RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Crews from the girls 16 division dug in at the start of their race as the Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa'a canoe season opened yesterday at Keehi Lagoon.
Kaneohe opens Hui Wa‘a season with convincing win
New Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa'a season. First regatta.
Same ol' Kaneohe Canoe Club.
The four-time defending Hui Wa'a champion picked up its first regatta victory of 2007 and seemed very able to continue its domination of the association, taking the AAA division (25-plus crews entered) of the opener yesterday at Keehi Lagoon with totals of 77 points and 10 wins in the 39-race regatta.
Na Keiki O Ka Moi finished well behind as the AAA runner-up with 40 points, while Lokahi placed third with 29.
"This is competition, and you don't ever get bored with winning," Kaneohe head coach Clint Anderson said. "Everyone has to work hard to get the club where we're at. Each week is a new week."
As the regatta host, Kaneohe honored Geraldeen Farley -- a longtime supporter of the club and Anderson's mother -- as well as all the kupuna, or elders, of Hui Wa'a.
In tribute and unlike they usually do, the paddlers in the kupuna (masters) divisions raced at the start of the regatta, before the youth and novice paddlers, and were given a free lunch.
As Kaneohe's youth paddlers have been the traditional source of strength for the club, typically putting Hui Wa'a regattas out of reach for competing clubs before the adults even race, this change could have potentially messed with Kaneohe's winning formula.
But it proved not to matter once the regatta started. Kaneohe picked up one win (men 60 and older) and two runner-up finishes in the six masters events.
When its kids hit the water, Kaneohe added seven wins and one second place in the 13 youth races to build an insurmountable lead. Kaneohe also earned wins in the mixed novice B race and the day's finale, mixed open 6.
"This is one of the smallest groups we've had for kids in a while," Anderson said. "They definitely surprised me a bit that they did so well."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
'Alapa Hoe edged Kai Poha in the girls 18 during yesterday's Hui Wa'a regatta at Keehi Lagoon.
The top two clubs in the AA division (13-24 crews) actually finished with more points than AAA runner-up Ka Moi. Defending division champion Manu O Ke Kai finished on top with 63 points and eight race wins, while the Waikiki Beach Boys took second place with 42 points and Koa Kai third with 40.
The switch in the race order definitely helped Manu get off to a fast start, as the Haleiwa-based club picked up three wins and one runner-up finish in the masters races.
Among its other wins, Manu also notched one in the prestigious 1 1/2-mile senior men's race, narrowly beating Koa Kai, 11 minutes and 52.60 seconds to 11:55.40.
"The water is better earlier in the morning," said Manu head coach Randy Sanborn, who also paddled on the club's winning mixed 60 and older crew. "I still rather see the kids go first (because of this), but it turned out good for us; our kupuna did awesome. It's a boost for the club to see us old guys do our thing."
Ka Mamalahoe won the A (12 and fewer crews) division with 14 points, and North Shore (12) and Kalihi Kai (11) rounded out the top three.
The Waikiki Beach Boys are the four-time defending A division champions, but decided before yesterday's regatta to move up to AA. Come race time, however, the Beach Boys only had enough to make 12 crews. They still competed in AA, and tallied the third-highest point total of any club at the regatta, along with a sweep of the three open women's races.
After breaking through last year to become the first Hui Wa'a club to win the blue-ribbon senior women's race at the state championships, the Beach Boys picked up right where they left off, winning the 1 1/2-mile sprint in 13:15.35, more than 20 seconds better than runner-up Lokahi (13:38.66).
"You're always a little bit nervous coming into (the new season), because you haven't been sprinting in a while and you don't know what the other crews are coming out with," said Rachel Orange, who steered the senior crew for the first time. "The pressure (to continue winning) is always gonna be there. All you can do is try to use that for added adrenaline, and make the best of it."
Hui Wa'a's next regatta will be at Haleiwa next Sunday. The Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association -- Oahu's other association -- begins its season the same day at Keehi.