Saturday, August 14, 1999
There will be
no titles in state
With two races unable to beBy Cindy Luis
completed, Hawaiian Canoe
Racing Association officials rule no
team can fairly be declared a winner
And the winner is ....
The state championship canoe race ended in darkness, confusion and controversy last Saturday at Hanakao'o Beach on Maui.
Nothing changed last night when the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association executive board voted 7-5 in favor of not awarding titles in the three divisions.
The 47th state championship saw 33 of 35 races officially completed, with Hawaiian Canoe Club of Maui leading Oahu's Lanikai Canoe Club, 291-285, in the AAA division (18-plus crews), Lokahi holding a nine-point lead over Kawaiahae in the AA division (9-17 crews), and Kaiola three points ahead of Keaukaha and Leeward Kai in the A division (1-8 crews).
"It was a really hard decision," said Mike Tongg, HCRA president. "Nobody is happy. It was a lose-lose situation but there was no protocol to decide otherwise."
The decision came after some three hours of heated discussion and emotional testimony at Outrigger Canoe Club. All 12 board members were present - two representatives from each of the six island organizations - as were the presidents and head coaches from Hawaiian and Lanikai.
"I feel like we're waiting for a jury's decision," said Hawaiian coach Diane Ho before the outcome was announced.
Ho had earlier said her club shouldn't be penalized because there was no rule in place regarding darkness. The Maui contingent left hurriedly after the decision, not wanting to talk to reporters.
Had the board voted to go with the standings after 33 races, it would have been Hawaiian's first state title and only the second ever for a neighbor island club in the 47 years of the event.
The board considered three options: to let the results stand after 33 races, to declare no division champions, or to somehow run the final two events. The third option, which would involved 14 crews each in the men's and women's junior masters (35-over) and 21 clubs, was met with raised eyebrows and little consideration.
"It's one of those things where you couldn't have a champion declared after not running all the races," said Lanikai president Roger McKeague. "Since it appears we're not going to be able to run the rest of the races, the best option left is to have no champion declared for the divisions.
"I don't think you can say one club won when not everyone paddled. That's the bottom line. I feel bad for the whole association. It wasn't just about Lanikai and Hawaiian."
McKeague said even if the roles had been reversed and Lanikai had been ahead, he would have lobbied for the same decision.
"It would be an empty title otherwise," he said. "The championship includes all crews and that opportunity didn't happen."
Though the board was divided, members did agree a policy should be put in place to ensure the situation doesn't happen again. Issues that will be discussed at the HCRA annual meeting in December include holding the state race over two days (youth one day, adults the next) and having better control over race sites.
Last Saturday's race started nearly 90 minutes late. The day dragged on for another 10 hours as officials appeared not to adhere to the five-minute deadline between races and conditions caused canoes to flip, forcing more delays.
"We need to afford everyone the ability to compete," said Tonng. "The format may have to change to do that."