HCC earns close win

KIHEI – Hawaiian Canoe Club is unquestionably the strongest team in the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association.

The club won its 11th state championship in 15 years last season, and typically cruises through the county regattas, having won the last 29 MCHCA titles.

This year, however, might prove more difficult.

Hawaiian finished first in the season-opening Moki Kalanikau Regatta at Ka Lae Pohaku with 149 points, but Kihei, the host club, was just 11 back in second place.

About 40 paddlers from Wailea Canoe Club have joined Kihei to give HCC “a run for their money,” Kihei coach Kawika Williams said. The Wailea club has opted to sit out the season.

“I love it. We actually matched up really well,” Williams said.

Kihei won 17 events – two shy of Hawaiian’s total.

“They’re the state champs and they’re deep and solid,” Williams said. “I’m hoping we get stronger as time goes on.”

Lae’ula O Kai took third place with 67 points.

Kihei had strong showings in the older divisions, winning seven straight events in the 50-65 classes.

Casey Logsdon of the Kihei men’s 55 crew said conditions Saturday were “very choppy and very windy.”

Despite the rough waters, Logsdon joined Frank Zajac, Stan Lanias, Mark Kasbergen, Bill Cunningham and Sam Cavitt for a time of 4 minutes, 20.77 seconds.

“We’re satisfied that we won, but we still have a long way to go,” Logsdon said.

Williams, who was part of the winning men’s 50 team, said the “terrible” conditions will provide a learning experience.

Among the paddlers who have gone from Wailea to Kihei are some members of Team Primo, which finished fifth in October’s Molokai Hoe.

“They’ve accomplished so much in their paddling careers,” Williams said. “They’re like the best paddlers in the state and now they’re coming down and helping with the kids and putting in their manao with every crew and it’s really big.”

Wailea coach Kapena Whitford said the club is “taking a break this year,” due to small numbers in the younger divisions.

“We figured we’d do something different and team up with our south-side neighbors, just to make it interesting,” Whitford said. “But Hawaiian’s kids division is an uphill battle so we’ll see how it turns out.”

Hawaiian captured 14 of the 16 youth races.

“For a first regatta and with all the missing kids we had this week – to make it through with this many wins is just a chicken-skin kind of a feeling,” said Paul Luuwai, coach of the club’s keiki crews. “It’s really awesome that the kids performed at a high level.”

Among the HCC crews missing members was the boys 18 team – Mogul Luuwai and Adam Ferrier were graduating from Seabury Hall.

“Today was a rough one,” said Kellen Bean, who was part of the first-place boys 18 and mixed 18 crews. “We were just going out and trying to get the win and do the best without them so when they get back we can shine.”

Thomas Peterson and Matthew Vanni substituted on the boys 18 crew. Matthew Meyer, Tyson Felicilda and Palekana Pamat-Hett formed the rest of the group.

“I had to practice a lot,” said Pamat-Hett, who filled in as steersman. “I was kind of nervous when we were first on the line but when we started going my boys were encouraging me and I felt good the whole race.”

Asked if Wailea paddlers will stay with Kihei in years to come, Whitford said: “We’re not sure. We’ll see how the marriage go. We’ll see if everybody’s happy – then maybe, but for now we’re just going one season at a time and see what works and what doesn’t.”

* Chris Sugidono is at csugidono@mauinews.com