Bradley still the team to beat
With new paddlers and without a coach, crew captures fifth in a row
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
It started with a powerful prayer and ended with a powerful push.
As a result, Team Bradley once again emerged with the Na Wahine O Ke Kai championship.
Team Bradley won the 41-mile outrigger canoe race from Hale O Lono Harbor, Moloka’i, to Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, with a time of 5 hours, 25 minutes, 16 seconds.
The race across the Kaiwi Channel is considered the world championship of long-distance canoe paddling for women’s teams.
Team Bradley has won it five consecutive years — the second-longest streak in race history. OffShore of California won six in a row from 1986-91.
“I don’t know how we pulled this one off,” Team Bradley captain and steerswoman Noelani Auger said. “We did it somehow.”
The day started for Team Bradley when paddler Mahealani Botelho was asked by race officials to perform the opening pule — the Hawaiian blessing — at Hale O Lono Harbor.
Botelho’s aunt, Leina’ala Heine, normally performs the pule, but she could not make the trip to Moloka’i this year.
“I was totally nervous,” Botelho said. “I usually do a pule for our team, but this was for the whole race. You’re asking to make sure that everyone has a good, safe race.”
Indications are, Botelho has pule power in her genes.
“That was so chicken skin,” teammate Lauren Bartlett said. “It shows what a leader Mahea is.”
Then Team Bradley had to start the race with a revamped lineup and without a coach.
Team Bradley added three new paddlers to its roster this year, and opted to train coach-less when John Puakea committed to coach another team.
“We were definitely more challenged coming into this one,” paddler Kelly Fey said. “Losing Johnny was big. But we had other people step up and help us out like (Hui Nalu coaches) Bob Rocheleau and Reney Ching.”
Perhaps most important, the Team Bradley paddlers were disciplined and talented enough to train on their own.
“We have a lot of experience and we’re all water savvy,” Fey said. “And I think we all paddle with heart.”
Members of the Team Bradley crew yesterday were Auger, Bartlett, Botelho, Fey, Cherisse Agorastos, Kristin Foster, Alana Frazier, Andrea Moller, Lori Nakamura and Shelley Oates-Wilding.
Foster, Frazier and Nakamura were added to the team this year. Instead of feeling the pressure that might come with joining a championship team, they said they felt a bond.
“Paddling with this group of girls, I don’t know how to explain it,” Nakamura said. “It’s hard to explain how big of a bond we have with each other.”
Frazier added: “I think the fact that we didn’t let the pressure get to us is what really helped us today.”
The team is named after canoe-builder Sonny Bradley and features a mix of elite paddlers from O’ahu, Kaua’i, Maui, the Big Island and Australia.
Because of that unique mix, they rarely get to practice together. Oates-Wilding, for example, arrived in Hawai’i from Australia less than two weeks ago.
“It’s like when we finally get the whole group together, we’re so glad to see each other, and it all blends together,” Oates-Wilding said. “The best part is this group never talks about winning the race. It’s always about having fun together and just having a good race.”
Pushed by the Waikiki Beachboys, Team Bradley needed a great race to prevail yesterday.
Waikiki Beachboys had the lead for the first half of the race, and then went wave for wave with Team Bradley in the tricky conditions.
Race director Hannie Anderson described it as “a steersman’s race” because the tide and swells were clashing, making it difficult for the canoes to find clean rides.
“Bradley and Beachboys have two of the best because they were getting the (wave) bumps and took off from everybody else,” Anderson said.
Indeed, the last 10 miles turned into a two-team race.
“Beachboys were incredible,” Fey said. “They led most of the way, then we’d reel them back in, and they’d come back again. We just tried to keep working hard and stay calm.”
Team Bradley made its last push off Diamond Head and inched away from Waikiki Beachboys the rest of the way.
Waikiki Beachboys finished second with a time of 5:26:38. Prior to yesterday, Waikiki Beachboys had never placed higher than third in a Na Wahine O Ke Kai race.
“It’s mixed feelings,” Waikiki Beachboys paddler and club president Dana Gorecki said. “We’re proud of ourselves at what we accomplished, but yet fell short of the goal.”
Members of the Waikiki Beachboys crew were Gorecki, Laura Birse, Rachel Bruntsch, Kimberly Ivey, Andrea Messer, Kaui Pelekane, Jen Polcer, Raye Powell, Kelsa Teeters and Annett Wichmann. Pelekane steered the crew.
“To be right next to (Team Bradley), we know we’re a solid team, too,” Gorecki said.
Waikiki Beachboys, which had two novice paddlers in its crew, wants another shot at it next year.
“When you’re at this point, you feel like it’s right there but it’s not finished yet,” Gorecki said.
Hui Lanakila, which placed third yesterday, is in a similar situation.
Hui Lanakila battled with the leaders for the first half of the race and eventually came in at 5:31:14 — about a half-mile behind Team Bradley.
During Team Bradley’s five-year reign, Hui Lanakila has placed second three times, third once, and fourth once.
There was a large gap after the top three. Outrigger Whitsunday from Australia was fourth in 5:43:47, and Outrigger of Hawai’i was fifth in 5:47:51.
Rounding out the top 10 were Kailua in sixth, NAC/Lanakila from California in seventh, Team Wahoo’s in eighth, Team Facebook in ninth and Kaiola from Kaua’i in 10th.
A record 86 crews started yesterday’s race (84 finished).
Other crews of note:
Hawaiian Kanaktion placed second in 6:14:56. JoJo Toeppner of California was in that crew. She is the only paddler who has participated in all 31 Na Wahine O Ke Kai races.
1, Team Bradley (Noe Auger, Lauren Bartlett, Mahealani Botelho, Kelly Fey, Cherisse Agorastos, Kristin Foster, Alana Frazier, Andrea Moller, Lori Nakamura, Shelley Oates-Wilding), 5:25:16. 2, Waikiki Beachboys-1, 5:26:38. 3, Hui Lanakila-1, 5:31:14. 4, Outrigger Whitsunday, 5:43:47. 5, Outrigger, 5:47:51. 6, Kailua-1, 5:48:19. 7, NAC/Lanakila, 5:48:53. 8, Team Wahoo’s, 5:52:07. 9, Team Facebook, 5:53:05. 10, Kaiola-1, 5:53:41. 11, Kai ‘Opua, 5:54:25. 12, Hui Nalu Gold, 5:55:38. 13, Hui Lanakila-2, 5:56:45. 14, Hawaiian-1, 5:57:09. 15, Niumalu-1, 5:57:25. 16, Mololo, 5:59:21. 17, Waikiki Beachboys-2, 6:00:12. 18, Lae’ula O Kai Red, 6:03:00. 19, Outrigger-Kakina, 6:03:24. 20, Kahana, 6:07:00.
21, Casco Bay, 6:07:34. 22, Kukui’ula, 6:09:39. 23, Hanohano, 6:09:45. 24, Keahiakahoe Red, 6:11:25. 25, Kailua Masters, 6:12:16. 26, Hawaiian Kanaktion, 6:14:56. 27, Lanakila, 6:16:47. 28, Team Curry, 6:16:49. 29, Outrigger, 6:19:32. 30, Healani-1, 6:21:31. 31, Kaiola-2, 6:23:06. 32, Hawaiian-2, 6:23:42. 33, Lanikai, 6:24:41. 34, Lae’ula O Kai Green, 6:26:19. 35, Kailua-2, 6:26:31. 36, Puna, 6:28:11. 37, Marina Del Rey-A, 6:28:26. 38, Hui Nalu Black, 6:30:17. 39, Kamehameha-Hilo, 6:32:28. 40, Kailua Nov. B, 6:32:41.
41, Pua Ekahi, 6:35:18. 42, San Francisco, 6:37:24. 43, Niumalu-2, 6:38:37. 44, Akau Hana, 6:41:32. 45, Lokahi, 6:41:36. 46, Keahiakahoe, 6:41:49. 47, Waikiki Beachboys-3, 6:43:11. 48, Kihei, 6:44:19. 49, Niumalu, 6:45:42. 50, Keauhou, 6:45:53. 51, Leeward Kai, 6:46:03. 52, Pu’uwai, 6:47:35. 53, Hui Nalu Nalo, 6:48:06. 54, Namolokama, 6:48:23. 55, Hookai Puuwai, 6:48:57. 56, Manu O Ke Kai, 6:49:34. 57, Kupa’amau, 6:50:03. 58, Ka Mamalahoe, 6:50:10. 59, Kai ‘Opua-2, 6:50:41. 60, Healani-2, 6:50:52.
61, Waikiki Surf Club, 6:52:34. 62, Hui Lanakila-3, 6:53:02. 63, Kolonai/Kilohana, 6:53:10. 64, Marina Del Rey-B, 6:53:47. 65, Chigasaki OCC, 6:56:29. 66, Keahiakahoe Black, 6:57:26. 67, Pua Eleu, 6:58:06. 68, Kailua-4, 6:59:30. 69, Kailua-3, 6:59:55. 70, Waikiki Beachboys-4, 7:01:40. 71, Waikiki Yacht Orange, 7:01:55. 72, Waimanalo, 7:02:04. 73, ‘Anuenue, 7:03:04. 74, Manu O Ke Kai Masters, 7:05:32. 75, Keauhou 60s, 7:10:32. 76, Lanakila-2, 7:12:08. 77, New Hope-1, 7:15:37. 78, Waikiki Yacht Blue, 7:20:44. 79, Kona Athletic, 7:21:09. 80, New Hope-3, 7:21:25. 81, Puakea Foundation, 7:29:33. 82, New Hope-2, 7:42:04. 83, Koa Kai, 7:47:05. 84, ‘Alapa Hoe, 7:48:22.