Economy and Moloka'i the article from today's Advertiser below:

Distance races paddling into financial debt
by Dayton Morinaga

The state's premier canoe races are paddling against a rising tide of debt this year.

The women's Na Wahine O Ke Kai and the men's Moloka'i Hoe races are in a dire financial situation with the races less than two weeks away, according to officials.

"We're not getting the kind of (sponsorship) support we hoped for," women's race director Hannie Anderson said. "The economy has a lot to do with it, unfortunately. We didn't foresee it being this bad, so we didn't increase the entry fees for the teams. If the race were held today, we'd come up way short (financially)."

The Na Wahine O Ke Kai and Moloka'i Hoe are considered the world championship races for long-distance outrigger canoe paddling. The men's race has been running since 1952; the women's race since 1979.

A lack of corporate sponsorship and rising economic costs have contributed to increased debt for the races.

The last time a company served as a title sponsor for both races was Bank of Hawaii in 2001.

"We've filed for grants, we've put out proposals to companies all over the place ... we want to reach out to anybody," Anderson said. "It doesn't have to be a title sponsor. At this point, we'll take anything."

The Na Wahine O Ke Kai is scheduled for Sept. 28; the Moloka'i Hoe will run Oct. 12.

Nazarene Anderson, event director for the two races, said it will cost approximately $330,000 to run both races this year.

Current sponsors will cover around $140,000, and entry fees will cover another $100,000.

That still leaves about $90,000 uncovered, and officials are hoping merchandise sales — T-shirts and caps, mostly — can help.

Nazarene Anderson said state funding for the races was cut from $50,000 three years ago to $20,000 this year.

Hannie Anderson, who has served as race director of the Na Wahine O Ke Kai for all 30 years, said she has already had to use her personal credit card to pay for some of the expenses.

"I'm praying I can pay it off later," she said.

Both races are considered non-profit organizations, run mostly by volunteers.

But Hannie Anderson said there are "multiple things" to pay for that the general public might not be aware of.

For example, it costs around $225 to transport just one canoe from O'ahu to Moloka'i. More than 80 canoes are expected to race in the Na Wahine O Ke Kai, and more than 100 in the Moloka'i Hoe.

Entry fee is already $550 per crew, and Anderson said "it wouldn't be fair" to ask the teams to contribute more.

Even basic costs are rising. Hannie Anderson said it will cost around $7,500 to install portable toilets at Hale O Lono Harbor — the starting point of the race.

She added that increasing fuel and travel costs have also been a factor.

Hannie Anderson said both races will run this year, but a significant financial loss could hurt future races.

"This is our state sport and these are the biggest races in our sport," she said. "What are we doing wrong? If we don't get the support, what's going to happen to these races? I don't know, and I never thought I'd say that."

Nazarene Anderson said there were plans to turn the two Moloka'i-to-O'ahu races into "a two-week festival for paddling."

"But we can't even think about that right now because we just don't have the funds," she said.

As Shelly Gilman, treasurer for the women's race, put it: "In a nutshell, we need to find a guardian angel."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at

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