CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Outrigger Canoe Club won its second long-distance race of the season yesterday, the 33-mile Henry Ayau Memorial.
Ayau Memorial race goes Outrigger’s way
The numbers are looking good for Outrigger Canoe Club's top men's team.
The Waikiki-based crew picked up its second victory of the local long-distance season by convincingly winning the 33-mile Henry Ayau Memorial men's outrigger-canoe race yesterday in 3 hours, 42 minutes and 42 seconds -- more than 6 minutes faster than runner-up Hawaiian (3:48:55) of Maui.
At the last event before the Molokai Hoe on Oct. 7, Outrigger became the only club with more than one win in the five Hawaii events leading up to the race from Molokai to Oahu that is considered the men's world championship of the sport.
"We had really good speed from the beginning" of the race, said Outrigger steersman Karel Tresnak Jr. "Our guys paddled unreal, and we're really starting to come together after the last three years together (as a crew). Things are looking good, promising."
Fifty-one teams began the race at Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai. The finish line was just offshore at Nanakuli Beach Park.
Crews were composed of nine paddlers, with six paddling at a time and the relief traveling alongside in escort boats.
Besides Tresnak, Outrigger's winning crew members are: Kapono Brown, Tapa Worthington, Ikaika Harbottle, Robert Harrison Jr., Mike Kane, Scott Hendricks, Jim Austin and Mark Rigg.
After battling among crews in the lead pack at the outset of the race, Outrigger seized control. Tresnak locked the crew into whatever swells he could find as Outrigger built its advantage throughout the race.
"We've put in a lot of hard work, have had a really tough training regimen," Outrigger's Kane said. "As a team, you can never be comfortable, you have to strive to get faster every time."
Besides racing to a second-place finish in the Henry Ayau, seven of Hawaiian's nine paddlers also participated in a 26-mile, Maui-to-Molokai race on Saturday.
They won that race, and then rode an escort boat back to Oahu.
"We're a little fatigued," said Hawaiian's Jacob Abeytia. "After over a hundred miles total on the water, we're definitely happy to see the beach right now. But, not a bad weekend at all."
Using a koa canoe, Lanikai placed third yesterday at 3:50:25. Each a winner earlier in the distance season, Team New Zealand/Hawaii (3:53:19) finished fourth and Tui Tonga (3:55:03) fifth.
Though it did not participate yesterday, Shell Vaa broke the Molokai Hoe record and led a Tahitian sweep of the top three spots just last year. Along with several other top Tahitian crews, Shell Vaa will be back this season.
But former powerhouse Outrigger -- which has been rebuilding and getting stronger for the last three years -- led for a portion of last year's 55th annual Molokai Hoe and finished fourth, best among Hawaii crews.
Combined with a win at the season-opening race last month, yesterday's victory at the very least puts Outrigger among the pre-race favorites.
And, at best, this could turn out to be the crew that brings Outrigger its first Molokai Hoe win since 1999 and extends the club's own record to 17 wins overall.
"We're still not where we want to be with technique and with consistency in the bumps (waves)," Tresnak said, "but we're definitely better than last year, and the year before -- and to us that means a lot. This has been a long (process) for us, and we're hoping to do better. We'll see, but we're pretty happy today."