Honolulu Star Bulletin Story (24Sep01)
‘Flat water Queens’ ride the waves to O Ke Kai title
Champions havent lost to a Hawaii crew all season!
No doubt, Kai `Opua No. 1
By Dayton Morinaga at The Advertiser
and Washington D.C. club feels the emotion
OUTRIGGER CANOE RACE, 2001
DEFENDING CHAMPIONS KAI `OPUA VICTORIOUS IN THE WAVES
Honolulu, HAWAI`I - Sunday, September 23, 2001 - Big Island women's Kai Opua outrigger canoe team set the record straight in more ways than one today, successfully defending their Bank of Hawaii Na Wahine O Ke Kai title and doing so in anything but smooth conditions. Today's field of 65 canoes was a record number of entries equal to that of the 1998 lineup. Kai Opua took an early lead but were shadowed much of the 41 miles from Hale O Lono, Moloka`i, to Duke Kahanamoku Beach, O`ahu, by Team Eye Catcher - a composite team of paddlers from Kaua`i, O`ahu, Maui and New Zealand that placed second overall.
Cloudy skies offered relief from the heat for today's crossing, but a solid swell of four to six feet, stiff winds and challenging currents made for a 'mixed plate' of paddling conditions. Long regarded the team to beat in smooth, flat conditions, typical of their home waters in Kailua-Kona, Kai Opua's hefty season of cross training and long-distance practice paid off to confirm their number one ranking. Their winning time of 6:24:52 was one hour and 30 seconds longer than the record set in 1995 by California's Offshore, due to today's rough conditions. Kai Opua was also victorious in the Masters 45 division, which finished in a time of 7:26:01.
Team Eye Catcher's finish time was 6:30:43, and third place was Outrigger Canoe Club Red with a time of 6:32:41. The first Masters 35 crew over the line was California's Newport Aquatic Center #1 (7:03:40), and the first crew paddling a koa canoe to finish was Waikiki Surf Club (7:38:27). The first non-Hawaiian team over the line was Canada's False Creek #1 in a time of 6:47:17.
Under the unwavering direction of coach Beanie Heen, Kai Opua deviated a little from their original course in order to keep close to Eye Catcher, not allowing them any opportunities to gain ground. While the two teams went on to battle difficult currents off of Port Lock, the going got smoother by Hawaii Kai and it was there that Kai Opua took off.
"There was surf and we won, imagine that!" said Kai Opua steerswoman Jackie Taylor, making light of the tag they finally shed today of being smooth-water specialists. "The team went great right from the start.
"The conditions were really sloppy off Port Lock. The rough window was a little longer than usual, but once it cleaned up, we surfed all the way home. We had Beanie there on his little bullhorn, telling us what to do, and it was all good. We took some different lines on our course, covering (Eye Catcher) and it paid off."
Team Eye Catcher, a regrouping of Wailua Canoe & Kayak, who won the 21st Bank of Hawaii Na Wahine O Ke Kai in 1999, was satisfied with their performance and put the loss down to the home stretch.
"We went a little too far north on our course today, but those (Kai Opua) girls are so strong," said Eyecatcher's steerswoman Noe Sawyer. "We might have had a shot at them at one point, but once we got into the flatter water, they just disappeared."
Following an emotional starting line ceremony on Moloka`i, where competitors and officials sang 'God Bless America' and 'Hawaii Aloha', the canoes, many equipped with American flags, were greeted at the Waikiki finish line by the Aloha Festivals Royal Court. In all, crews from Hawai`i, California, Washington and Canada competed today with more than 650 paddlers crossing the channel.
Coming up, Sunday, October 7, will be the 50th crossing of the men's Bank of Hawaii Hinano Molokai Hoe. More than 100 of the world's top men's crews will take to the Moloka`i Channel in a battle for line honors in the world championship of outrigger canoe racing, sponsored as a community service by Bank of Hawaii and Hinano Tahiti.
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Last Modified: Wednesday - 20010926.10:59 EDT
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