As Men’s Captain, the secret sauce is VRC’s two guiding principles: “Train to race; Race to win.” & “Club, Crew, You”. These elements are in our club DNA.

Men’s crew Captain, Stephen Stanton sits with Talis Crew and shares his thoughts and experiences heading into Moloka’i Hoe.

Crew Captain Stephen Stanton.

Please tell us your name and the name of your club.

My name is Stephen Stanton, and I’m the crew Captain for Hong Kong VRC Paddle Club.

How many times have you done the Moloka’i race?

Last year, 2016 & this year for 2017.

What was your most successful race? What are your expectations this time?

So many races stand out in my memory, with lots of 1st place finishes close to home. But last year’s Moloka’i Channel crossing was a more fundamental “success”. VRC entered two crews, I was in the less experienced crew with just 1 of our 9 boys having ever done that race before (or anything like it). We learned so much from the experience. More importantly, we gained confidence in the quality of our training. We nailed our sea changes. We crossed the finish line with too much gas in the tank. We learned that we can push even harder, that we should trust our preparation, trust our crewmates, and give 100% every leg of the relay. This year, we are going to put it all out there. Of course we aim to finish higher up the rankings, but most importantly, we are going to finish with no regrets: Train like champs, execute the race plan flawlessly, pull hard water, and empty the tank!

As a leader, what are the most important aspects of having a successful Moloka’i race?

As a paddler, I compete for seats in A & B crews just like the other boys. As Men’s Captain, the secret sauce is VRC’s two guiding principles: “Train to race; Race to win.” & “Club, Crew, You”. These elements are in our club DNA. A successful Moloka’i race isn’t just one day, or even one season. It’s a culture of teamwork, intra-club competition for seats, effective coaching, a well-designed training regimen and dedication to it, investing in newer paddlers and pushing our fastest boys to work even harder.

When race day comes, “success” means translating all that prep into execution. We each bring our personal best, and we know our crewmates are bringing theirs.

Of course we aim for strong results across the finish line, hopefully surprising some top crews. We also want to repeat one of the best aspects of last year’s race. We want to introduce some new boys to big water channel crossings. We are growing the club, growing the sport, and bringing up the level in Hong Kong. (That’s my official & heart-felt leader answer. But yeah, as a paddler, I want to get into the A crew and kick butt!)

Please describe how you feel about Moloka’i the race? Why is it important to you?

It’s not just one feeling. In year one, it’s Mt. Everest, an impossible goal where merely finishing is a good result. In year two, it’s about pushing limits, testing yourself and benchmarking against the world’s best. It’s also about pride in our club (VRC). We don’t have an “all star” team. We have a deep bench of quality men, all working together towards this race as our common goal. This race pushes us to train even harder. Our club gets stronger, and we do our part to raise the bar for Hong Kong paddling.

Why do you think your team has what it takes to do well at Moloka’i?

We know because we did it before, because we are training for it, and because we built the mental and physical strength to take on that stretch of open water. We aren’t just hoping for a good day. We are putting in the hard work to prepare for whatever the channel throws at us.

We are not overconfident: On the worst days, Moloka’i can be too much for any crew. But if it can be done, we can do it.

What does your training program look like?

It’s hard. We are on the water 3–4x/week in the winter off season, and up to 6+x/week during peak months. A week won’t pass without at least one day of intense flat water intervals. We do a mix of distances and conditions in OC6 & OC1, taking advantage of HK’s biggest water before & after storms. Dry land workouts are also crucial. We have excellent fitness coach running all-club boot camps 2x/week. These sessions target paddler needs, from ensuring healthy shoulders & hip flexors to building general strength, stamina & VO2 max. We individually supplement and personalize our dry land work. Personally, I’m a big, strong boy that needs to “lean out”, while some new boys would benefit from strength work.

What are some of the sacrifices you and the team will make to get to Moloka’i?

There are plenty of sacrifices but it’s all worth it. Training at stupid o’clock AM weekdays & huge chunks of every weekend; skipping happy hours, being on the same sleep schedule as our parents and grandparents. The trip from Hong Kong costs time and money, and some WAGS have other ideas about how to spend precious vacation days. Fortunately, my wife paddles and even steers for VRC. It’s not a sacrifice for us, it’s a shared passion. I’ll even jump on a plane and join the VRC girls at their target race (as long as I get to paddle during the trip!)

The guns show featuring Stephen.

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