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Lummi canoe team wins international race

LUMMI, Wash. - The Autumn Rose Canoe Club from Lummi Nation faced unfamiliar obstacles in the Liberty World Outrigger Competition June 30 in New York.

''We didn't get any time to warm up, just line up,'' said Nicole Baker, team member.

Racing in a rented outrigger, the team overcame choppy conditions and a gauntlet of barges, cruise ships and a 100-foot sailboat to win the international race, from the East River to New York Harbor. According to www.newyorkoutrigger.org, the race is considered one of the largest sporting events in New York Harbor and one of the top outrigger canoe races in the world.

Autumn Rose finished the 11-mile race in 1 hour, 31 minutes and 53 seconds - 1 minute and 11 seconds ahead of No. 2 finisher, Washington Canoe Club of Washington, D.C. - to win in the Mixed Race division (teams made of men and women). They were followed by canoe teams from Toronto; Philadelphia, Pa.; Newport Beach, Calif.; Honolulu; Beverly, Mass.; and Boston.

Autumn Rose is no stranger to international competition - the team has raced in Canada, Hawaii and the South Pacific. But a multitude of factors made the New York race uniquely challenging: strong currents, commercial shipping traffic and recreational boats. Crews that failed twice to halt for commercial traffic risked being disqualified. Ten minutes were deducted from times in the women's race because of a delay caused by a passing cruise ship.

Baker, a transfer adviser at Northwest Indian College, said there was a lot of chop on the water. ''I wasn't focused on the distance of the race,'' she said. ''Because the conditions were so crazy, I was focused on staying upright. I was more concerned about not tipping.''

She added, ''The water was a lot saltier [than in the Northwest]. We ended up coated in white.''

The other members of the winning Autumn Rose team were Amanda Humphreys, skipper Joe Mamac, Maggie Tumangday, Dean Williams Jr. and David Williams.

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A second Autumn Rose team competed but finished at the end of the pack: Kristina LaClair, Dave Oreiro, Tyson Oreiro, Roni Skates, Liz Solomon and Ivan Washington.

Most of the winning team members are faculty or students at Northwest Indian College, which sent announcements of the team's winning performance.

''Canoe pulling is a traditional activity for many Lummi tribal members which helps them focus on wellness: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual,'' NIC spokesman Aaron Thomas said.

''We are proud of all of our faculty and staff and students for participating in a cultural activity in such a big arena.''

Two weeks before the Liberty World Outrigger Competition, Autumn Rose competed in the Stommish Water Festival War Canoe races at Lummi, racing in traditional Northwest cedar canoes. Coming up on Autumn Rose's race schedule are cedar canoe races at Chief Seattle Days, Suquamish, Aug. 18 - 19; and cedar canoe races at Makah Days, Aug. 24 - 26.

Autumn Rose stayed in the Big Apple through July 5, experiencing New York culture and sights. They stayed in a boutique hotel a short distance from South Street Seaport and Wall Street, visited Coney Island, Central Park, Times Square and the World Trade Center site, and watched the fireworks on the Fourth.

And, Baker said, they ate - who can go to New York without taking advantage of the Big Apple's multicultural fare?

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at rmwalker@rockisland.com.

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