An old sport has become new again for a team of Molokai paddlers who participated for the first time in the Wa’a Kiakahi race Sunday, part of the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association race series.
Nine boats sailed and paddled out of Ka’anapali Beach on Maui yesterday morning and landed in Kaunakakai Harbor a little more than one-and-a-half hours later. For the third straight year, the White Orchid Wedding boat out of Maui finished first.
The race started and ended slowly, with lots of paddling in the first and last two miles of the 27-mile journey across the Pailolo Channel. But for the majority of the race, the 400-pound double-hulled sailing canoes were powered by steady trade winds that allowed them to cruise at average speeds around 18 knots.
Although they finished last in a little more than two hours, the local crew from the Molokai Canoe Club emerged safe and sound and clearly excited about completing their first race.
“I enjoyed it,” said crewmember Ken Gonzales. “We hung in there and took an outside line … we learned a lot.”
“It was excellent, though we had some rough spots,” said crewmember Clayton English.
Many of the boat crews talked about the size of the waves on the downwind leg of the race. Kala’i Miller, of Team Liquid Aloha, said his boat would often become completely submerged as it plunged into the troughs between waves. Success in these races, “comes down to the efficiency of the crew,” said Miller.
Gonzales said the Molokai boat also experienced a lot of water coming up and over the hull. “I can still feel it up in my sinuses,” he said.
The Molokai team acquired its boat, the “Mo’a e Ku” (which means either strong trade winds or god of war), from Terri Galpin, president of the HSCA. Galpin, from Oahu, said she could have sold the boat for at least $10,000 but decided to donate it to Molokai for a couple of reasons. First, the Molokai Canoe Club has generously supported the race for five years with boat storage and other help. Secondly, Kirkwood Clarke, who designed and built the boat 30 years ago, now lives on Molokai. Clarke spent eight months repairing the boat to make it seaworthy for this race and future training.
“Now they (Molokai crew members) can teach the kids about sailing canoes,” said Galpin. “This is the best thing I ever did.”
This year’s Molokai crew consisted of Gonzales, English, Shane Bush, Isaac Sanchez, Anthony Fukuoka, Miki Duvauchelle and Marty Johnston.
Building experience seems to be the key to success in canoe sailing. Ray Glauser from Maui has been involved in the sport for 15 years and led the White Orchid Wedding boat to victory as the captain for the third year. He has been captain of the vessel for seven years and owner for five years.
“It was awesome conditions,” said Glauser. “It gradually built and then backed off; we were able to experience the full range of canoe sailing,” he added. “It is still growing but it’s a tough sport — economically it takes a lot of money, and effort — you have to really enjoy it.”
For the first time, Glauser included his 18-year-old daughter Arianai on his crew. His wife Teefelgate is also a crew member. The other members of the winning crew were Lopaka White, Ozzy Clark and Darrell Belen.
The next race in the season series will be June 28 when the boats leave Kaunakakai for Kailua, Oahu. The following day will be the Ka`au Moana Memorial Race from Kahana Bay to Hale’iwa. On July 26 is the Na Holokai from Hale`iwa to Kalapaki Beach. The Kendall Cup on Sept. 6 closes the season with a race along Kauai’s south coast.
For more information on Hawaiian sailing canoes, visit the website hsca.info.