Members the Hawaiian Canoe Club's women's masters 50 crew celebrated yesterday as the club headed to victory.

Hawaiian Canoe
Club 4-peats

The Maui club beats the Big Island’s
Kai Opua by 35 points for another
state title

Another year, another regatta season, and the ending to the recent script still hasn't changed.

For the fourth year in a row, Hawaiian Canoe Club of Maui won the overall title at the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship Regatta.

More than 50 clubs and approximately 3,000 paddlers participated yesterday at the 37-race event at Keehi Lagoon. But Kahului-based Hawaiian again proved to be the best, racking up 365 total points and a regatta-high-tying five race wins. The Maui club finished well ahead of second-place Kai Opua (330, and one) of the Big Island.

"I'm just really proud as a coach," said Hawaiian assistant coach Paul Luuwai, who is in charge of the club's youth paddlers. "Like a heavyweight fight, round after round -- 37 rounds later -- here we are, 4-peat champions."

"We just got on a roll, winning five kids races in a row," he added. "It was just like a disease, and we caught on fire. The kids were beyond my expectations."

Hawaiian's youth paddlers -- a traditional source of strength for the club -- performed better than they ever have in a state regatta. They dominated the early races by picking up all five of the club's wins and four additional runner-up finishes in the 13 youth events.

Thanks in large part to their young paddlers, Hawaiian built a 59-point advantage, 224-165, over Kai Opua through the first 20 races.

"I was pretty surprised that we won," said Kaikaika Nance, a member of Hawaiian's winning boys 15-under crew. "Coming here, you're so nervous, but when you start paddling, it all goes away."

Lanikai's men's senior crew won its event yesterday at the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association State Championship Regatta.

Though Kai Opua had entered a record 37 crews -- one in each event -- and its strong adult paddlers managed to close the gap some later, Hawaiian -- with 35 -- never surrendered its lead.

In fact, yesterday marked the first time during its current championship run that Hawaiian didn't enter states with the highest number of crews, and therefore couldn't be said to have had a statistical advantage.

Matching Oahu club Healani's four consecutive state championships in 1971-74, there is now only one streak longer than Hawaiian's: the nine won by Outrigger of Oahu from 1984 to 1992.

"We did what we had to do to cover our bases," Hawaiian head coach Diane Ho said. "We were glad that we didn't (have the most entries this year), because you still have to go out there and race. ... It's not just because you have the most, you win."

"We have enough strength right now throughout our club, but unfortunately Hawaiian has got a bit more," said Kai Opua head coach Mike Atwood, whose club finished runner-up to Hawaiian for the second time in three years. "Hawaiian is just a very good club, all the way across. ... But we've got a good drawing board."

Rounding out the top five spots in the AAA division (18-plus crews entered) were Oahu's Kailua (328), Lanikai (261) and Hui Lanakila (241).

Kailua had the most crews among these clubs, with 34, and won four races. Like Hawaiian, Lanikai and Hui Lanakila won five races each but didn't have enough crews (28 and 26, respectively) to make a real run at the championship.

At states, clubs receive points for every crew that competes -- excluding disqualifications -- with a high of 15 points for first place and a low of one for last (a maximum of 14 crews per event).

Winning a tight battle in the AA (9-17), Kihei of Maui just edged Kaneohe -- last year's division champion -- 139-138. Lokahi of Oahu finished a distant third, with 96 points.

With 79 points, Wailea of Maui made it a sweep for Valley Isle clubs by taking the A (1-8), followed by Healani (77), and Waikiki Beach Boys (73). Wailea nearly did not win the division, initially being disqualified in the senior women's event for a false start. However, the club's protest was ruled valid, allowing Wailea to keep the nine points for finishing sixth; otherwise, the Maui club would have finished third in the division.

In the prestigious senior men's race, Lanikai continued its stranglehold on the state trophy despite a hard fight from the competition, winning for the 12th time in the last 13 years. Crew members this year included Kai Bartlett, Peter Binney, Kekoa Bruhn, Jim Foti, John Foti and George Leslie.

Lanikai crossed the 1 1/2-mile course in 10 minutes, 57.81 seconds, just about a half-boat in front of second-place Hui Lanakila (10:59.82). Kailua (11:02.25) completed an Oahu sweep of the top three spots, while Wailea (11:07.22) took fourth.

"It's a big burden," said Bruhn, of Lanikai's long run of success in this event. "Especially for guys like me and George -- some of the younger guys. But it's also a real big honor."

In the 1 1/2-mile senior women's race, Outrigger won for the second straight year, finishing in 12:47.65 and convincingly beating runner-up Hui Lanakila (12.58.52) and the rest of the field. Winning crew members included: Tracy Phillips, Mahea Batlik, Megan Clark, Jennifer Thayer, Malia Kamisugi and Kisi Haine.

World Sprints ready to spread aloha

The welcome message for the World Sprints says it all: "E muimuia mai, ho'omahuahua mai me ko makou kuana 'ike a e ka hoaka o ke aloha" ("Come, learn about our heritage and feel the spirit of aloha."

That's how the organizers of the world's largest canoe competition see this week's 12th Biennial International Va'a Federation World Sprints. For the first time since the event started in 1981, Hilo Bay is the site for races in solo, 6-man and double-hull outrigger canoes.

Some 2,200 paddlers are expected to compete in distances from 500 to 1,500 meters in open, junior and masters divisions.

Teams are from Hawaii, California, the Pacific Northwest, American Samoa, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. Teams are also entered from the Cook Islands, Easter Island, Fiji, Guam, the Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Niue, the Northern Marianas, Palau, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga and Wallis & Futuna.

The opening ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium with a parade of paddlers. Competition runs from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with the championship races set for 7:30 a.m.-noon Sunday.

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