted to the ultimate level," Andrea said.
Looking back to her first days of outrigger paddling, Andrea never imagined she would be competing at the elite level.
"Back then I couldn't see myself being alongside so many people who had represented Australia in world championships and at Olympic Games," she said.
"It just goes to show that if you have enough determination and set goals, over time they can be achieved, it's a matter of being prepared to do the hard work to get there."
n Another member of the Coffs Coast Outrigger Canoe Club, Mike Mills-Thom, was part of the team which won the masters division finishing 16th outright while Gordon Polkinghorne joined a Canadian team to take 29th overall in the field of more than 90.