As many as five thousand people are expected to descend on Kona this week. They'll be there to watch or to paddle in what organizers call the largest outrigger canoe race in the world. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken got details from officials of the sponsoring canoe club and has this report.
Mike Atwood, Race Director of Kai Opua Canoe Club, says the Queen Lili'uokalani Canoe Race race started as a way to prepare for another race.
"The Queen Lili'uokalani started in 1971, the men were the only participants. Mary Jane Kahanamoku and her husband Louis wanted to get ready for the Molokai race, a race involving an escort boat and relief paddlers. Since then we've grown from the original 8 entries to pretty close to 130 women, and 120 men teams. The course is from Honaunau, for the men, to Kailau, and the wahines go from Kailua down to Honaunau. "
Atwood says Saturday's 18-mile single hull race will have around 60 teams from Hawaii, plus other paddlers from around the world.
"Singapore, Tahiti, American Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada, Hong Kong, a European team, New York, Texas, and hopefully they'll be ok after what just happened there, California, Washington State, Oregon."
The event has become more than just one race. Atwood, and Kai Opua President Bo Campos, explain.
"Over the course of time, because of the holiday weekend and the other activities, it's like a festival, the cultural and traditional aspects of Hawaiian outrigger racing."
"There's a double hull race, a kids race, standup paddling, a one man two man, a craft fair. No one walks around without a smile."
And there's a chance for showing off. Friday at noon, there's a cannonball contest off Kailua Pier. Saturday night's event also began in 1971.
"On Saturday evening we have a traditional event, the Hawaiian torchlight parade, from from Hale Halawai to the Kona Pier, this celebration of people who love the sport and love Hawai'i."
The Queen Lili'uokalani Race schedule is at kaiopua.org