CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Paul Amoy, center, celebrated with fellow members of Koa Kai Canoe Club's men's seniors crew after a win yesterday.
Na Keiki O Ka Moi happy to share regatta victory
The memory of the club's founder spurs the paddlers to a win
Sharing a regatta victory can be an incredible accomplishment, especially when you haven't tasted one in a while.
Especially when your canoe club founder recently passed away, the regatta is your own and marks your 30th anniversary -- the first without him.
Such was the case yesterday for host Na Keiki O Ka Moi, as the west-side-based club tied three-time defending Na Ohana O Na Hui Waa champion and unbeaten Kaneohe with 68 total points to share the AAA division (25-plus crews entered) title in the association's seventh and final regular-season regatta this summer.
Kaneohe won all six of the previous regattas this year outright, and only lost once in the Hui Waa regular season last year. Ka Moi last won a Hui Waa regatta's AAA title 11 years ago.
"I'll take a tie," said Lisa Kaaekuahiwi, Ka Moi co-head coach and daughter of the club's founder, Rona Kaaekuahiwi, who passed away last October. A win "is the best thing you could possibly give me. With my dad's passing, I wanted to at least win this regatta for him, every single person in this club wanted that. We exist because of him, and we all felt him out there. I don't care if I lose every race from now until whenever, this was the race I wanted to win."
Lokahi, the only AAA entrant, finished with 53 points.
While his club was missing a couple handfuls of paddlers from its regular rotations due to the location of the regatta at Maili Beach, Kaneohe head coach Clint Anderson also was pleased with the tie.
Kaneohe will not participate in next Sunday's regatta at Waikiki Beach -- the last before the Hui Waa Championships on July 22 -- because it does not count toward the official standings as the association's only surf race.
"We finished undefeated. But my hat goes off" to Ka Moi, Anderson said. "They deserve to win this race, and today is their day. The tie belongs to them."
Kaneohe used a win in the last race -- mixed open 6 -- of 36 on the day to earn five points and the draw.
Ka Moi still finished with a regatta-high eight race wins overall to Kaneohe's seven.
Ka Moi surged to an early lead, helped by four wins and three runner-up finishes in the youth races and held a 15-point advantage (49-34) over Kaneohe after the 16th event.
Kaneohe came back to knot the score at 60 after the open division races.
But trailing by five with only one race to go, Kaneohe needed to win the finale and have Ka Moi finish out of the top four just to earn the tie. Kaneohe's mixed open 6 crew crossed the half-mile course first in 4 minutes, 11.45 seconds, while Ka Moi (5:23.58) finished 14th.
"This is our home ground," said Rona Kaaekuahiwi's widow and Lisa's mother, Shannon, who serves as Ka Moi's manager. "(Our paddlers) just wanted it, they wanted to win so badly."
Manu O Ke Kai won the AA division (13-24 crews entered) with 47 points, followed by runner-up Koa Kai at 36. Koa Kai had won the division for a second time this year the previous week, but Manu increased its season-leading AA victory total to five yesterday.
The undefeated Waikiki Beach Boys picked up their seventh straight win in the A division (12 or fewer crews entered) with 33 points, followed by Hawaiian Outrigger and Kalihi Kai, both with 11.
Koa Kai did manage to re-enter the winner's circle in the prestigious 1 1/2-mile senior men's race, picking up its association-leading fourth victory on the season in 12:19.74 after finishing a surprising third a week ago.
Manu (12:44.61) finished second, while the Beach Boys (12:45.90) took third.
Members of Koa Kai's winning crew were Kelii Ross, Brett Saquid, Paul Amoy, Steve Holbrook, Ben Ancheta and Dave Randall.
"Coming in third for us (the last week) was a sour pill," Ross said. "Mentally, we prepared ourselves a little bit better for this race. You kinda don't want to pay attention to the other crews, but you know they're gonna be there regardless. But you gotta be mentally prepared because it is the longest race of the day and anything can happen in those 12 minutes."
In the 1 1/2-mile senior women's race, the Beach Boys continued their domination, winning in 13:30.87 to second-place Lokahi's 13:42.02 and third Manu's 15:03.62.
The Beach Boys have not lost this event in Hui Waa competition since 2003.
Their winning crewmembers yesterday were Kelsa Teeters, Erin Offenhauser, Dana Gorecki, Andrea Messer, Cherie Lee and Sue Brown.