Something about paddling in Keehi Lagoon seems to bring out the best in the Kailua Canoe Club.
Kailua made it a clean sweep by winning its third in as many races this season at Keehi — the site of the upcoming state championship regatta — and defended its Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association title at the organization’s championship regatta yesterday in the calm waters of the lagoon.
Kailua racked up 97 points and won a regatta-high 11 races to claim both the overall and AAA division (27-39 crews entered) crowns, while Outrigger (70 points) and Lanikai (69 points) were in contention for most of the day. Hui Nalu rounded out the large-club division with 38 points.
"It feels really good to defend the title," Kailua coach Kathy Erwin said. "I have to commend our coaches. It’s such a privilege to work with such passionate and dedicated coaches and paddlers."
Erwin was pleased with the club’s well-rounded effort in which its youth paddlers notched three wins in addition to four wins apiece from both the adult and masters programs.
"It was balanced. We had some shining performances (to start the day) in the kids division," Erwin said.
More than 2,500 paddlers ranging in age from 12 and under to 60 and above represented OHCRA’s 16 member clubs and competed in 39 races ranging in length from a quarter-mile to 1.5 miles.
The regatta was dually important as, in addition to aiming for individual race medals and overall bragging rights, clubs were vying to qualify as many crews as possible for the Aug. 7 Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship Regatta. OHCRA clubs were awarded four berths in each of the state championship races and they went to the highest-finishing crews according to the seasonlong cumulative point standings that wrapped up yesterday.
By rule, paddlers are allowed to compete in two races per regatta, so coaches were tasked with stacking or rearranging specific crews according to which groups needed points to advance to the state race.
"We were slow to start in the beginning of the season, but these guys are all veterans, so they’ve got a really strong background," said Mark Sandvold, paddler and coach of Outrigger’s defending state champion men’s 40 crew that raced to victory yesterday in the mile-long event. "We did this last year in our first year together and won states. As a club, we’re building our kids program. You should continue to see more from Outrigger in the next three to four years as the kids progress."
Lanikai had hoped for a better result yesterday as the club attempted to regain the title it had won three straight times until ceding it to Kailua last year.
"I like the relationship that the two clubs have," said Erwin of the competitive-yet-friendly rivalry with neighboring Lanikai. "We push each other to be better. And Outrigger, they always come on really strong in the end (of the season). The question (today) was just how strong."
Hui Lanakila fended off Keahiakahoe 40-35 to take the AA division (14-26 crews entered). Leeward Kai won the day’s final race — the open mixed event — and finished with 18 points, ahead of Healani (16 points) and New Hope (seven points).
Waikiki Surf Club won the mixed masters 40 in the day’s second-to-last race to propel itself into first place in the A division (1-13 crews entered) with 12 points, and edged Waimanalo (10 points) and Anuenue (nine points).
Club representatives from around the state will meet with HCRA officials this week to determine the lane positions and club representations for the upcoming state championships.
"This is our home course, so it’s nice to know the water," Sandvold said. "It’s going to be a thriller. We’re training hard, and you never know what to expect from the neighbor island clubs."
The Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa’a organization held its championship regatta Saturday at Keehi Lagoon. Na Keiki O Ka Moi dethroned seven-time defending champion Kaneohe en route to its first championship in 25 years.