What are Outrigger Canoes?

The outrigger canoe (Tagalog and Indonesian: bangka; Māori: waka ama; Hawaiian: wa' a; Tahitian: va' a) is a type of canoe featuring one or more lateral support floats known as outriggers, which are fastened to one or both sides of the main hull. Smaller canoes often employ a single outrigger on the port side, while larger canoes may employ a single outrigger, double outrigger, or double hull configuration (see also catamaran). The sailing canoes are an important part of the Polynesian heritage and are actively raced and sailed in Hawaii and Tahiti.

Using an outrigger or double hull configuration greatly increases the stability of the canoe, but introduces much less hydrodynamic inefficiency than making a single hull canoe wider. Compared to other types of canoes, outrigger canoes can be quite fast, yet are also capable of being paddled and sailed in rougher water.

The outrigger float is called the ama in many Polynesian and Micronesian languages. The spars connecting the ama to the main hull (or the two hulls in a double hull canoe) are called 'iako in Hawaiian and kiato in Māori (with similar words in other Polynesian languages); in Micronesian languages, the term aka is used.

A variety of canoe 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 (with twelve paddlers using a double hull outrigger canoe, two six person canoes rigged together like a catamaran). The shorthand form is also commonly written as V1, V2, V6, etc. (where V refers to va' a).

What is Outrigger Canoe Racing?

Outrigger canoeing is a sport in which an outrigger canoe is propelled by means of paddles. Outrigger canoeing has grown from its roots in Polynesia to become a very popular paddling sport, with numerous sporting and social clubs located around the world. Sporting clubs like BRD are also often involved with dragon boat racing and other canoe disciplines.

Outrigger canoe racing has become a popular canoeing sport, with numerous clubs located around the world.

Six person outrigger canoes (or OC6) are among the most common used for sport use; single person outrigger canoes (or OC1) are also very common. Two and four person outrigger canoes are also sometimes used, and two six person outrigger canoes are sometimes rigged together like a catamaran to form a twelve person double canoe.

Modern OC6 hulls and ama's are commonly made from glass-reinforced plastic. However, some canoes are made of more traditional materials. In Hawaii, canoes were carved from the trunks of very old koa trees. The 'iako are usually made of wood; the 'iako-ama and 'ia ko-hull connections are typically done with rope wrapped and tied in interlocking fashion to reduce the risk of the connection coming completely apart if the rope breaks.

Modern OC1 hulls and ama's are commonly made from glass-reinforced plastic, carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and/or Kevlar to produce a strong but light canoe. OC1 are often made with rudders operated by foot pedals. More traditional designs do not have rudders. OC1 commonly use 'ia ko made of aluminium, with a mechanism for quickly assembling and disassembling the canoe (snap buttons, large wing nuts, etc.).

Steerers
A good steerer is able to maintain the straight attitude of the canoe throughout the course of a race, and also keep the boat and the crew safe in rough sea conditions. He/she may also take advantage of water conditions to gain extra speed by surfing. The steerer uses a single bladed steering paddle which has a larger blade than a standard outrigger paddle, is built stronger, and has less or no bend in its shaft.|

Paddlers
Paddlers use single bladed paddles, usually with single or double bent shafts. The paddling stroke is similar to that of most other racing canoe paddling strokes, involving primarily core and lat strength. Generally, each paddler paddles on the opposite side from the paddler in directly front (for example, in an OC6, paddlers in seats 1, 3, and 5 paddle on one side, while paddlers in seats 2 and 4 paddle on the other side). All paddlers switch sides simultaneously on a call from one who is the designated caller. The steerer may paddle either side or switch sides as needed for steering purposes.

Stronger paddlers are typically placed in the middle of the canoe, while paddlers with the most endurance tend to be placed at the front, as the lead paddler sets the pace for the crew. All other paddlers synchronize their strokes to the paddler in front of them (whom they can directly see).

History of Outrigger Canoeing in Australia

Outrigger canoe racing is a relatively young sport in Australia. Seventy years after Hawaii's first Outrigger Canoe Club was formed, the first club in Australia was formed in 1978 on the Gold Coast while the first club in Sydney was formed in 1989, the year the first Australian Championships were held. The first regatta in Australia was held in 1981 and the national body, Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association (AOCRA), was formed in 1988.

The sport has enjoyed rapid growth in recent years with the development of clubs in other states of Australia, expanding the sport's power base and spiritual home from northern Queensland and the Whitsunday region to make it a more "national" sport. In 1990 there were 11 clubs in Australia, mainly in the Whitsunday area. This doubled to 23 in1991, 37 in 1994, 45 in 1995, and 50 in 1997. In 1995, in Sydney alone, the number of clubs jumped from 2 to 10. There are now well over 60 clubs Australia wide.

The Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association (AOCRA) is the national governing body of the sport and overseas and organises racing throughout Australia, with rules based on those created by the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association. AOCRA also nurtures respect for the heritage and cultures from which these craft originate.

For further detailed information about outrigger racing in Australia visit the AOCRA web site.

(History extract from AOCRA web site, 2009)

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