Hawke's Bay paddler Anne Cairns is leaving no boat unturned in her quest to qualify for a second consecutive Olympics.
Cairns, 38, who represented Samoa in kayaking at the Rio Olympics, will race in four different boats over the next two weekends. The winner of two golds, silver and bronze medals as well as a fourth placing at last month's Lake Karapiro-hosted national waka ama championships will tackle a second consecutive Coast to Coast multisport event in the South Island this weekend.
The Havelock North-based firefighter will complete 70km of paddling with her family team in the three-person, two-day mixed teams section of the 243km run, cycle and kayak adventure race from the West Coast to the east coast of the South Island. Her 73-year-old father Lawrie Cairns from Palmerston North will tackle the run legs and Auckland-based brother Craig Cairns the cycle legs while her sister Bridget will be the support crew and logistics boss.
"Last year at Coast Dad and our 79 year-old cyclist John Livingstone of Palmerston North were celebrities of some sorts being the oldest competitors, it's a true testament to their fitness and determination to do the event and do it well," Cairns recalled.
"It's really special to be able to do this event with family, Dad is an absolute charger to tackle that run again, he's really wanting to improve on his time from last year and has been training really well. As for me, I was happy in taking out the second fastest female paddle time last year on my first paddle down the river. Unfortunately I haven't had the time to get down and practice the course at all so will just go for it again and see how it goes, it's definitely a river that favours those that know the lines, especially on the braided sections…the main thing for this event for me is to just enjoy and complete this race with my Dad and brother," Cairns said.
After the Coast to Coast Cairns will travel to Lake Karapiro for the Oceania and New Zealand Sprint Kayak National Championships. On February 15 she will represent Samoa in the women's K1 200m.
On February 16 Cairns will join her Hawke's Bay waka ama club Haeata Ocean Sports' mixed open team at the Takapuna Cup event, New Zealand's only waka ama changeover race involving a 42km paddle from Takapuna Beach, out and around Rangitoto and Rakino Islands.
"I was part of the club's women's team Manuz & Jemimaz which won the Takapuna title in 2017 and 2018 so it will be a new challenge to join with some our men and see how we go in the mixed event," Cairns said.
On February 17 Cairns will then switch to a single waka to race in the 24km relay event where teams of two complete three 4km laps each. At Easter Cairns and her Manuz & Jemimaz team will attempt to win a ninth premier women's title at the national waka ama long distance championships in Auckland.
"Unfortunately I've had to turn down opportunities to race with the New Zealand waka ama team at the world championships on the Gold Coast in August and the New Zealand rafting team for worlds in Queensland partly due to financial and work factors, and also based on my commitment to other big events on the calendar," Cairns said.
The August world sprint kayak championships in Hungary are a must in the qualifying process for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. In September Cairns will race in a waka ama event in Hawaii and if time permits the World Ocean Surf Ski Championships in France.
Cairns agreed last month's efforts at the national waka ama championships provided the ideal start to the year. Her fourth placing came in the premier women's V1 single rudderless 500m event after qualifying sixth for the final.
"I was really pleased to pull back two places in the final, finishing less than a second off bronze. It's not an event I train for and only managed two practices in a single rudderless waka before the nationals so am content with the final placing," Cairns said.
She also agreed Manuz & Jemimaz premier women's W6 1500m final, in which they won gold, was the race of the championships and the upset of the nationals. They qualified second for the final 15s behind top qualifiers, nine-time national champions and current world champions Kaiarahi Toa from Gisborne's Horouta club.
"We stuck with them and then went on to dominate the race in a strong showing which surprised everyone including the commentators and ourselves," Cairns recalled.
"We knew we could improve on our semifinal performance if we tidied up our turns and really focussed on putting our power into the same part of each stroke. It's definitely one of the, if not the most satisfying paddle races I have ever been part of," Cairns said.
Her second gold came as a member of the Te Uranga o Te Ra (Hawke's Bay/Gisborne Region) women's 500m crew. Her silver was won with the Haeata premier women's W6 500m crew and bronze with the Haeata W12 500m crew.
Hawke's Bay entrants for the Coast to Coast are: Individuals: Ashleigh Neave, Klayten Betts, Liam Hurst, Paul Lacey, Thomas Christison, Grant Morrish, Scott McDonald. Team competitors: Angus Simmons, Jack Graney, Jonathan Demetrius, Matthew Adams, Rebecca Moore, Theane van Zyl, Thomas Bailey, William Turvey, Anne Cairns..