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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, August 1, 2004

Kai 'Opua hopes to win state title by the numbers

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Kai 'Opua Canoe Club has already set a state record, but what it really wants is a state championship.

Kai 'Opua, a club based at Kailua, Kona, yesterday registered a record 37 crews for Saturday's Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship Regatta at Ke'ehi Lagoon.

More than 50 clubs and 3,000 paddlers ranging in age divisions from 12-and-younger to 55-and-older are expected to participate.

"The quantity is there and it means a lot, but we still have to show we have the quality," Kai 'Opua head coach Mike Atwood said.

The regatta features 37 races, and Kai 'Opua became the first club ever to register for all 37 races. Since the inception of the current scoring system in 1998, the club with the most entries has always ended up winning the regatta.

No club from the Big Island has ever won the state regatta championship.

"Our plans for this year started last year," Atwood said. "We wanted to get as many crews as possible into the states, and we did that. Now, it's a matter of performing."

Atwood said Kai 'Opua does not have any specific strengths or weaknesses, and it will rely on overall consistency.

"Our adults always do pretty well and our kids are stronger this year than last year," he said. "We'll just need to be strong across the board to keep up with Hawaiian."

For the past three years, no club has been able to keep up with the Hawaiian Canoe Club of Maui. Hawaiian is the three-time defending state champion, and it registered 35 crews yesterday.

"We're real pleased to get 35," said Hawaiian head coach Diane Ho. "We feel like we're in a good position, but I would not be surprised if it comes down to the last race of the day."

However, Hawaiian will likely stockpile points early in the day during the youth races.

"For the first time in our history, all our kids crews qualified No. 1 (on Maui)," Ho said. "That's big. The No. 1 seeds get first pick of the lanes and that can make a huge difference."

Most of the top seeded crews chose to race in lanes 3 through 8. Lanes 1 and 2, and 9 through 14 are more susceptible to the swirling winds and currents at Ke'ehi Lagoon.

Only the top crews on each island from the regular season qualify for the state regatta. Because Kai 'Opua dominated the Big Island races and Hawaiian did the same on Maui, they were able to register as many crews as they did.

Kailua registered 34 crews yesterday, and appears to be O'ahu's best shot at keeping pace. Four other O'ahu clubs are entered in the AAA Division for the state's biggest clubs: Lanikai, Hui Lanakila, Hui Nalu and Outrigger.

Hui Wa'a champion Kane'ohe and Kaua'i champion Hanalei are entered in the AA Division. There is also an A Division for small clubs.

The state regatta is being held at Ke'ehi Lagoon for the second consecutive year, although the Moloka'i Canoe Racing Association is serving as host this year. It is the first time that Moloka'i has hosted the state regatta.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8101.