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West Maui clubs ready for first MCHCA regatta

By Staff | Jun 2, 2011

Open Four teams prepare to race at Kahului Harbor. Photo by Kenneth Moore.

WEST MAUI — The new outrigger paddling season is almost upon us and there’s a lot to look forward to. Maui’s nine canoe clubs will be hosting the 2011 Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (HCRA) State Championships at Hanakao’o (“Canoe”) Beach on Aug. 6. There are just seven regattas between now and then to determine which crews will get to paddle in their home waters at States.

The West Side hales have lots of reasons to feel positive and excited about the approaching campaign. Napili Canoe Club — who are coached again by Joey Tihada, named in January as the Lahaina News’ “Sportsman of the Year” — have many. The team in black and yellow finished fourth in last season’s final Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association (MCHCA) standings after notching 402 points over seven race days.

The club will be looking to build on last August’s performance at States. They took 11 crews to Oahu, finishing fifth in the AA division (teams competing with 7-12 crews) with 97 points. Napili’s Mixed 12 (Moana Astronomo, Ansen Cabanilla, Cyrus Kama, Ana Lukela Kobatake, Conor Mowat, Courtney Ruidas) won gold, impressing everyone after an undefeated season on Maui. Their Girls 12 (Andilyn Alavazo, Diamond Freitas, Ana Lukela Kobatake, Lina Nolan-Criste, Christy Mae Ruidas, Courtney Ruidas) and Boys 12 (Christian Balagso, Ansen Cabanilla, Cyrus Kama, Connor Mowat, Kawika Sanchez, Kila Vierra) bagged silver, and Girls 14 (Chelsey Erickson-Vierra, Aloha Kaaihue-Ah Puck, Lilinoe Kahae, Tricia Kama, Jenina Misay, Jordan Ruidas) won third place.

Kahana Canoe Club earned a close fifth in 2010’s final standings, ending the season with 343 points, just 49 behind Napili. The team in green also entered 11 crews in the AA division at Keehi Lagoon, finishing eighth with 75 points. Kahana took along women’s teams in the Novice B, Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior and Senior divisions, with the Novice B Women (Tatum Coyle, Jillian Fox, Susana Guth-Tuipulotu, Jeanette Klein, Katie Kretzinger, Rebecca Schwarz) capping a great debut season with a third-place finish in their quarter-mile sprint. Their Novice B Men also paddled at States, as did the Mens and Senior Mens Masters. With head coach Kai Keahi, KCC will be another strong contender this season.

Lahaina Canoe Club is steadily growing in size. After almost collapsing in 2008 due to a lack of members, LCC’s fortunes continued to change in 2010 and it was a successful year for the team in orange. Compared with a season total of just 12 points two years ago, they finished last year’s campaign with 128 in the final MCHCA standings. LCC qualified three crews but took two teams to the A Division (six crews or less) at States and came home toting two sets of medals. One for the Novice A Men (Eric Bruner, Jordan Johnson, Seth MacCarter, Mone Mamao, Kenny Moore, Michael Rains), who took silver in their mile-long sprint, and bronze for the Men’s Masters (Bear Keahi, Spud Lenhardt, JP Mihlbauer, Rich Olson, Adam Quinn, Mark Shimer). LCC’s keiki teams, coached this year by Franklin Laborte, have swelled in their numbers to 74 — a record high in recent years. Will LCC be able to add to last year’s successes and win at States again? Only time will tell, but they’re definitely headed in the right direction.

All teams have been practicing hard over the last two months, and on Saturday, June 4, the time will come to put all the practice into action at Kahului Harbor, where Lae ‘ula O Kai will host the opening day of races. When that first green flag waves at the Mayor’s ‘Umeke Regatta, the season will start and paddlers old and new will get to check out the opposition, put their paddling to the test and enjoy all the excitement of day one of the 2011 MCHCA season.

I’ll be back next week with news and views from Kahului Harbor, Mahalo for reading and a huge imua to our three West Side clubs, Kahana, Lahaina and Napili!

(Laura will cover the summer regattas in weekly View From The Wa’a — West Maui’s Weekly Paddling Roundup columns.)