Annual race heading toward new era

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 03/02/02)
By Ray Pendleton

Thirty years ago, this summer, members of the Waikiki Yacht Club created a challenging new sailing competition. It was dubbed the "Around the State Race" and its course circumnavigated Hawaii's major islands.

The annual race was essentially set up for local sailors, however it was scheduled so boats that may have arrived from the mainland by way of the biennial Transpac or Victoria-Maui yacht races could also take part.

For the first three or four years, the race was deemed a success, but by its fifth race in 1976, its entries had dwindled and there was talk of disbanding it entirely.

So, after the 1977 contest, its organizers went back to the drawing boards to find a way to resuscitate what they knew was a good idea.

From those efforts, and with the addition of a new corporate sponsor, the Pan American Airlines Clipper Cup Series was born.

The Clipper Cup, as it was called, featured not only an around-the-state race, but it also included a shorter around-O`ahu race and three, 30-mile, Olympic triangle races.

And, with the help of Pan Am, and the efforts of its representative Dick Gooch, the WYC organizers had an advertising budget and complimentary airline tickets to promote the race throughout the world.

During the following four events, from 1978 through 1984, the series grew in popularity and international stature, with some 70 biennial entries from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Europe and the U.S. taking part.

Then suddenly, this successful series likewise became threatened when Pan Am dropped Hawai`i from its scheduled air routes and ceased its promotional activities here. If the series was to survive a new sponsor had to be found.

Fortunately, Japan's Kenwood Corporation quickly saw the promotional possibilities in Hawaii's offshore racing series and, with a new organizational structure called the Royal Hawaiian Ocean Racing Club, the Kenwood Cup Hawaii International Offshore Series was established in 1986.

Once again, a metamorphous had occurred and, under the guidance of race director Ken Morrison, one of Hawaii's major yachting events was transformed into an even more prestigious international competition.

For the following 14 years, the Kenwood Cup brought to O`ahu's Ala Wai harbor some of the finest offshore racing yachts and sailors in the world to "race the winds of paradise."

For nearly two weeks, each even-numbered year, those sailors and their magnificent sailing machines competed in our offshore waters. The sight from Waikiki was visually stunning and the financial impact was stunning as well.

Uncounted millions of dollars were brought into the islands and uncounted favorable impressions were created by this international regatta.

Nevertheless, once again it appears that unless another miracle metamorphous occurs, this competition has seen its last race. The Kenwood Corporation has declined to renew its sponsorship and reportedly, a worldwide search has failed to find a replacement.

It may be a sign of our economic times or a sign of some kind of sailing competition apathy, but undoubtedly something new will eventually fill the void.

Still, the Ala Wai marina will surely look odd this summer without its usual bloom of Kenwood Cup T-shirts and banners.

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