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Kai Ehitu hosts 35th annual Papa Kimitete regatta

Updated: 
May 19, 2017 - 12:05am

The Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Racing Association will open the 2017 season Saturday as Kai Ehitu hosts its 35th annual Papa Kimitete Memorial Regatta at Kailua Bay.

The only thing certain at the start of another regatta season is that nothing is certain as clubs deal with turnover and growth.

Over the last two seasons, Puna as been the club to beat after dethroning Kai Opua in 2015. Puna is the two-time Big Island defending champion and also claimed an HRSA AAA (13-20 events) state title last season. They had four gold medal winning crews.

Kai Opua will look to get back on the winning track after coming so close to regaining the title last year. Before losing out in the previous two seasons, Kai Opua was the cream of the crop on the Big Island, claiming seven straight Moku O Hawaii championships.

Kai Opua has been the only Big Island squad that competes in the AAAA Division (21-42 events) at states. The club finished third last year and medaled in eight races. The Men Novice A crew captured the lone gold for Big Blue.

“For me Kai Opua will always be the dominant club but Puna has done a great job the past couple of years,” said Kai Ehitu head coach Richard Kimitete. “Kawaihae and Keauhou also have strong crews this year so I am not going to take anyone for granted. I expect everyone to do well.”

Kai Ehitu is hosting the first race of the season to celebrate the life of club founder Bernard Pierre “Papa” Kimitete, who passed away in 2002.

“I cannot believe it has been 35 years since we started hosting this regatta,” Richard Kimitete said. “We are exited about it and there is definitely a happy feeling in the air.”

This year’s Papa Kimitete Regatta will kick off with an opening ceremony at 7:30 a.m., followed by races starting at 8 a.m.

Kai Ehitu is known for its youth racing, something that Papa Kimitete emphasized. However, the club has experienced a lot of growth over the past few years with a stronger women’s division developing.

“The kids are always strong but our women’s program has gotten better since last season and the men’s program has gotten bigger,” Richard Kimitete said. “People seem to like what we do and that has allowed us to grow. We are very family oriented, trying to teach both kids and adults.”

Last year Kai Ehitu placed fifth overall in AAA, competing in 13 races, with the lone gold coming from the Mixed Masters 40 crew comprised of Tammy Aipa-Napolean, Leann Alani, Darcy Daniel, Eddie Hayward, Alton Kaono, Kawika Leicher.

That crew will once again return to lead a stronger mixed field.

“There will definitely be more just like them this year,” Richard Kimitete said.

The season will open similar to last year, with three straight regatta’s on the west side of the island. Keauhou will host a meet on May 27 and Kai Opua will host a King Kamehameha Day regatta on June 10, both will be held at Kailua Bay.

Clubs will then switch their attention to the east side where they will battle in six straight regattas at Hilo Bay. Races will take place on June 17, 24, July 1, 8, and 15, followed by the Aunty Maile Moku O Hawaii Championships on July 22. The HCRA State Championships will take place on Aug. 5 at Hanakaoo on Maui.

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