[ PADDLING ]
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Paddlers started the men's junior race in the Clement D. Pa'iaina Regatta at Keehi Lagoon yesterday.
Hui Lanakila, Kailua tie
for first at Clement D.
Pa’iania Canoe Regatta
The teams score 74 points each
to finish ahead of Lanikai’s 68
in the race at Keehi Lagoon
A mad rush at the finish left Lanikai's youth brigade short of a team title and vaulted Kailua into a share of the 14th Clement D. Pa'iania Canoe Regatta championship with Hui Lanakila yesterday.
It was the first title in AA Division competition for Hui Lanakila, which has come close many times before. Hui Lanakila and Kailua finished with 74 points apiece. Lanikai tallied 68 to finish third under sunny skies at Keehi Lagoon.
Hui Lanakila coach Kalama Heine, a 22-year veteran of the club, is back at the helm this summer.
"A lot of new paddlers have joined us, and that's pushing everyone to train harder," Heine said.
The Hui Lanakila women won in Novice A, Sophomore, Junior and Senior races, as well as the Open Fours.
"For our women to sweep, that is sweet," Heine said. "Our men are usually our backbone."
Their men won races in Novice B, Novice A, Freshmen, Sophomore, Senior and 55 sprints.
Hui Nalu came in fourth with 47 points, followed by Outrigger (40) and Healani (23).
Keahiakahoe paced the A Division (14 or fewer entries) with 19 points. Anuenue placed second with 16 points, followed by Waikiki Surf Club (14), Leeward Kai (13), Waimanalo (seven), New Hope (six), Kai Oni (three), Makaha (two), Honolulu (one) and Puuloa.
"I got goose bumps after the turn," Hui Lanakila men's 40 steersman Mike Lum said. His team needed to finish at least third to tie for the title. Lum's crew was behind Outrigger and Hui Nalu at the turn.
"We got stuck on the turn. I just said, we just gotta be steady," Lum said of the battle for second with Hui Nalu.
"This is history for us. This is our first championship in double-A," said Lum, who has paddled with Hui Lanakila since 1981.
Lanikai, on the strength of five wins in the youth sprints, had a sizeable lead by mid-day. Hui Lanakila captured 10 races in the afternoon, from Novice A to Open Four.
Kailua, competing strongly, trailed by 13 points before the mixed crew battles began. That's when Kailua won the 55, 40, men and women mixed, and followed with a victory in the women's 40 sprint. That's when Kailua zoomed ahead with 74 points, just past Hui Lanakila's 72 points, entering the 37th and final race of the day.
In the last race, the Men's 40, Kailua did not field a crew, and Lanakila did not score points. Hui Lanakila finished third in the race, behind Outrigger and Hui Nalu, picking up two points to tie Kailua for the regatta crown.
There was only one trophy available to the regatta champ, but both clubs, as well as Lanikai, have plenty to look forward to after the opening day of the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Regatta Association season.
Lanikai coach Bobby Puakea was pleasantly satisfied, but remained low key about the season ahead.
"Overall, we really won't know until midway through the season. We have a lot of new paddlers," said Puakea, 63. "Our 18 boys remind me of senior men."
Lanikai won races in the 13 boys, 14 girls, 15 boys, 16 boys and 18 boys, as well as the freshmen women's sprint.
"The 13 boys and girls races were so close," Puakea said. "The 13 boys were the 12 champs last year, and this year's 12 boys are brand new."
The biggest surprise, for Puakea, may have been Lanikai's 14 girls.
"They were OK last year," he said of the crew, which won its race with a quarter-mile time of 2 minutes, 24.68 seconds. "It's just been a lot of practice."
Kailua, with a plethora of key paddlers unavailable, stacked its mixed crews.
"That was our plan. We try to strategize each race to qualify for states," coach Jimmy Bruhn said.
Kailua's golden masters crew is competing at the Hamilton regatta in Australia, and at least six more men's paddlers were not present. Bruhn, a second-year head coach who has been with the club since '77, is optimistic.
"I feel confident that we'll do well through the year as long as we strategize properly," Bruhn said. "Our kids are getting stronger. They got us, maybe, 20-something points today."
Hui Lanakila knew it would come down to the final race of the day.
"I was hiding in the shade," Lum said, just half-kidding. "I didn't want us to be the goats. Luckily for us, Lanakila and Kailua didn't enter."
The team, like many others, was beset by missing paddlers.
"We had six guys who went to Hamilton, and three are in our first crew," Heine said. "According to how today went, my coaches did a good job. They're all bringing in points."
Heine didn't do badly himself, steering his club's sophomore and senior crew to victories.
The next OHCRA race will be hosted by Kailua.
"We want to put the hammer down," Bruhn said. "You always want to do well in your own regatta."
The day was a boost for the spirits of many smaller clubs. Kai Oni made its return to the water after a two-year hiatus. Its girls 15 crew placed fourth, a big plus for the revamped club.
"They're our first entry," longtime coach Shirley Kalama said. "They all started out in OIA paddling."
Those Kai Oni paddlers, from Aiea High School, competed in Oahu Interscholastic Association meets. That led to their debut in the world of OCHRA racing.
One of Kai Oni's canoes, Kawelea, was almost sold during the hiatus. It is 5 feet longer than the club's Manuiwa (39.5 feet), and the club's new paddlers love Kawelea's bullet-style build.
Kalama believes it is a mental thing.
"It's mind over matter. It's psychological," she said.
Puakea, who is also one of the premier canoe craftsmen in the state, agreed. Each boat has its strengths. Kawelea is suited for the relatively calm waters of Keehi. Next week, Kai Oni will turn to the Manuiwa for the Kailua regatta.
"It sits higher," Kalama noted.