OUTRIGGER CANOE RACES IN FRANCE: FRANCE’S MAJOR RACESThe va’a, whether it be in V6 or V1 format, is increasingly well-known in mainland France, in no small part due to the media attention given to the world’s most prominent races, such as the Hawaiki Nui Va’a, for example. Va’a’s “journey” in France is bolstered by the increasing prominence of va’a races, which are becoming unmissable events for competitors. Some of the competitions in question are qualifying rounds for the French va’a championships (Championnat de France), while others are opportunities to qualify for even more prestigious competitions, such as the Hawaiki Nui Va’a.
The Vendée Va’aThe Vendée Va’a is one such race that serves as a qualifying round for the French va’a championships, and it also acts as a potential qualifying stage for one of the most legendary races on the outrigger canoe scene, the Hawaiki Nui Va’a.
Air Tahiti Nui, official sponsor of the event, is even offering 9 return tickets to Tahiti to the first non-Polynesian team to finish first in the race.
To complete the race, the participating rowers are expected to cover a distance of 128km, which is broken into three stages over a period of three days. The teams are composed of 6 rowers. Three stages of long-distance racing off the coast of the Sables d’Olonne in a bid to win a ticket to the Hawaiki Nui Va’a. Two of the three stages are long, while one is shorter, and this as a means of bringing together a maximum number of rowers aiming to reach the Hawaiki Nui Va’a and prepare themselves for the competition. The Vendée Va’a is a unique event in Europe and a very physical and technically-demanding race, which requires a sense of teamwork and togetherness. The 2017 edition was won by the impressive team from La Méduse, a club based in Seyne-sur-mer. The team will be jetting off to Tahiti to fly the flag of mainland France at the next edition of the Hawaiki Nui Va’a.
La PorquerollaiseUpon returning from his participation in the 1998 world championships in Fiji, Jean-Raphaël Boccheciampe came up with the idea of a deep sea va’a race that would take place around Porquerolles’ golden islands in the south of France. Today, this is one of France’s major V6 outrigger races. La Porquerollaise was, for quite some time, the only long-distance race of its kind in France and was one of the first to invite Tahitian teams along to participate. French and overseas teams battle it out over 65km in open seas, each team aboard a Polynesian-style outrigger canoe. It is a relay race and it demands a certain level of physical fitness from its participants, as they are required to cover an incredible distance, while 3 teammates exchange places with other members of the team midway. Overall, the teams are composed of 9 rowers.
For its 19th edition, and for the very first time in the race’s history, the rowers taking part will have the chance to win their very own tickets to Tahiti. Two teams from the mainland will thus line up at the beginning of the Hawaiki Nui Va’a, which is a first.
The race will be organised by a club from Toulon, the Toulon Va’a. It is no less than one of France’s biggest and most dynamic clubs in this discipline. Their involvement is a contribution to the sport’s development within mainland France. To find out more about Toulon Va’a, click here.