Lanikai ready for paddling challenge
The state championship regatta features contrasting styles
Expect two contrasting styles to come to the forefront of tomorrow's Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship Regatta at Keehi Lagoon.
The paddlers of seven-time defending champion Hawaiian Canoe Club of Maui will try to follow the happy-go-lucky demeanor of their coach to victory, while Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association winner Lanikai is determined - and best-positioned - to end Hawaiian's reign over the course of 39 events.
The approach against all 58 other clubs and nearly 3,000 other paddlers represented hasn't changed at all this year for the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association powerhouse, which swept each regatta this year on the Valley Isle and has won its league's last 24 championships.
"We just try to have fun, do the best we can do," HCC coach Diane Ho said. "Compete, and let it fall where it falls."
Lanikai coach Tom Conner, meanwhile, is tinkering a bit with the lineups that sent his club to its third straight OHCRA title this year.
"(Hawaiian) won most of the upper-division races last year by having one crew race twice in two separate races, which you're allowed to do in the state championships," said the first-year coach. "We didn't do that. (This time) it took a little change in philosophy and some adjustment on the part of the paddlers. But the goal is to win."
Lanikai outnumbered Hawaiian in total crews 38-31 last year on Kauai, but a string of victories in the men's freshman, sophomore, junior and senior events swung the balance in Hawaiian's favor late in the day for a 359-328 overall victory. No one else was close.
Ho was hesitant to recognize her particularly strong crews this year as her club compiled 1,000 season points in MCHCA for the first time.
"I don't like to point out one group or another," said Ho, who has been coaching with the club since the 1980s. "Our approach to paddling is a club approach, always. Sometimes a crew will come in fourth and do what they're supposed to do and make the points. It's just as important, because it depends on the competition in that division."
In AAAA, Lanikai leads all clubs with 37 crews, while Hawaiian has 34. OHCRA clubs Kailua (31), Hui Nalu (26) and Outrigger (25) make up the rest of that division.
Waikiki Beach Boys of Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa'a - the defending AA champion - could be a major threat in the AAA (13-20 crews) class behind its strong women's teams. The Beach Boys won the prestigious women senior event in each of the last two years and have 17 crews represented, while Kihei of Maui and Kai Opua of the Big Island have the maximum 20 apiece.
Six-time Hui Wa'a champion Kaneohe elected to pare its representation down to 12 crews to give itself the best chance to win in the AA (7-12 crew) division after a fifth-place finish in AAA last year. Thirteen other crews are entered in that class.
When asked what has to happen for his - or another - club to take down Hawaiian, Conner figured the key is to place highly in the five races the Maui titan didn't qualify for.
"Well, I guess a combination of them not doing as well as they normally do and another club doing better than they would normally do (is what it would take)," Conner said. "If they just have a regular state championship, they should be right there near the top."