A strategic course change about 30 miles outside of Kauai proved fruitful for Team Olukai during the 28th annual Na Holo Kai Sailing Canoe Race last week.
Three hours into the race which started under what Marvin Otsuji of Olukai described as “the best conditions of the season,” four boats in the fleet jockeyed for position and the best sailing course from Haleiwa, Oahu to Kalapaki Beach in Nawiliwili.
Kauai boy Donny Jones, skippering the Tui Tonga canoe of Team Maui Jim, eked out a slight lead over Team Olukai aboard the Kamakani Eleu canoe before the Kauai team dropped to a more southerly course to take the lead.
“We were getting 400-yard bombs,” Otsuji said. “We were connecting the waves together. At one point, Kalani Vierra was hooting, hollering, and yellowing, ‘There’s another mile!’”
The course change was effective, driving Olukai’s team to the beach. Official times for the 90-mile race were not available at press time.
“Capt. Ray Glauser of Team WOW on the Aukai O Maui dropped to a straight rhumb line course, even further south than Olukai,” Otsuji said. “They were able to come in right behind Team Olukai.”
Other teams in the 28th annual Oahu-to-Kauai race included Kauai’s Donny Jones skippering Maui Jim, Aloha Brewery and Paddle Me Sports, which took an early lead on a northerly course following the teams paddling out of Haleiwa Harbor in light offshore winds not strong enough to sail in.
Na Holo Kai, inspired by 1987 being “The Year of the Hawaiian,” is the seventh leg of the 2015 Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association series.
Otsuji said the series concludes on Sept. 12 with the Nawiliwili-to-Waimea Kendall Pacific race. If the Olukai team can hold off the charge of all the other canoes, the team will win the series for a record-breaking 19 years.
Team members include Otsuki, James Bameron, Chris Pico, Maui Kjeldsen, Vierra, and Tyrus Sale.