Lanakila earns top honors at Orange County race - Aug 6

[Women's Photos][Men's Photos coming soon] by Don Murray
[Photos] at SCORA
[Womens Results][Mens Results]
Dana Point, CA -- Saturday, August 6 marked the 8th stop of the Southern California Outrigger Racing Association's summer tour. Dana Outrigger hosted the first 9-man race of the season, featuring an 18-mile course that hugged the coast traveling north from Doheny State Beach.

The annual race honors the memory of legendary surfer and diver Lorrin "Whitey" Harrison who founded the canoe club in 1972. Lorrin's passion for outrigger canoe paddling and his lifelong commitment to the community of Dana Point make up the foundation of Dana Outrigger. It was especially touching to see so many of Whitey's family quietly observing the pre-race steersman's meeting.

The event consisted of two races. At 9:00 am sharp the women's teams burst from a well organized start line. Right from the start two familiar teams separated from the pack. The Newport Aquatic Center in their white jerseys locked in a battle with the black clad Lanakila women. By the time they reached San Juan rock Lanakila had established a one-boat open water lead. Despite a strong effort by the NAC, Lanakila was simply too much. By the turn at Laguna Beach the gap was a minute. At the finish it had grown to two minutes.

Just over six minutes back three teams were locked in fierce competition. Kai Elua, Hanohano -- both from Mission Bay in San Diego -- and Lanakila's 2nd team racing in the Bradley class - jockeyed for position with each paddler exchange. As the three teams approached the final bell buoy turn, Kai Elua had opened up a comfortable 45 second gap over Hanohano. Lanakila followed 15 seconds back. Hanohano elected to do a final three person change, strategizing fresh paddlers for the home stretch would make a difference while Lanakila chose to not make a water change, hoping to gain precious seconds during Hanohano's paddler exchange. As the Hanohano reserves clambered into the canoe, Lanakila closed on them. A three canoe length advantage evaporated, and the teams negotiated the final buoy turn side-by-side. A few hundred yards later it came down to a final sprint, with Lanakila narrowly edging Hanohano by a few inches.

The men's race started just after 1:00 pm. After lining up in a remarkably straight line, the competitors elected - in the absence of any official boats - to start the race on their own. 3, 2, 1... and they were off! Within a minute an official motorboat arrived and stopped the racers, pointing out that the team who traveled all the way from Phoenix, AZ was still making it's way to the start line. A few minutes later, with Na Leo O'Ke Kai safely in the line up, Billy Whitford's Reef Runner "officially" started the race.

The pack was led off the line by the race hosts, Dana Outrigger, followed closely by NAC, Pao Pao, Team California Masters, Lanakila and Imua. Passing San Juan Rock and the Rock Pile the pack split into two groups. Close to shore Dana, NAC and Lanakila spent 20 minutes exchanging positions and the lead. Imua and Team California choose an outside line. Dana was the first to execute a paddler exchange. Then NAC, Imua and Team California. Then Dana again. By this time Lanakila had captured the lead, but was still waiting for their support motorboat to arrive with reserves. Finally, the 18 foot hard-bottom inflatable showed up traveling barely faster than the Lanakila's canoe it was assigned to support. A few anxious minutes more and the reserves where finally in the canoe providing much need relief.

Despite an escort situation that was truly a distraction, Lanakila was able to maintain a narrow lead over NAC into the buoy turn at Laguna Beach. Meanwhile, Imua patiently worked itself into a solid third place. Exiting the outside turn buoy, a decision was made to improve Lanakila escort situation. Assessing the situation, Billy Whitford determined the best available option was to take the Lanakila reserves onto the Reef Runner. Imagine the surprise of those racing in the leading Lanakila and NAC teams as NAC's support motorboat swung out to drop white and black clad reserves!

With each water exchange the gap between NAC and Lanakila narrowed. About halfway home, NAC capitalized on an inefficient change by Lanakila. First they pulled even. Then they opened up a three canoe-length lead! Meanwhile, Imua chose an inside line and methodically pulled even with Lanakila. Another change for Lanakila and NAC ... and the gap was maintained for a shift. Closing in on San Juan Rock, the Reef Runner swung out for yet another water exchange. Lanakila's coach Danny Ching, preparing for his shift, teased Todd McCauly of NAC, "You better get your ___ in quickly!" As the canoes rapidly approached, two NAC paddlers treaded water a few feet from the two Lanakila reserves. NAC was first to make their change...and, Oops! Todd's attempt was just slightly off and cost precious seconds dragging himself into the NAC canoe. Lanakila's exchange was clean, highlighted by Danny somehow "leaping" out of the water and landing into seat four with both feet. NAC's three canoe-length lead was suddenly halved. Spurred on by this momentum, Lanakila quickly pulled even and then ahead of NAC. Down the break wall, around the final bell buoy turn, Lanakila was able to hold off a hard-charging NAC, who in turn maintained their lead over Imua.

The post-race raffle and awards lived up to Dana's fine tradition. With Doheny State Beach Park as the backdrop, paddlers enjoyed fine food, elegant awards, and raffle prizes that included bikes, surfboards, and a Tivo!

Special recognition goes out to Dana's valuable sponsors, SOL Sunscreen and Clif Bar Nutrition.

Posted by keizo on Wed, 08/10/2005 - 12:11pm

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