KAHULUI — The Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association‘s return to Kahului Harbor for the first time in three years on Saturday was a special occasion for several reasons.
The John M. and Kealoha Lake Regatta was won by host Hawaiian Canoe Club with a season-high 193 points, 103 ahead of runner-up Na Kai Ewalu, but the two Kahului Harbor-based clubs – their hales are side by side – shared an emotional moment before the start of the festivities.
HCC officials held a flower paddle in memory of NKE legend Boogie Wainui who passed away on June 3, 2021 at the age of 77.
It was a moving gesture, especially considering that Na Kai Ewalu will not be hosting a regatta this season due to the normal rotation – there are eight regattas held almost every year, but the MCHCA summer season does not last. now only seven weeks.
MCHCA President Keone Ball grew up paddling for Wainui at NKE and is still a member of the club.
“It was nice to see that because we’re close neighbors and family, right?” said Ball. “And they know we haven’t had a regatta this year to celebrate Uncle Boogie, so they honor him – they all knew him there too – it was very touching to see, all the crews spreading flowers for him.”
Ball added that the regatta organized by Na Kai Ewalu – the John Wilmington III Regatta – will likely become the Wilimington/Wainui Regatta when it is held again next year.
Just being back in port in Kahului was a big deal for everyone involved on Saturday. The pandemic has wiped out the past two summer seasons, and the first two regattas this year were held at Hanakao’o (Canoe) Beach Park in Lahaina.
“Yeah, definitely, that was a long time coming,” said Ball. “It’s our first time back to Kahului – there are a few issues to work out. We thought we had it on the west side, two there, and then we get here and we’re like, ‘Ahh.’ “We have a few things to sort out, but it seems to be going well. We’re having fun, everyone’s having fun.”
The 1,400 registered paddlers – an accurate number according to MCHCA race director Kaili Moikeha – is only one step away from what the association’s total was in 2019 before the pandemic.
About 300 of the MCHCA’s registered paddlers come from the 15-time state champion HCC. As always, the keiki division will be key as the blue-and-white juggernaut bid for their 16th state title since 1999, but camaraderie has been strong among the adults this season as well.
“In the adult division, it’s a team effort and it shows in the results” said HCC head coach Diane Ho. “And it shows in the environment on the beach. It’s just awesome.
Hawaiian won 13 of 16 keiki races on Saturday, and this split will again be key for Maui County’s 35-time defending champions as they take on two-time defending champion Lanikai for the 2022 title.
“We need to be 100 points ahead at the end of the keiki races to have a chance of winning the state title,” HCC keiki coach Paul Luuwai said. “We have a chance to do it, but it won’t be easy.”
The depth of the HCC keiki division is best exemplified by Kaimalie Yuen, a rising Maui High School junior who led the 15-girl crew to victory in their 22.2-second half-mile run over Napili, second.
“It was windy on the way back, but overall we did really well,” Yuen said. “I would say it was a bit choppy, but the wind helped a bit in the corner, so that’s good.”
Yuen said the crew of 15 girls – undefeated through three events this summer – were well aware it was the lake regatta on Saturday.
“Yes, because that’s where we practice and that’s our home,” Yuen said. “It’s pretty awesome, yeah, it’s special. I like running here.
Luuwai said the lake regatta is always a special day for his club. He’s also the Maui Interscholastic League paddle power coach Seabury Hall, but he was happy to put Yuen as coxswain on Saturday.
“It’s not the first time she’s been driving, but it’s the first time she’s officially driven” Luuwai said. “She paddled officially, then she led unofficially, but morally and ethically as a coach – I know she paddles for high school in Maui – so I have to save that training for her for the season as well. ‘winter.
“It’s like, yeah, we’re doing our summer stuff, but as a coach, I want to develop her for her coach (Maui High) later, who’s (assistant) police chief Gregg Okamoto there. -down to Lae’ula (O Kai) He’s their coach at Maui High, but it’s just the morally right thing to do.
Luuwai knew that Yuen could handle the mission.
“I’m really proud of her because I know she was very nervous and we talked about it all week,” Luuwai said. “So when she made that bend legal, I was just cheering inside my stomach. They did well.
It’s moments like the 15-year-old girls race that make the Lake Regatta special for the MCHCA’s dominant force – the regattas feature 49 races this summer, an all-time high.
“It’s still a work in progress, but there’s still little success among marathons like this,” Luuwai said. “Today is really important because we have to honor our founders and then in the morning we honored Uncle Boogie Wainui and we honored Kathy Piller, one of our late aunts.
“So it’s good to honor them on our first race back to port. Everyone respected Uncle Boogie.
*Robert Collias is at [email protected]
John M. and the Kealoha Lake Regatta
Saturday Results • Port of Kahului
Hawaiian 193, Kihei 90, Na Kai Ewalu 60, Lae’ula O Kai 53, Napili 48, Wailea 40, Lahaina 24, Kahana 3.
Through 3 of 7 events
Hawaiian 525, Kihei 282, Lae’ula O Kai 198, Na Kai Ewalu 163, Napili 163, Wailea 105, Lahaina 74, Kahana 14.