The senior men and women races are different than all the others at the Aunty Maile/Moku O Hawaii Canoe Racing Association championships.
For one thing, they are the only 1 1/2-mile races. It’s a marathon with five turns around the flag. It’s an endurance test with stamina being put under a microscope with every stroke.
It’s also a one-shot deal. The top three crews earn lanes in the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association state championships, which will take place Aug. 3 on Kauai. The races are not held during the Moku O Hawaii regular season because of their length.
The two races combined with the setup time to get to the starting line burn more than 30 minutes of daylight. That makes the senior races a highlight of their own.
Kai Opua’s crew of Miles Cannon, Keola Dudoit, Puni Freitas, Eddie Hayward, Theron Ogata and Ina Ynigues Jr. made it exciting, finishing in 11 minutes, 31.48 seconds, a whisker ahead of Keauhou’s hard-charging 11:31.83.
Keaukaha was third in 12:05.84, also earning an automatic berth in the state meet at Hanalei Bay. Oahu hosts next year’s state regatta, and Hilo Bay is the 2015 site.
“It feels great, but you’re tired, this being 1 1/2 miles,” lead stroker Ynigues said. “Having the guys in sync really helps out and makes a difference.
“At the end, we had a little bit more of a boost. We gave it all we got. When you come together as one, you make the waa (canoe) feel smooth and fast.”
Ynigues said the strategy was simple: be first in and out of the turn, conserve energy during the long runs and push the gas pedal hard at the end.
“We’re trying to find that nice glide in the canoe, that consistent glide,” he said before turning the focus to the club. “We’re trying to qualify everybody to go to states. Our men’s coach, Eddie Hayward, wants to take everybody who shows up at practice at Kailua Pier to states.
“The medal feels great, but it doesn’t mean much to me. I give it to my daughter (7-year-old Kaimani). She paddles for Kai Ehitu’s specials (non-scoring crew).”
His mom is Myrtle Freitas, the sister of Jackie Kimitite. Kimitete’s husband is Richard Kimitete, the head coach at Kai Ehitu.
Probably the most well-known Kimitete in Hilo is Ynigues’ cousin, Hina Kimitete, a 2005 Konawaena graduate and former UH-Hilo basketball standout. She’s coaching volleyball and basketball on the mainland.
Probably the most well-known Ynigues from Kealakehe High lore is his brother, Lanakila Ynigues, a 2008 graduate who was on the football and soccer teams. The younger Ynigues played soccer at a Colorado junior college.
Ina Ynigues has been paddling for five years after taking a five-year break. The 28-year-old works for West Hawaii Window Washing, another reason for his muscular arms.
He’s glad to be back in the sport, mainly because of his daughter’s participation.
“Paddling goes from generation to generation. You pass it on,” he said. “You start paddling as a kid and build up and see your friends and neighbors paddling. It’s a family sport. Unlike a sport like soccer or basketball, you might go, and after the game is over you come home.”
Big to small
Kawaihae head coach Manny Veincent sticks his club in the largest division during the Moku O Hawaii season, giving the paddlers who turn out a chance to enter their maximum two events.
Sometimes, they produce gold at the Aunty Maile/Moku O Hawaii championships, like the double-duty women freshmen and women senior crews.
The freshmen crew of Leilani Griego, Tiffany Hatanaka, Nahaku Kalei, Makalapua Pahia, Lora Schroder Sakai and Noelani Spencer captured the mile race in 8:25.58, ahead of Kai Opua’s 8:33.01.
After about one hour of rest, the same group took the senior women 1 1/2-mile race in 13:04.42, earning an automatic entry to states.
Kai Opua finished second in 13:18.20, and Puna was third in 14:45.88. They gobbled up the other two lanes to states.
When it’s time to race at states, Kawaihae competes at Division A (one to six races), where the motto, “Only the best is good enough,” applies to Veincent’s club.
Kawaihae is the defending state Division A champion, and it won the title in 2007, 2008 and 2010. In 2009 and 2011, the club finished second.
“We’ve had a small turnout this year,” Veincent said. “We’ve just not had enough paddlers. We’re not like Kai Opua or a club in Hilo, we’re isolated. Only our freshmen and senior women are training together as a unit.
“Sometimes they train twice a day. They make the most of their effort. The rest of the paddlers we have to wait until Saturday to make our crews. A lot of people have different work schedules. We couldn’t put together the pieces.”