Crews want to disrupt Shell Vaa dominance


POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shell Vaa had Sunday's 41-mile Molokai Hoe in the bag from the moment it jumped off the starting line, rounded Diamond Head with its entourage of escort boats in tow, and crossed the finish line more than 12 minutes — roughly a mile-and-a-half — ahead of the next closest canoe with race emcee Mike Buck's voice booming, “;Here come the Tahitians!”;

By completing the trek from Hale O Lono Harbor to Waikiki's Duke Kahanamoku Beach in 4 hours, 40 minutes and 17 seconds while battling sloppy ocean conditions and humidity, Shell Vaa continued its streak of excellence in claiming a fourth consecutive Molokai Hoe.

The race marked the end of large-scale outrigger canoe competition until next summer's regatta season rolls around, and a few locally based clubs showed signs that — with continued effort and improvement — Hawaii is laying the groundwork for a run at the title for the first time since Lanikai Canoe Club won two consecutive titles in 2004 and '05.

Lanikai assembled a perfect balance of youth and experience in fielding its Molokai Hoe crew that, despite paddling together for the first time, crossed the line fifth Sunday in 5 hours, 5 minutes and 22 seconds. As a testament to the event's ever-improving collection of talent, Lanikai finished nearly 12 minutes ahead of its winning time from 2005 — yet still ended up roughly 3 miles behind this year's winning pace.

“;The Dolan brothers (Patrick and Ryan) came back from Olympic (kayaking) training, and Jack Roney came back from college, and we kind of had an up-and-down year, so to end it on this note is great,”; said Lanikai paddler Aaron Creps. “;It's always interesting with nine guys who never paddled together, so we were excited to see how it would turn out. (The Tahitians) are amazing. It doesn't seem to matter what kind of conditions are out there, they're just fast.”;

Outrigger Canoe Club also showed promise, finishing in sixth place.

The women of Team Bradley know a thing or two about streaks as well.

Make that five things.

The crew, a collection of paddlers from across Hawaii and Australia, teamed up again to win its fifth consecutive Na Wahine O Ke Kai — the women's equivalent of the Molokai Hoe — on Sept. 27. Just as the Lanikai men finished strong on Sunday despite no practice, Team Bradley has managed to win year after year without practicing regularly as a full squad due to the geographical separation.

Unlike Shell Vaa, however, Team Bradley might have to check its rear view mirror more frequently next season to keep tabs on the Waikiki Beachboys. The Beachboys finished 82 seconds behind Bradley's winning mark of 5:25:16. Waikiki revamped its program in recent years to stress conditioning and preparedness for the long-distance races.

The training has paid dividends, as the Beachboys dominated the women's regatta season, and fell only three points short of upsetting seven-time champion Kaneohe.

Since Waikiki trains year-round for the distance competitions — and wins in the regatta season serve more as bonuses en route to the Na Wahine O Ke Kai — beating Team Bradley remains top priority in 2010, while also fending off perennial challenger Hui Lanakila, which placed third this year.