Team Olukai’s Kamakakoa leads series going into Na Holo Kai

Team Olukai, led by Marvin Otsuji at the helm, leads the 2011 Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association Racing Sailing Series heading into the 24th Na Holo Kai, Aug. 20, and the Kendall Pacific Cup, Sept. 10.

The Kendall Pacific, one of the final races in the HSCA Sailing Series this year, will be held to honor Kendall Struxness who lost his battle with cancer earlier this year.

Otsuji, successfully piloting Team Olukai to top honors since 2005, the first year annual standings records are recorded on the HSCA website, currently leads the series entering the Na Holo Kai O‘ahu-to-Kaua‘i race coming up next week.

Teams leave Hale‘iwa, O‘ahu and make the Kaua‘i Channel crossing, landing at Nawiliwili.

With all the canoes on the island, it sets the stage for the Kendall Pacific Cup next month when canoes leave Nawiliwili and sail along Kaua‘i’s South Shore, ending on the Westside.

Team Kamakakoa, skippered by Otsuji, took the Kualoa-to-Hale‘iwa race, July 17, after Team Nalu Koa was hit by a surprise wave and literally fell apart, Otsuji said in an email.

“Team Kamakakoa took a chance and quickly jumped out in front, taking an inside course, jogging in and out of the surf line,” Otsuji wrote. “Tui Tonga was three minutes back on an outside course and Team Nalu Koa followed Kamakakoa on the inside line, getting caught by a sneaker set and broke apart.”

After the canoe was towed to the beach, the remainder of the fleet was five to 15 minutes back of the leaders.

With the win, the Olukai team, aboard Kamakakoa, holds a commanding lead with Otsuji being the only participant to race in all 24 Na Holo Kai races.

The HSCA season opener May 1 was cancelled due to damage incurred on the Big Island by the tsunami in March generated by the Japan earthquake.

This pushed the 28-mile Kahului, Mauito Ka‘anapali race on June 19 as the season opener which Team Olukai’s Kamakakoa finished first and broke the record with a sail of 1 hour and 53 minutes.

Tui Tonga, another Kaua‘i canoe, followed five minutes back.

Otsuji said the fleet left in 25- to 30-knot wind conditions. Team Olukai jumped into an early lead out of Kahului Harbor and maintaining the lead, first to round Kahakuloa Point.

Mishaps caused by the wind conditions plauged the opener when the Maui team of Nalu Koa experienced equipment failure and was towed back to Kahului early in the race.

At the 20-mile mark, Kamali‘i o ke kai, a boat from O‘ahu, was victimized by a change in the wind direction, overturning, but successfully recovering to finish the race.

Following a community service project where more than 300 visitors and residents were treated to the excitement of a Hawaiian sailing canoe experience, the race from Ka‘anapali, Maui to Hale o Lono, Moloka‘i saw Otsuji peeling away from the pack, taking an outside course into the Pailolo Channel under ideal sailing condtions.

That move proved to be wrong as Tui Tonga took the race with the inside course along the Moloka‘i coastline, tying the series standings with Team Olukai.

Tied in the standings, Tui Tonga and Team Olukai battled in the tie-breaker, the 55-mile Hale o Lono, Moloka‘i to Kualoa, O‘ahu, June 16.

Nalu Koa received the favor of the wind, tracking the inside course, first finding the wind off Lau Point and sliding to a commanding lead into the Kai‘iwi Channel.

Team Kamakakoa and Tui Tonga waged the battle for second place into mid-Channel, seat, crew and sailing adjustments finally kicking in.

Skippered by Otsuji, the team of Jason Dameron, Noelani Auger, Lauren Bartlett, Kawika Munuz and Keone Miyaki finally reeled in the lead on Nalu koa, taking the lead in the final two miles, the three leaders finishing within three minutes of each other, setting the stage for the July 17 race.

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