Congratulations to Team Primo!

At this rate, Team Primo should be in primo condition for the Moloka’i Hoe.

Team Primo won the Henry Ayau Memorial Race in convincing fashion yesterday, completing the 32-mile course from Maunalua Bay to Nanakuli Beach in 3 hours, 53 minutes, 28 seconds.

Outrigger Canoe Club finished second in 4:00:55 — around a mile behind Team Primo.

“Very surprised at the gap,” Team Primo’s Kai Bartlett said. “Everybody knows how tough Outrigger has been this year, so we really came together for this one.”

Yesterday’s race was the final “warm-up” event for men’s outrigger canoe teams before the Moloka’i Hoe world championship race Oct. 11. Fifty-nine crews from around the state participated in yesterday’s race.

Team Primo is a mix of elite paddlers from Maui and O’ahu. Members of the team yesterday were Bartlett, Mael Carey, Kekoa Cramer, Felipe Gomes, Mike Judd, Peter Konohia, Tyson Kubo, Mike Pedersen and Alfred Van Gieson.

All are experienced and successful paddlers, but this is the first year they are paddling together on the same team. They are being sponsored by the Primo beer company.

“Every time we paddle together we get a little bit faster,” said Cramer, who steered the winning canoe yesterday. “Six of us train together on Maui two to three times a week … then the (O’ahu) guys are such great paddlers. We learn so much from them every time we get together.”

Just a month ago, Team Primo placed second to Outrigger at the Duke Kahanamoku Race.

“That was our first race together and we just weren’t quite there,” Pedersen said. “Now, we’ve had a couple of practices together and we did a couple of races together and so we’re clicking a lot better.”

Yesterday, it clicked from the start.

Team Primo used an inside course to race to an early lead that it never relinquished.

“The tide was outgoing, so we went inside at Maunalua Bay,” said Kala Judd, Team Primo’s coach. “That really helped us a lot. I think we found a rhythm right away and it gave our guys some confidence to push the whole way.”

Outrigger finished well behind Team Primo, but also well ahead of the other canoes.

Hui Lanakila placed third in 4:05:34, followed by Hui Nalu (4:06:30), Kailua (4:06:43) and Lanikai (4:06:50).

“I guess you can never be happy with second, but we’re pretty happy with our race,” Outrigger’s Scott Gamble said. “They’re an elite group of paddlers and it looks like they’re putting it together, so to come in second to those guys is OK.”

Outrigger won a 31-mile race in Southern California last weekend, so fatigue might have been a factor.

In any case, all the top Hawai’i crews have a similar goal for the Moloka’i Hoe — get closer to the Tahiti teams.

Shell Va’a from Tahiti has dominated the last three Moloka’i Hoe races (no Hawai’i team has come within 13 minutes of Shell Va’a in the past three years).

“There’s no smoke in our eyes about what the competition will be like on Oct. 11,” Kala Judd said. “We know we have to be at our very best to even stay close to Tahiti.”

Outrigger’s Gamble added: “We just want somebody from Hawai’i to challenge the Tahitians. If not us, definitely Primo. Hopefully both.”

Another Outrigger crew placed eighth overall and won the masters 40-older division.

Kailua placed 13th overall and won the masters 50-older division.

Keahiakahoe placed 18th overall and won the masters 55-older division.

The Na Wahine O Ke Kai women’s world championship race is scheduled for Sunday.

Top finishers

1, Team Primo/Wailea, 3:53:28. 2, Outrigger-1, 4:00:55. 3, Hui Lanakila-2, 4:05:34. 4, Hui Nalu-1, 4:06:30. 5, Kailua-1, 4:06:43. 6, Lanikai-1, 4:06:50. 7, Hui Lanakila-1, 4:08:07. 8, Outrigger 40s, 4:15:36. 9, Kai ‘Opua-2, 4:17:57. 10, Healani-1, 4:18:01. 11, Leeward Kai, 4:18:10. 12, Kailua-2, 4:23:24. 13, Kailua 50s, 4:27:24. 14, Lanikai 40s, 4:28:55. 15, Hui Nalu 40s, 4:29:33. 16, Hui Lanakila-3, 4:31:12. 17, ‘Anuenue-1, 4:31:41. 18, Keahiakahoe 55s, 4:32:34. 19, Outrigger-2, 4:33:58. 20, Hui Nalu-2, 4:38:14.

21, ‘Anuenue-2, 4:39:20. 22, Waikiki Beachboys-1, 4:39:46. 23, Lanikai-3, 4:41:07. 24, Healani-2, 4:45:32. 25, Waimanalo 50s, 4:47:01. 26, Lokahi/Keauhou, 4:47:05. 27, Kai ‘Opua-1, 4:50:21. 28, Outrigger-3, 4:50:39. 29, Kailua 40s, 4:51:28. 30, Kailua-3, 4:52:09. 31, Outrigger-4, 4:52:35. 32, Healani-3, 4:54:09. 33, Ka Mamalahoe, 4:54:18. 34, Hui Nalu 50s, 4:55:28. 35, Koa Kai, 4:57:15. 36, Hui Lanakila-4, 4:58:13. 37, Honolulu Fire, 5:02:11. 38, ‘Anuenue-3, 5:03:53. 39, Kamehameha, 5:06:12. 40, Honolulu Pearl, 5:06:49.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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