HUI WA‘A REGATTA
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The men of Koa Kai, front, were pursued closely by Kaneohe in the Men's Golden 55 division during the Adam Ahai Memorial Regatta put on by Hui Wa'a yesterday at Keehi Lagoon.
Kaneohe wins Hui Wa‘a opener
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Five-time defending Hui Wa'a champion Kaneohe got its quest for a sixth straight league title going with a sharp win yesterday in the Kamehameha Adam Ahai Regatta at Keehi Lagoon.
The champs rolled to a 71-44 win over runner-up Koa Kai in the first regatta of 2008, while Manu O Ke Kai earned a big win in the Men Open 4 event to survive a late push by the Waikiki Beach Boys and win by a point, 56-55, in the AA (second-tier) class.
Kumulokahi-Elks earned its first regatta division victory behind a strong youth program and won the AAA class by seven points, 19-12 over runner-up Ka Mamalahoe.
"The competition is out there still yet, no matter what," Kaneohe coach Clint Anderson said. "My goal is always looking forward for the states, and try (to) get as much crews as we can get in. We (are) happy for this day, we won the regatta, and there's seven, eight more to go. This is just the beginning, plenty (of) work ahead."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kaneohe's Golden Men's 55 team passed by Ka Mamalahoe's capsized canoe yesterday in a race at Keehi Lagoon.
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While a paddling giant retained its status as the team to beat, an up-and-comer turned some heads in the first Hui Wa'a regatta of 2008 at Keehi Lagoon.
Defending AAA division heavyweight Kaneohe was its dominant self in winning by a 71-44 margin over runner-up Koa Kai, while Manu O Ke Kai staved off a furious late charge by the Waikiki Beach Boys to win by a point, 56-55, in the AA class.
Kumulokahi-Elks made a splash to start the summer with a strong youth showing -- the 10-year-old club claimed the Girls 12 and 13 events by narrow margins -- to take the A division, 19-12 over Ka Mamalahoe.
It was everything Kumulokahi coach Hiram Manoi wished for, and more. The 66-year-old coach -- there since the team's founding in 1998 -- figured the only downside for his club was that the secret was out for the rest of the summer, and his young paddlers will carry a target on their canoes.
The club had finished no better than fourth previously in a regatta. Manoi chalked the difference up to the dedication of his youth in the weeks leading up to yesterday.
Kumulokahi fielded enough paddlers to enter 12 events -- the max amount for the A class -- for the first time, and was rewarded by also taking second in the Girls 15 and third in the Boys 12.
"Everybody showed up. The kids did a terrific job," Manoi said. "They understood the problems we had and what goals we were going for, and they just stepped up to the plate and just took it."
After some brief thought, Manoi decided his crew would be back out training today for the next regatta at Haleiwa Beach Park on Sunday.
"Everybody's gonna come after us from this week on," he said. "So, we're going to do even better than what we did today."
No one was surprised that Kaneohe -- winner of the past five Hui Wa'a overall championships -- jumped out to a fast start in 2008. Its youth was again a strong point in taking the Boys 12, 13, 14 and 18-under, as well as the Mixed 12 and Novice B.
Still, it wasn't quite what coach Clint Anderson wanted to establish early.
"First day, first race, everybody's looking at what everybody else has, how to adjust," Anderson said.
A win in the final event of the day, the Mixed Open 6, and some secondary finishes pushed the defending champs over the top and took the drama out of the AAA class near the end of the day.
"It was a real balance between the adults and kids -- kind of a first time," Anderson explained. "Normally our kids just walk away with 45 points and sit down and whatever -- but not today. I just gotta try to work with them. There's some good competition out there with the kids."
Manu O Ke Kai led for most of the day before the Beach Boys made it close with three events to go. But Manu, the morning AA-class leader, came up with a big first-place finish in the Men's Open 4 event -- a full 12-team race -- that would be the difference. Two second-place finishes by the Beach Boys in the final two events -- Mixed Masters 40 and Mixed Open 6 -- weren't quite enough to put them on top in the points standings.
Greg Wright, 1-position man of the Manu O Ke Kai winning Open 4 team, tipped his hat at Waikiki's late effort.
"Yeah, they're coming up. They were starting to come up near the end last year," said Wright, 49. "Made us a little nervous -- they beat our senior men today. Normally last year we won almost all the senior men races. They're tough."
Impressively, it was the Beach Boys' first regatta competing in AA, up from A.
"(A win would have been) a really, really big deal for our club, because we've grown," said 33-year-old Rachel Orange, steerswoman for Waikiki in the Mixed Open 6. "If we did it in our first event in the new class, (it would have been) phenomenal."