Iron-willed Lanikai captures 9 1/2 mile race
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Lanikai Canoe Club held its own version of a backyard bash yesterday.
In particular, Lanikai bashed the competition to win the Kailua Bay Men's Iron Challenge yesterday off Kailua Beach Park. Lanikai completed the 9 1/2-mile course in 1 hour, 8 minutes, 16 seconds to win for the fifth time in the seven-year history of the race.
Second-place Kailua came in about a half-mile behind Lanikai at 1:11:34, and Hui Nalu was third at 1:13:06. All teams were required to paddle "iron," meaning there were no relief changes for the six-man crews.
"It's more Kailua's turf, but we paddle a lot over here, too," said Lanikai's Ikaika Harbottle. "It's our backyard basically, so we had a lot of confidence going in."
The course traveled from the shoreline at Kailua Beach to Mokolea island, then to the Mokulua islands, and back to Kailua Beach. Lanikai took the lead heading out to Mokolea and kept increasing it the rest of the way.
Members of the winning crew were Harbottle, Kai Bartlett, Mike Judd, Kekoa Bruhn, Mike Pedersen and Jim Foti.
"We make up imaginary crews that are right next to us to push us harder," Judd said. "We never take anything for granted. This is all part of our training for (the Moloka'i Hoe). That's the big race; that's the one we want."
The Moloka'i Hoe, which is considered the world championship of long-distance canoe paddling, is scheduled for Oct. 7. Lanikai is the defending champion.
"We know this is our training, so we made sure everybody was working hard," Harbottle said. "Winning was a bonus."
To be sure, the crew paddled an extra few miles immediately after the race.
"Our practices are usually longer than this race," Harbottle said. "So we figured we needed to get in some more work."
Next week's Queen Lili'uokalani Races at Kona are expected to provide more drama, as Kai 'Opua from the Big Island and Team New Zealand/Hawai'i (a combination of elite paddlers from New Zealand and Hawai'i) should contend with Lanikai.
The Kailua crew of Kevin Thompson, Chris Bartels, Donovan Leandro, Pat Ka'awaloa, Doug Borton and Pat Von also proved its home-course knowledge by pulling away from Hui Nalu down the stretch for second place.
"We got about as close to (Lanikai) as we thought it would be," Leandro said. "But we're happy with second. Hui Nalu is a strong crew, and we're just trying to build ourselves. This was a good step up for us."
Kailua crews also won the 18-younger, 35-older and 55-older divisions. The 55-older crew finished an impressive ninth overall at 1:20:19, beating the first-place 45-older crew (Na Hoaloha) by two minutes.