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Nanaimo Canoe & Kayak Club Crazy 8 Outrigger Canoe Races

Updated on December 28, 2014

A single OC-6 provides stark contrast to an enormous BC Ferry, endless blue sky and the raw beauty of Nanaimo's Newcastle Island.

As she rounds the northern tip of Newcastle Island, the B.C. Ferry "Queen of Coquitlam" provides stark contrast to the outrigger canoe and trailing safety boat. I think the marvelous combination of awe-inspiring natural beauty, the massive ferry and the OC-6 explain the sport's enormous popularity. If it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, then this is the picture.

While some of these photographs were taken from the launch ramp area, most were shot from a 26 foot cabin cruiser which was in service as a safety boat. The photos were taken as we followed the crews from the Gap, South around Protection Island, through the Gap again, and then North outside Newcastle Island for the final leg. To protect the racing crews from the wake of the safety boat, the skipper kept us well away from the racecourse. In the morning, because of the poor light conditions, even my 75-300mm zoom lens couldn't get close enough to the crews for the sort of shots I was after, but I felt that the natural beauty of the place made up for the occasional fuzziness of the boats themselves.

The 2011 "Crazy Eight and NPI Attack" was the 7th annual invocation of the event. There were approximately 20 teams in the first event, while there are over 35 teams registered for the 8th annual running set for March 17, 2012.

The Commodore of the Nanaimo Canoe & Kayak Club was right on the money when he told me that: "Many teams consider the Crazy 8 to be once of the best races on the circuit, as it incorporates a great amount of strength, endurance and seamanship which is a great part of outrigger paddling. Getting the right line, dealing with tides, winds and currents to get from point A to B in the quickest time."

Queen of Coquitlam dwarfs an OC-6 outrigger canoe as it rounds Nanaimo's Newcastle Island. (A race safety boat can be seen between the outrigger and the ferry.)

The Outrigger Canoe

A Brief Introduction

Outrigger canoeing has grown from its Polynesian roots to become a very popular paddling sport, with paddling and social clubs springing up around the world. Many of these clubs are also involved with dragon boat racing; the two combined offer an opportunity to paddlers to enjoy their sport year round.

A variety of boat types exist, including the OC1, OC2, OC3, OC4 and OC6 (with the respective number of paddlers using a single hull outrigger canoe), and the DC12 or OC12. Nanaimo's Crazy 8 event uses the OC-6, as you can see from the photograph below.

Single hull outrigger canoes have an ama (outrigger float) connected to the main hull by spars called Biako in Hawaii, The ama, which is usually rigged on the left side, provides stability. The paddlers need to be careful to avoid leaning too far on the opposite side of the ama, as that may cause the canoe to capsize (do a "huli"). (Courtesy Wikipedia)

An OC-6 crew from Nanaimo rounds the Northern tip of Newcastle Island on the home stretch.

NCKC "Crazy 8"

The 2011 Crazy 8 races - the 7th annual in the series - begin near the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal, on the South side of the point, near the first marina. From there, the teams head South to the Gap - the tidal channel between the two islands - then South again around Protection Island. Then the course takes them North to the Gap, through the gap and North.

The course hugs the Western side of Newcastle Island, then passes round the Northern tip, for the race to the Finish line.

There are races for Women, Mixed (Men and Women) and Men, as well as overall awards.

The Calm Before The Storm - Boats being assembled near Nanaimo's Brechin Boat Ramp

Checking alignment in preparation for the race.

ORPC OC-6 waits quietly while other boats are being assembled prior to launch.

A lone paddler contemplates the first race of the day, the Women's event.

Sometimes I found myself compelled to ignore the boats and focus on the incredible beauty before me..

Starter has the race! - Chomping At The Bit...

Victoria's Gorging Dragons Mens Crew heads to the Start line in preparation for their race.

Eight outriggers assemble at the Start line, waiting for the starting gun. The Nanaimo skyline provides a beautiful backdrop.

Gorging Dragons Mixed Crew heads to the Start line for their event.

Shooting The Gap

Three boats pass through the gap between Newcastle Island (on the right) and Protection Island on the first leg of the race. The course takes the boats South in Newcastle Channel, through the Gap, then South again to circumnavigate Protection Island, shoot the Gap again, then round Newcastle Island to the finish lilne.

Four outriggers heading South along the West side of Protection Island after shooting the Gap on the first leg of the Crazy 8.

Rounding Protection Island - The Southern Leg Of The Race

Three Women's teams approaching the Southern tip of Protection Island. From there, they will turn North to the harbour, then the Gap again before heading North on the West side of Newcastle Island. The beachfront homes on Protection Island provide contrast.

Freighter, moored at the Southern end of Protection Island waiting for permission to enter the harbour provides stark contrast to the OC-6.

Got a minute?

Have you paddled in an outrigger yet?

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Rounding Newcastle Island - The Home Stretch

Two boats rounding the Northern tip of Newcastle Island on their way to the finish line. (The BC Ferries Terminal in Departure Bay can be seen in the background.)

Even The Sea Lions Got Into The Act - Gorging Themselves On The Herring Run...

Sea Lions flocked to the South end of Protection Island to feed on a Herring run... and when they weren't eating, they were barking at the paddlers, presumably for disturbing the peace...

Clouds of Herring milt covered the sea.

Outriggers heading for the finish line while some fishing boats rest at anchor at the North end of Newcastle Channel.

Champion OC1 - Outrigger Canoe

What's On Your Mind?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I take it this is an annual event. sorry if I missed it on the lens, but how long have they been going on?


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