OHCRA’s New Race Rules In 2013

Here’s a riddle for you: It is one of the most dreaded opponents at the Waimanalo Regatta every summer. This foe never trains, never gets wet and can stop a canoe event in its tracks. What is it?

The answer: Darkness. For those who compete in canoe regattas, the riddle is really no laughing matter. In fact, through the years, the subject has been the source of much frustration. While canoe regattas are always fun and action-packed, the days can be brutally long, especially at Waimanalo, where canoes often flip in rough conditions, causing grueling delays.


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Hui Lanakila sprints home to the finish line at Keehi Lagoon. Photos courtesy Lono Goo/Makai Ocean Lifestyle Magazine

Last summer, darkness reared its ugly head again at Waimanalo Beach, causing race officials to call off the regatta with five events still on the schedule. It was simply unsafe to continue. And although the five races were completed the following Sunday at Kaneohe Bay, there was much talk around the paddling community that changes needed to be made.

Well, changes are coming.

After years of discussion, Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association and officials from 16 canoe clubs recently passed 15 new race rules with hope of increasing excitement for participants and spectators with innovative formats, and ultimately shortening the length of regattas.

Under the new rules, 11 of the day’s 37 races will be shortened.

* Men’s Novice B: half-mile to quarter-mile

* Girls 15: half-mile to quarter-mile

* Boys 15: half-mile to quarter-mile

* Boys 18: 1 mile to half-mile

* Men’s Novice A: 1 mile to half-mile

* Men and Women Freshmen: 1 mile to quarter-mile

* Men’s and Women’s Sophomore: 1 mile to half-mile

* Women’s 40’s: 1 mile to half-mile

* Men’s 40’s: 1 mile to half-mile

Races will no longer be on a half-mile course. All events, regardless of total length, will be on a quarter-mile course, which means more turns, more sprints to the finish line and more excitement.

For example, crews that compete in the Senior Men’s and Senior Women’s events, which will remain one-and-one-half miles in length, will now have to make five turns instead three.

Veteran paddlers say the new format is similar to what they see at the World Sprints. They say quarter-mile races are lightning-quick, spectator-friendly and extremely exciting.

OHCRA clubs also approved a rule change that will allow paddlers more freedom to move up and down in different events, but not during the same regatta.

They also adopted a new scoring system. Points will now be awarded for all teams who place in the top six. Many believe these additional rule changes will give clubs an incentive to race in more events. The changes also will affect race-day strategies and crew selections by coaches.

Of course, change is never easy and some of these changes are significant. But are they good for the sport? The answer varies depending on whom you ask.

What many paddlers are looking forward to are shorter days at the beach. The sport of canoe paddling already requires a huge investment in time for paddlers and enormous sacrifices by their families. The last thing we need to deal with is an “opponent” that really shouldn’t exist.

Darkness shouldn’t be a factor in 2013.

OHCRA officials will implement the new rules June 2 at the Clement D. Pa’aina Regatta at Keehi Lagoon.