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By Robert Collias, Staff Writer

WAILUKU, Maui (The Maui News, July 1) -- Call it the Maui County Fair break, similar to the one for Maui Interscholastic League football. Or perhaps it is more like the All-Star breaks in professional baseball, basketball or hockey.

Whatever anyone wants to label it, the break is over for the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association. Last Saturday was the first midseason week off in a MCHCA regatta season and now the final four regattas of the season are ready to roll with the competition expected to be fierce for two spots per race to the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association state championship regatta at Keehi Lagoon on August 7.

"Things are really going to heat up after the break," Hawaiian Canoe Club ‘keiki’ (children) coach Paul Luuwai said. "It is going to be like a sprint to the finish line in all of the races."

The next three regattas, starting with Saturday’s Naleieha Regatta, will be at Hanakaoo (Canoe) Beach Park, all beginning at 8 am. The MCHCA championship event is the Moki Kalanikau Regatta at Ka Lae Pohaku in Kihei.

The host this Saturday, Kahana Canoe Club, is unbeaten in the Girls 12A race through three regattas. In 39 events, less than half (19) have unbeaten crews just three regattas into the season.

Hawaiian Canoe Club, the state champion in four of the past five years and the last three in a row, owns 11 unbeaten crews. The HCC dominance has been built in recent years on its keiki division and that is true again this year. Hawaiian has undefeated crews at the boys 14, 15, 16 and 18 levels. The HCC girls are unbeaten in the 16 and 18 age divisions.

Hawaiian also has unbeaten crews at women’s novice B, men freshmen, women golden masters 55, men open 4 and mixed 40.

With only two lanes per race at the state regatta for the MCHCA, down from three last seasons, each race is vital for clubs like Hawaiian. Kailua of Oahu and Kai Opua of the Big Island are the main challengers to knock Hawaiian from the State championship throne.

"We are keeping an eye on what those clubs and other clubs are doing," HCC head coach Diane Ho said. "We need to do whatever we can to counter their numbers."

Kihei Canoe Club, which won the AA Division state title for middle-sized clubs two seasons ago, has four unbeaten crews - women novice A, women junior, women senior masters 50 and women 40.

Lae Ula O Kai has the other three unbeaten - women freshmen, women sophomore and open women.

Wailea Canoe Club has won the last two state titles in the A Division for the smallest clubs.

The number of unbeatens will naturally fall as the season rolls along, but that process might be even quicker as clubs spread out their best paddlers to try to move other crews into state-qualifying positions.

Since the MCHCA board voted to rotate the championship regatta between different clubs before the beginning of last year, the Kalanikau event will mark the first time the championship regatta has been held anywhere but Kahului Harbor or Hanakaoo Beach Park in Lahaina.

Conditions at Ka Lae Pohaku on July 24 could make it interesting in the final chance to add to the season-long points chases in each race. First-place finishes are worth five points with second place getting three, third place two and fourth place one.

At the championship regatta, the men’s and women’s open races will decide both crews in each race to advance to the state regatta. The season points races in those two events do not count.

It could have been even more interesting in Kihei if the MCHCA still had three lanes at state. In previous seasons when the association got three lanes to state, the third spots would go to winners at the championship regatta if they were not previously in the top three in their respective races.

While the state title may be tough to keep, the MCHCA crown will stay with Hawaiian for the 20th time in a row unless HCC fails to show up for one of the final four regattas. In fact, HCC could take a week off and still keep the lead after just three events.

Hawaiian leads the pack with 421 points, Kihei is next with 250 and Kahana third with 146.

HCC set the all-time point record for a regatta when it piled up 149 at the season-opening John M. Lake Regatta on June 6.

July 2, 2004

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