Lahaina, Hawaiian score victories

06.29.2009 0

Dominance in keiki races helps HCC win 23 of 42 events

 Hawaiian Canoe Club’s women’s novice A team takes first place Saturday afternoon. Paddlers are (left to right) Wendy Giblin, Tamika Recopuerto, Rachel Bianco, Jackie Sabado, Melissa Kikkert and Honora Kalama.

Hawaiian Canoe Club’s women’s novice A team takes first place Saturday afternoon. Paddlers are (left to right) Wendy Giblin, Tamika Recopuerto, Rachel Bianco, Jackie Sabado, Melissa Kikkert and Honora Kalama.

Hawaiian Canoe Club’s women’s novice A team takes first place Saturday afternoon. Paddlers are (left to right) Wendy Giblin, Tamika Recopuerto, Rachel Bianco, Jackie Sabado, Melissa Kikkert and Honora Kalama.

By ROBERT COLLIAS, Staff Writer Maui News

LAHAINA – In a tale of two canoe clubs, it was a solid day for host Lahaina and perennial champion Hawaiian at the Keiki O Maui Regatta on Saturday at Hanakaoo (Canoe) Beach Park.

The day for the two clubs was measured in extremely different ways, however.

For the tiny group from Lahaina, the season has been a big jump forward, perhaps most notably that their membership has doubled over what it was last year. That has also been measured on the scoreboard, where the hosts scored a season-high 16 points on Saturday.

Lahaina assistant coach Svar Hartman said the team’s season-long enthusiasm was at its brightest on Saturday for the club’s regatta.

”Oh definitely, we had a few more people show up today, just to help support, even though they are not racing,” Hartman said. ”We broke out our koa (canoe), ‘Lehia,’ just for display. We raced it in a couple of the kids races. It is definitely more exciting, we have got more people, and we just got another boat donated to us.”

For Hawaiian, the state champs in eight of the last 10 years, the fifth of seven county regattas was business as usual – winning 23 of the 42 races, rolling up 149 points and keeping track of the state seeds it does have. Hawaiian has now won more than half of all the races this season, 107 of 210.

Kihei solidified its hold on the season runner-up spot with a season-high 82 points, Lae Ula O Kai was third with 59, Kahana fourth with 46, Napili and Wailea tied for fifth with 37, Na Kai Ewalu had 21, Lahaina was next and Hana finished with eight.

HCC came into the day with 33 state crews, sitting in top two spots for the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association, 23 of those in No. 1 slots.

HCC veteran keiki coach Paul Luuwai was busy tracking the club’s state numbers and getting ready to guide about 100 HCC youths to Lanai for the weekend, using three outriggers and seven escort boats as part of the club’s Kamalii cultural program for the 18-and-under set.

Thirteen of the HCC wins came from the keiki ranks – out of 16 events – as the club easily walked away with the keiki title in the only MCHCA regatta that awards one.

”We pay attention to the trophy a little bit, but right now it is still all about the state championships and how can we improve on that aspect of it,” Luuwai said. ”Even though kids are winning we are always looking on what we can improve on – do they have good timing, good technique, you know, the fundamentals of our sport.”

Luuwai is also the HCC unofficial statistician, tracking the rest of the state. He says the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association event could be wide open with defending champion Lanikai of Oahu back in the mix after a slow start to the season. Lanikai and HCC each had 33 state qualifiers coming into the weekend, upstart Kailua had 29 and Kai Opua of the Big Island had 31.

”Everybody is still jockeying for position, but today was a special day for us because we got to race a lot of our kids who hadn’t gotten to race yet this season,” Luuwai said.

Finding a seat is not a problem for LCC, although Hartman said the membership numbers have skyrocketed for the club this season.

”Our numbers have got to be at least doubled from what we had last year,” Hartman said. ”You can tell even in just the points … while we are still modest, you know, on the lower end of the points-getters of the whole association. But in one regatta this year we got more points than we got in the entire last year of regattas. I think we have reached double digits in points every week and we haven’t done that in several years.”

Hartman said that is a good sign for the future.

”We are definitely getting better. We have got kids, our novice B men and women are coming up and doing better and better, our (novice) B boys are tied for second based on what they did this week,” he said. ”They got a second and they won last week. Our girls finally got their first medal today, so we are making improvement, and our club is getting larger. Those are the things we are trying to build in Lahaina this year.”

Lahaina currently holds two qualifying spots for the HCRA state regatta on Aug. 1 at Hilo Bay – the men’s masters 40 and the novice B men.

”Our masters 40-plus men’s division crew has been doing really good,” Hartman said. ”They got first place the first two regattas. They have fallen back and got consecutive seconds in the last two. They are trying to step it up this week and have a really good performance.”

The LCC masters men took over first in their division with a time of 7 minutes, 15.7 seconds on Saturday, 17 seconds in front of Kihei. Those two crews entered the race tied atop the season-long standings.

Spud Lenhardt, Bear Keahi, Rich Olson and Mark Shimer have been in each men’s masters race in the MCHCA season, which has only two events to go – the John M. and Kealoha Lake Regatta on July 11 at Kahului Harbor and the Maui Championships Regatta on July 18 at Hanakaoo.

”Those are four core members and this week our coach, Geoff Bogar, is going to be in the crew also,” Hartman said.

The presence of Bogar, a highly successful veteran paddler, seemed to make a difference. Alan Kuiper rounded out the crew on Saturday.

”The focus is on those two (novice B and masters) crews right now since we have them in state contention,” Hartman said.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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