Maui’s Team Wailea captures 2 wins during iconic annual Queen Lili‘uokalani Long Distance Canoe Race in Kona
September 3, 2023, 1:00 AM HST
Maui’s team Wailea captured two wins during the 50th anniversary of the Queen Lili‘uokalani Long Distance Canoe Race in Kona on Saturday.
The team came with the spirit of their home behind them as Maui struggles to recover from deadly wildfires that destroyed parts Lāhainā on Aug. 8 and left at least 115 dead.
“We just had to hold fast and believe in ourselves, kind of like our island right now,” said Kekoa Cramer, steersman for Wailea.
With every that’s going on at home, Cramer said it’s been troubling.
“And I I’m just happy that we can represent our families and friends and we’re lucky that we get to come out here and compete and we’re happy that we can pull it out for everybody on Maui,” he said.
The 18-mile race, hosted by Kona’s Kai ‘Ōpua Canoe Club in honor of Hawai‘i’s last reigning monarch, began early in the morning with the women racing from Kailua Bay to Hōnaunau. The men raced from Hōnaunau back to Kailua Bay. The conditions were calm with a little bit of a south swell.
Maui’s Team Wailea claimed the Iron Non Koa Open Division with a time of 02:03:49. This is a back-to-back win for this club with their victory last year. Team Oceania took a strong second, and Tui Tonga captured third.
Cramer said it was a tough race. With the current in their faces, their timing was 10 to 12 minutes longer than last year, and Tonga and Oceania were right behind them the entire way.
Wailea also took first in the Unlimited Men’s Division with a time of 02:05:11.
Kona’s Kai ‘Ehitu Canoe Club captured the top spot in the Unlimited Female Dvision with a time with of 01:57:09.
Queen’s Race Director Mike Atwood said the men of Team Wailea had an epic day, showing their paddling expertise.
“With the spirit of Maui guiding our journey, all of us at Kai ‘Ōpua Canoe Club extend our heartfelt aloha to everyone who traveled here to be a part of our golden anniversary race,” Atwood said.
For the full list of results for both men and women visit this website.
Linda Morley-Wells described the morning of the race as a rainbow.
“It was just color everywhere, with all the canoes on the beach. The entire color pallet was there.
“It was like a moving painting of color, splashing color. With all the canoes, the water, beautiful Hawai’i and nature and the cultural and spiritual side of it all – it just really comes together with this race,” Morley-Wells said.
Her husband, Walt, is treasurer for Kai ‘Ōpua Canoe Club, said it was the busiest race he’s seen.
Wells described Saturday’s event as controlled pandemonium. “It was people everywhere and really pretty amazing.”
Maile Villablanca, a female racer with Hanohano Canoe Club, said she loved her team’s flow on Saturday and conditions were good in the morning.
“I think the vibe here is really fun this year because it is the 50th anniversary and people are here from all over the world and the island,” she said. “It’s kind of a like a reunion. We’re all one big happy paddling family. It’s really fun to see everyone.”
Michele Kirkpatrick came all the way from Arizona. She was sitting on the pier waiting for the men’s races to come in and thought the event was amazing.
“It was electric. It’s like going to your first football game – WOAH!” she said.
For more information about the annual event visit this website.