Victory doubly sweet for Koa Kai
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By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
The Koa Kai Laulima Regatta turned into a memorable day for the Koa Kai Canoe Club.
Koa Kai hosted the regatta, unveiled its new koa canoe, and won the AA division.
More than 1,000 paddlers participated in the Na 'Ohana O Na Hui Wa'a event at Ke'ehi Lagoon.
"Everything worked out perfect," Koa Kai president Joe Kim said. "This is the first koa (canoe) our club ever owned. So to win a first-place trophy just adds to it. This really is a special day."
Koa Kai finished with 39 points to win the AA division for medium-sized clubs.
Kane'ohe continued its winning streak in the AAA division (for big clubs) with a regatta-high 10 race wins and 79 points. Kane'ohe has won all six Hui Wa'a regattas this season.
Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i placed second with 65 points.
As usual, Kane'ohe scored most of its points in the youth races. Kane'ohe won seven youth races and scored 47 points in the 13 youth races.
"Our kids all did good again," head coach Clint Anderson said. "But we don't want to peak yet. We're still aiming for the (state championship regatta)."
Kane'ohe crews placed in the top three of 12 of the 13 youth races. In the only youth race that it didn't score points, Kane'ohe actually crossed the finish line first but was later disqualified for a false start.
"They won the race by two (canoe) lengths, but got DQd for going ahead by one inch," Anderson said. "That's how it goes sometimes. That shows us we still have work to do."
The most surprising Kane'ohe victory came in the prestigious men's senior race. The crew of Aaron Abbey, Seth Ramolete, Louis Figueroa, Ikaika Schillings, Clark Abbey and Moki Anderson completed the 1 1/2-mile course in 12 minutes, 19.01 seconds to edge Waikiki Beach Boys by 1.87 seconds.
Clint Anderson said he thinks it has been more than 20 years since Kane'ohe won a men's senior race.
It was especially memorable for 46-year-old Clark Abbey and his son Aaron, 19.
"Just paddling in the same crew as father-son is sweet," Clark said. "To win the senior race together is even better."
Aaron added: "We hardly get to paddle together in practice, so it was cool to win with him. Plus, he's getting old so he doesn't have too many years left to be in this crew."
Koa Kai won just two races but every paddler in the club wanted a chance to sit in the koa canoe named "Molokai."
"For a lot of our paddlers, it's the first time ever being in a koa," head coach Dave Randall said. "I think everybody senses how special it is."
The Koa Kai crew of Darren Dante, Eric Mitchell, Ben Ancheta, Steve Holbrook, Richard Rapozo and Paul Amoy won the men's masters 40-older race with the new canoe.
"We're still learning what makes it go faster, so we'll only get better," Amoy said. "But it feels so good to win with a koa that you know is your own."
Most Hui Wa'a clubs race with fiberglass canoes, but all clubs are required to use koa canoes at the state championship regatta in August. In past years, Koa Kai would borrow a koa canoe at the state regatta.
"Once you bless a koa as your own, it's like it has life," Kim said. "You don't get that same feeling with a fiberglass."
In the A division for small clubs, Waikiki Beach Boys continued to dominate behind the strength of its women. It won five races, including an overwhelming victory in the prestigious women's senior race.
The crew of Kelsa Teeters, Andrea Messer, Dana Gorecki, Erin Offenhauser, Cherie Lee and Sue Brown completed the 1 1/2-mile course in 12:57.38. The second-place crew came in 59 seconds later — an astounding margin in regatta racing.
"We had probably our best senior race of the year today," Brown said. "We're very self-motivated. We're racing the clock every week and we never count out the other teams."
The O'ahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association's Walter J. Macfarlane Regatta will run tomorrow at Waikiki Beach.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.