Tresnak steers Healani
to win in opener

A crew by any other name still paddles sweet.

Healani I -- a k a Team New Zealand/Hawaii -- surfed its way to a convincing victory in yesterday's 36th Duke Kahanamoku Long Distance Race. Last year's Molokai Hoe runners-up, who paddled under the aegis of Healani per race rules, led from the start at Kailua Beach to finish the 27-mile race in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 5 seconds.

Host Lanikai I, overcoming near disaster when its escort boat sunk off Makapuu, crossed the finish line off Duke Kahanamoku Beach in 3:02.10. Some 15 seconds later, Outrigger I finished third with Kai Opua of the Big Island fourth.

"There's nothing like adversity to bring out the best in you," said Lanikai paddler John Foti. "We were inspired. We ended up catching Outrigger, passing them and holding them off."

For nearly half the race, the Lanikai crew had to go "iron" -- meaning no crew changes. The club made its last change right before its escort boat flipped in the surf off Makapuu; the next time relief paddlers were changed was outside of Maunalua Bay.

Lanikai steersman Jim Foti said he didn't know until around Haunama Bay that anything was wrong. One of the official boats had picked up his relief paddlers but the official boat is not allowed to help with the crew changes.

Lanikai's paddlers transferred over to one of the club's other escort boats and they were able to make a crew change. But the problems weren't over ... the escort boat had to return to the other canoe, leaving Lanikai I looking for another escort boat mid-race.

"People helped us out," said Lanikai steersman Jim Foti, John's brother. "Our guys jumped on another boat that was cruising around and we were able to keep going.

"There were periods where we weren't sure what we were going to do. We got help. Outrigger gave us water. All things considered, we should be happy. We came from behind, redeemed ourselves, to go from fourth to second."

Healani I missed the drama. They shot out to the front and "we didn't know where Lanikai was," said steersman Karel Tresnak Jr. "We knew where Outrigger was, where Kai Opua was. We tried to keep the same distance (ahead of them) and pick up maybe 30 seconds when they made a change.

"We had some really good runs after Makapuu. The surf was unreal. There were some really good waves by Outrigger (Canoe Club) and I thought I was going to break my steering paddle. We were on a 3-4 footer and my shaft was completely bent. But it didn't go."

Tresnak, one of the best surfing steersmen in Hawaii, got his canoe going, pulling away for the win. He sported a new beard, he said, trying to convince his crew that he was older.

"They're still not listening to me," said the 22-year-old.

Tresnak said it was a good win to open the long-distance season, but he wasn't going to get complacent.

"We know that some of the clubs don't put their best crews in this race," he said. "Some of our guys didn't want to race. But you learn and gauge from competing.

"It's definitely a good indicator. But the main one is still yet to come."

Tresnak was referring to the Oct. 12 Molokai Hoe.

Conditions forced some crews to pull out of the race when their escort boat captains didn't want to do the race. The event had 42 canoes registered with 37 starting and finishing.

Kailua takes women's race: High tide for the beach start was challenging. The surf breaking around Mokolea Rock and Popoia was challenging.

But the biggest challenge for the women's race was to get it started. Officials considered canceling the event, then changing the course to run inside Kailua Bay.

In the end, the 7-mile race went off as planned, with Kailua I cruising to victory. Kailua I completed the figure-8 course in 53 minutes, 3 seconds. Hui Lanakila I was second in 55:34 in the field of 24 canoes.

"It was rough, challenging and fun," said Kailua steersman Loretta Toth. "We had a really good start and that's kind of the main thing. Sometimes you get tangled up in the start.

"We almost got caught in a couple of big ones (waves). You could see it breaking on the outside. When we turned in (at Popoia) we played it safe. We had a decent lead and came in where we could."


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