LAHAINA — Excitement is in the air and the suspense is building as Lahaina prepares to host the 2011 Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (HCRA) State Championships this Saturday.
Fifty-four canoe clubs from across the islands will be competing at Hanakao‘o Beach, bringing thousands of paddlers and spectators here to the West Side. It’s the moment we have been waiting for all season.
Maui’s nine canoe hales will have a good showing here on home soil, with plenty of support sure to come from the watching crowds. Hawaiian Canoe Club will race 37 crews in the AAAA Division (clubs entering 21-40 events), Lae ‘Ula O Kai will race 19 and Kihei Canoe Club will race 14 in the AAA Division (13-20 events), Napili will race 12 and Wailea will race 11 in the AA Division (7-12 events), Na Kai Ewalu will have six, Kahana will have five, Lahaina will have three and Hana will have one in the A Division (0-6 events).
The West Side hales have had a positive season. Napili finished the 2011 Maui Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (MCHCA) campaign in fourth place with 394 points — just five points behind Kihei in third place. Kahana finished in seventh spot on 217 points, and Lahaina was behind them in eighth with 125.
Our West Side clubs can also boast some of the fastest times in the entire state. Kahana’s Junior Women (Misty Branco, Dawnalyn Fujiwara, Emily Janchevis, “Lani” Kane, Danielle Kuck and Christina Yorkey) occupy the top spot in their division, having finished their last one-mile sprints in a time of 8:13.93 — almost three seconds ahead of Keauhou Canoe Club from the Big Island.
Napili’s Boys 13 and Under crew also registered one of the fastest times in the state for their quarter-mile race. Christian Balagso, Ansen Cabanilla, Cyrus Kama, Teva Medeiros, Connor Mowat and Jared Rocha-Islas notched a time of 1:49.35 at their own regatta, the Dougie Tihada Memorial.
Lahaina’s Master Men are also on top of their division across the entire state. Geoff Bogar, Bear Keahi, Alan Kuiper, Spud Lenhardt, Adam Quinn and Mark Shimer finished their one-mile race in 7:09.77 at their own Keiki O Maui Regatta, eight seconds ahead of nearest competitor, Keauhou Canoe Club.
The three clubs will be represented by 20 different crews racing in their koa canoes at “states.“ Last year’s championships saw 535 different crews and 2,664 paddlers racing in Keehi Lagoon on Oahu, so it promises to be a busy day in Lahaina.
The last few days have seen Canoe Beach getting prepared for action with trees pruned, parking lots cleared and hales spruced up with a fresh coat of paint. Our teams in green, black and yellow and orange have been practicing hard all season, and it’s almost time for the culmination of their efforts.
The opening ceremony for the state championship regatta will begin at 8:30 a.m. this Saturday, Aug. 6, with the first race due to start at 9 a.m. I’ll be there with thousands of others to cheer on our island clubs, so come along and add your “Imuas!” to what promises to be a memorable day on Maui. Good luck to all our island crews, especially those from the West Side: Kahana, Lahaina and Napili. Imua!