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Kaneohe still wins with fewer paddlers


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POSTED: Monday, May 25, 2009

Perennial outrigger canoe paddling power Kaneohe failed to field enough crews to qualify for upper division competition for the first time in what head coach Clint Anderson says was the last 10 years.

But, despite racing 24 crews in the 39-race Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa'a season-opening regatta yesterday at Keehi Lagoon, Kaneohe racked up eight victories and seven second-place finishes to end the competition with a regatta-high 66 points. More than 1,500 paddlers representing 18 canoe clubs in age divisions ranging from 12-and-under to 60-and-above braved stiff Kona winds and traversed courses ranging from a quarter-mile to 1.5 miles in yesterday's opener.

Kaneohe claimed the medium AA Division (13-24 crews entered) ahead of the Waikiki Beach Boys (54 points) and Lokahi Canoe Club (38 points). While Anderson expects to move back into the organization's large division eventually, he was pleased with his short-handed club's performance.

“;We had a late start, so we had to do what we had to do,”; Anderson said. “;We've been working with the younger kids for two months, but the older kids just came out this week. We have plenty to work with, but some kids just came out on their own. I guess they were playing other sports.”;

Despite the adversity, Kaneohe relied on its younger children to win five of the first six races in the regatta, and build a strong foundation on which the other crews could add. But, in an example of the older kids' lack of preparation, the Boys 18 crew finished first, but was disqualified after officials determined that the boat had traveled in the wrong lane — a mistake easily remedied with practice.

“;It's all good. We'll slowly add to what we have and build up more crews as we go along,”; Anderson said. “;Maybe next week is another story, maybe more paddlers will come out.”;

Waikiki notched seven victories in the 17 races in which it entered, and dominated the women's competition with victories in the novice B, novice A, freshman, sophomore and senior events. Not only did the “;Beach Girls”; win, but they blew away the competition. In the women's senior race for instance, Waikiki finished the 1.5-mile course in 12 minutes, 3.96 seconds — nearly 2 minutes ahead of second place Lokahi.

“;It's about racing the clock every week and trying to improve,”; said stroker Dana Gorecki whose boat mates in the senior race included Rachel Bruntsch, Andrea Messer, Jen Polcer, Kaui Pelekane and Kelsa Teeters. “;It was about coming out here, getting this first regatta under way, seeing where we are with times and how much farther we have to go.”;

The Beach Boys program has built a strong reputation for success over the past few years thanks to its year-round training regimen. In addition to regular practices, crew members work out on one-man outrigger canoes and do various weight and aerobic exercises to enhance conditioning.

“;Our program has gotten bigger over the last four to five years, and I think success motivates people,”; said Waikiki women's coach Sean Monahan. “;I've got a core group, 15 or 20 girls, who really try hard, do their homework and it pays off. They win races and motivate the other girls.”;

Kaneohe's absence from the large AAA Division (25 or more crews entered) turned the competition into a two-horse race. Manu O Ke Kai emerged victorious with 47 points, finishing ahead of Na Keiki O Ka Moi (34 points).

Through the regatta's first 30 races, Manu held a slim 32-27 lead over Na Keiki before earning two of its three victories on the day down the home stretch. A win in the men's senior race aided Manu O Ke Kai's effort as the crew finished the three-turn, 1.5-mile course in 11 minutes, 3.24 seconds — just ahead of Waikiki (11:5.65) and Lokahi (12:1.87).

Not only did the crew's steersman, Moku Sanborn, keep the canoe on a winning course, but he did so after slightly cracking his paddle on the race's first turn.

“;On the first turn, the paddle broke and I was saying, 'Oh no, we still get two more turns!'”; said Sanborn, whose teammates included Brian Amantiad, Pete Celebre, Greg Pavao, John Hoogsteden and Bobo Tantog. “;This crew has been together for almost seven years now, so we know how each other paddles, we know when to click, when to ease off and when to pick it up — we really blend.”;

Kalihi-Kai claimed the A Division (6-12 crews entered) with 26 points coming on the heels of three victories. Ka Mamalahoe and Kumulokahi-Elks finished with 18 points apiece, but earned second and third place by virtue of a coin toss.