The National – Monday, January 3, 2011
By KEVIN TEME
AROMA Coast in Central celebrated the New Year with a host of activities, including the annual canoe race sponsored by the Keleone Aroma Development Group of Companies.
The Sir Puka Temu rugby league challenge was also held to coincide with the festive season.
However, what was more interesting and drew most of the crowd was the canoe race which did not allow participants to pay a fee rather they only had to contribute a bundle of banana and a dry coconut to be eligible for the event.
The race started on New Year’s Eve at 10.30am at Pelegai Hawai.
Turning the course at Lamana at 10 to 15 knots, frontrunner New Gani Legi, owned by Ian Gapi, took an early lead but was knocked out turning the course from Egala Auna to Pelegai Hawai when her mast broke.
This paved way for one of the oldest canoes in the competition, the Molav Merokele, to take over the lead.
The tiring long 25-course was a test of strength and skills which saw Leka Vanua, sailing the Abute Kau Vaini, coming home ahead of Merokele who lost her speed after her caster broke halfway to the turning of the finishing course.
Vanua also won the fishing race scooping a double New Year present from the Keleone Aroma Development Group of Companies.
“This year has not been a good year compared to last year. We had plenty of fish, bananas and coconuts for registration,” group chairman Jack Kedea said.
He added the company had come up with such an initiative because they wanted to give back to the community and ensure everyone had something to take home despite finishing last in the race.
Major sponsor Ian Gapi said the participants did not pay any fees to compete, but went home smiling after they were awarded with cash prizes for their efforts.
The overall winner was Abute Kau Vaini of Paramana village who bagged K1,000, MeroKele took out K450 and The Spirit of First Aid scooped K360 after Navumauli was disqualified for using a bigger size canoe.