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Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, August 3, 2000

C A N O E _ P A D D L I N G

Canoe clubs
have score
to settle

The state's best compete Saturday
in the 50th Hawaiian Canoe Racing
Association State Championship
Regatta at Keehi Lagoon

By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Two of the clubs participating in Saturday's 50th Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship Regatta at Keehi Lagoon consider themselves defending champion, though neither really is.

Last year's championship was called off under protest before it was finished, with crews in the later races having to finish in the darkness that quickly descended upon Hanakaoo Beach near Lahaina. Only 33 of 35 total races were completed, and HCRA officials eventually declared no winner for the regatta despite the Valley Isle's own Hawaiian Canoe Club having the lead with only the two races remaining.

"We're looking for some respect, and we have unfinished business to take care of," HCC co-head coach Paul Luuwai said. "We have a lot of older guys with a salty taste in their mouths from last year.

"We feel that some of the sportsmanship typically found in our state sport was lost last year."

Since an official winner was not declared last year, the paddlers of Kailua Canoe Club say that their club enters the race on Saturday as the defending champion, as the club from the windward side of Oahu won the last completed state championship two years ago.

"We won the state championship in 1998, and after what happened last year, we want to win back-to-back championships and be the first champion for the new millennium," Kailua head coach Cy Kalama said.

"There's definitely more riding on this championship than usual," Kalama added. "The clubs haven't changed that much in one year, so the truth will come out."

Kailua is the newly minted Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association champion and has a regatta-high 31 crews entered in the state championship's 35 total races. Hawaiian is the 16-time defending Maui champion, and also has 31 crews entered.

Rounding out the list for most crews entered with 31 is Lanikai Canoe Club, the 1996 state champion.

HCC is seeking to be the first neighbor island club other than Hanalei Civic Canoe Club of Kauai to win a state title. Hanalei wore the HCRA crown back in 1982.

"I can't really describe what it would be like to win because I haven't truly experienced the feeling yet," Luuwai said. "We're focused on doing the best we can, and we have our targets set on the other contenders like Kailua and Lanikai.

"Last year is over and done with, and our goal is to come back stronger this year and represent our island with pride and humility."

Outrigger Canoe Club, the 1997 state champion, has only 24 crews entered in Saturday's regatta and will not have near as good an opportunity for the title as the powerhouse is accustomed to.

Nevertheless, OCC head coach Kehau Kali is not ready to concede even an inch.

"We're really excited about states and we believe we have a good chance of winning," Kali said. "Our quality and depth make up for the difference in us not having as many crews as some of the other clubs."

Kailua's Kalama is confident of his club's chances, but will not count out Outrigger or even the potential of a dark horse stealing the championship.

"You never know what will actually happen and you can never count Outrigger out, but I think the three clubs with 31 crews would all have to make a lot of mistakes for someone else to win," Kalama said.

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