Team Olu Kai on Kamakakoa ekes out Na Holo Kai win at harbor mouth

NAWILIWILI — Team Olu Kai, with captain Marvin Otsuji, strengthened its hold on the lead of the 2011 Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association by winning the 24th Na Holo Kai, Saturday.

Despite a brisk northeast wind blowing, Team Olu Kai, aboard the Kamakakoa canoe, touched the beach at Kalapaki Bay in an unofficial seven hours, 33 minutes, according to a crewman who tapped the stop button.

This is more than the seven hours and 13 minutes the crew clocked during the 2010 race which it also laid claim to.

The Hawaiian Energy Sports website claims Team Olu Kai made the 90-mile crossing from Haleiwa, O‘ahu to Nawiliwili in seven hours and 55 minutes, all crews arriving safely and all teams finishing under nine hours.

 But unlike the 2010 race where the Kamakakoa was unchallenged after gaining an early lead, this year’s crew pushed hard at the top end, taking the lead at the mouth of Kalapaki Bay, just several hundred yards from shore.

In a cell phone observation from the Ninini Point Lighthouse, reports had Tui Tonga in the lead of the pack of four of the five boats in the race.

As if to verify the report, Tui Tonga’s white sail was the first to appear from behind the point. Moments later, the yellow sail of Team Olu Kai emerged from behind the rocks.

Catching a nice swell, Team Olu Kai made its move, taking Tui Tonga just outside the Kalapaki breaks and threaded through a flock of stand up paddlers en route to the sand.

With the win, Team Olu Kai is solid with its lead heading into the Kendall Pacific, Sept. 10.

The Nawiliwili to Waimea race is the final in the Hawaiiain Sailing Canoe Association series and this year, is dedicated to Kendall Struxness who lost his battle against cancer earlier in the year. “All we have to do is finish to win the series,” Otsuji said. “We would have to fall apart, not to finish.”

Otsuji is the only participant in the Na Holo Kai to have raced in all 24 of its events.

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