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Oscar Chalupsky © Gallo Images

Chalupsky ninth in Molokai Challenge

Veteran South African paddler Oscar Chalupsky's bid to claim the iconic Molokai Challenge surfski ultra marathon title ended with a ninth place finish in Hawaii on Sunday.

South African champion Sean Rice came within a whisker of winning the race on debut, finishing second behind Australian Olympic gold medallist Clint Robinson.

Rice led with less than two kilometres to go in the brutal 52km crossing of the Kaiwi Channel, but was beaten to the finish at the Hawaii Kai Town Centre.

The 50-year-old Chalupsky had dominated the 52km race since he first won it in 1983 as a 20-year-old, the first of seven consecutive victories.

"Congratulations to Clint (Robinson) for the win today," Chalupsky said.

"It was very tough for me today, but ninth was all I could expect in the headwind conditions."

Chalupsky led a bunch of contenders including Robinson and Rice on a northerly line from the start, staying on the rum line, while Martin Kenny spearheaded a group that went slightly further south.

"I started really well but, as the headwind wore on, the younger guys started to come through," Chalupsky said.

"It was probably the toughest Molokai I have done. My average speed was 11.5km/h, when we usually average around 16km/h on a typical Molokai."

Racing on flat seas in extreme heat and a slight northerly wind from the side, the race turned into a relentless grind with no downwind runs available to the paddlers.

Robinson gradually took the race by the scruff of the neck, sticking close to the rum line and, an hour-and-a-half into the race, the field was strung out with Robinson leading Sam Norton, Sean Rice, Dane Sloss and Chalupsky in fifth.

As they approached Portlock Point, the race had become a two-horse affair, with Rice taking the lead over Robinson while they were well clear of the rest of the contenders.

By the time the leaders approached the China Wall, Robinson was back in front, and caught a wave into the finish.

"Conditions were really tough, but the wind from the right cooled things down a bit," Robinson said.

Australian Miranda Davis won the women's race, with a 25th place finish overall.


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