Competing at World Sprints, Tahiti, 2018

Active over 60, Waka Ama
Turns race at Waka Ama Sprint Nationals

I find it really easy to offer help, support and awhi to others. And yet it is always so much harder to ask for help for something for myself.

Going to the 2018 IVF Va’a (Waka Ama) World Club Championships, Tahiti

Our Crew, Tahu-Nui-A-Rangi, qualified to go to the 2018 IVF Va’a (Waka Ama) World Club Championships, Tahiti on the 16th to 26th July 2018

The costs of training and travelling to Tahiti to compete seem really daunting and yet we have received so much support and awhi from friends, whanau and fellow club members encouraging us to go for it. Here is a video telling our story that Tony made to support our funding applications.

Movie Fundraiser

Katie and Gina got together and decided to organise a movie fundraiser for Rongomai and Jan.
They have organised a screening of:

The Leisure Seeker
at the Suter Theatre
Monday 2nd July
doors open at 6:45pm

The Bar will be open and raffles and nibbles available.

Who are we

Our crew name is Tahu nui a Rangi (named for the Southern Lights or Aurora often visible in Queenstown). We are paddling for the Wakatipu Waka Ama Club based Queenstown in the Te Waka O Aoraki (South Island) region. Our crew is now drawn from all over New Zealand as it is a challenge to get paddlers in our age group willing to commit to the training regime and the costs associated with racing at this level. (‘Meet our team’, photos at the bottom of this article.)

Role models for active ageing

Our division is Golden Masters Women so we are a crew of 6 women all over 60. We all strongly believe that keeping active over 60 is vital. We are a tenacious, strong, committed crew of grandmothers who are determined and ready to face the challenge and to act as positive role models to other women our age.

Our main goal and driving motivation for taking on this mammoth journey is to show that Age is not a Barrier or an Excuse and to serve as role models for our peers.
Rongomai Flavell, 67 years young

Other members of our team include our coach, our manager and 2 supporters.

What is Waka Ama and sprint racing

Waka Ama is the New Zealand term for the sport of outrigger canoeing.

Waka ama (outrigger canoes) have been used in the Pacific Islands for centuries. Interest in waka ama and racing was reignited in New Zealand in the 1980s.
Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, on Te Ara
Waka Ama is currently the fastest growing water sport in the country with our membership growth of almost 70% over the last 3 years. Both organisations are looking to grow the sport even further and reach all New Zealanders.”
Lara Collins, CEO, Waka Ama New Zealand

Waka ama sprints in our grade consist of a 500m straight dash, going as fast as you can keeping within your lane (so as straight as you can) and a 1000m race. The 1000m is 4 x a 250m course with 180 degree turns around buoys at each end (3 turns). The turns win or loose the race. Its very fast and all over in 5 – 6 minutes. It requires very specific training.

Race start at waka ama sprint nationalsTahu nui a Rangi in waka 8 at the start of the 500m, Waka Ama Sprint Nationals, 2018 

If you are interested in seeing what is involved in waka ama sprint racing you can watch some of 2017 National Sprint races on Maori Television.

We’ve been training hard for National Sprints

We have been training hard to compete at the 2018 Waka Ama Sprint Nationals at Lake Karapiro, near Hamilton next week (January 19th & 20th). Over 3000 paddlers, aged 5 to 75 years old, from Pungaru in the very Far North to Invercargill in the South will compete for national honours over distances of 250m to 1500m.

To prepare for this our crew has been flying all around the country to get together for monthly training camps. Since June 2017 we have met for training camps in Dunedin, twice in Queenstown, in Christchurch, in Nelson and in Whangarei.

We have also been doing our own individual training in our respective towns.

What do we need to do before going to compete in Tahiti

We really need to step up our training because we will be competing with crews from all around the world. Our coach has prepared an individual training programme and a crew training programme for us to follow leading up to the Worlds. It consists of both on-the-water and off-the-water training, both in Queenstown and in our home towns.

  • Training camps x 5: We will need to attend monthly training camps in Queenstown in order to ‘gel’ as a crew, to work on strategies for turns and combined crew strength that is not possible to practice on our own. Four of the crew will have to fly to Queenstown for a weekend, while one drives from Invercargill. To maximise the time we travel down on a Friday and leave on Monday to give us the maximum on-the-water time with our crew, coach and manager. This also means taking time off work for those of us who are working.
  • Personal Fitness Training: Off the water training is vital to help increase strength and cardio fitness. I do one boot camp and one boxing session per week. Others work at the gym or with a personal trainer.
  • Paddling Fitness: We will be required to paddle up to 5 times a week doing the drills set by our coach in either a one-man waka or a two-man waka (if we are lucky enough to have a buddy to train with).

We are seeking support

Most of us are retired or semi retired and are finding the costs of this somewhat daunting. We are seeking support to help us with some funding for any of the following:

  • Internal airfares to attend training camps in Queenstown.
  • International airfares to attend the World Sprint Championships in Tahiti
  • Accommodation costs in Tahiti
  • Race fee costs for Tahiti
  • Transport costs in Tahiti
  • Personal Training to keep the level of cardio fitness
  • Gear and Uniforms

We have lots of ideas and have been given suggestions of possible avenues. If you could help us or know of anyone who can help please contact Jan Blythe or Carmel Barratt, Team Manager.

Meet the crew

Golden Masters womens crew, Tahu nui a Rangi at Sprint Nationals, Karapiro 2018
From left: Marg McLennan – Whangarei, seat 3, Eva McMurdo – Invercargill, seat 5, Francie Piacun – Queenstown, seat 1, Jan Blythe – Nelson, seat 2, Iritana Rudolph – Pawarenga, seat 6, Rongomai Flavell, Nelson, seat 4


Leon Williams, Queenstown, waka ama coach
Leon Williams – Queenstown, crew coach
Carmel Barrat, Manager Tahu nui a Rangi
Carmel Barratt -Nelson, crew manager

Want to book a ticket or make a donation?



  • Barbara Rhodes

    Kia ora. Ko Barb tenai. Hey, Rongomai, I thought you’d gone to Oz! Romelda was asking after you back in the summer when she and some of her whanau visited NZ. I said we’d lost touch. Fantastic to see you in the video.

  • Sina Tupea-Williams

    Good luck to all U ladies and to everyone competing! I have done 4 world sprints starting with the first one in Tahiti in 86! we brought a team from
    American Samoa and that was our first competition ever! have lots of fun my friends are from San Francisco! say hi to them from Sina in San Diego if U happen to cross path! good luck!

  • Aloha,
    We are going to World Sprints too, and are looking forward to meeting you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I enjoyed reading your Webpage. We are from Hawaii (the Big Island), and will be racing in the Women’s 60s division. Let’s look for each other when we are in Tahiti.
    Kai Opua Canoe Club, Hawaii

    • Hi Emily
      I would love to meet up with you – I am sure our paths will cross. I am paddling for the Wakatipu Waka Ama club (based in Queenstown, although I live in Nelson). I hear the next worlds are at your place???
      See you there
      Cheers Jan

      • Emily Claspell

        Hi Jan,
        We are Team Hawaii, or Kai Opua. I will look for you and your crew. Yes, we are hosting World Sprints in 2020 on the Island of Hawaii, where we are from, and in Hilo, specifically. Would love it if you could come race on our Island. Looking forward to seeing you soon. We are staying at the IJSPF.

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