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Experience Nawiliwili Yacht Club Sailing Races

Kalapaki Sailing racesFor Kauai’s local sailing community, it’s all about Thursday evenings—race night! On the east side of the island is Nawiliwili Harbor, the home of the Nawiliwili Yacht Club and our race league. Throughout the year, there are several series in which, on any given week, eight to twelve boats compete for well, bragging rights mostly. Of course, Holo Holo represents!
Here’s how we got into it.

In even-numbered years, there’s a race called the Singlehanded Transpac that starts in San Francisco Bay and ends in Hanalei Bay, on Kauai’s north shore. This race is intense because, as indicated in the name, there’s just one single sailor on each boat.

In 2016, the vessel first over the line for the Singlehanded Transpac was a guy named Jiří Šenkyřík on a boat named Kato, as in the Green Hornet’s sidekick. Kato is an Olson 30– what they call an ultra-light displacement boat, built-in 1978 in Santa Cruz, California.

When Jiří reached Hanalei, he was the first to arrive with an elapsed time of 12 days, 22 hours, 53 minutes, and 50 seconds, but ended up in second place in his division with a corrected time of 10 days, 12 hours, 34 minutes and 11 seconds, only three minutes shy of first place. He figured the boat deserved to retire in Hawaii. Or maybe he just didn’t want to sail it back upwind to California, wink wink. Either way, Kato was for sale.

Holo Holo Charters’ owner, Kevin, said yes (because you can never have too many boats!) and now Kato enjoys her relatively relaxed life as a once-a-week competitor as a Nawiliwili Yacht Club racer.

When it comes to sailboat race competitions, there are two ways to go—One Design or PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet). One Design is what it sounds like, all the boats are the exact same design, for example, all Olson 30s, and it’s simple–the first boat to cross the finish line wins. This works in California and France and places that have a ton of boats but here on Kauai, we’re limited, so our league goes with the PHRF model. It’s basically the same concept as the handicap system in golf; different types of boats have different ratings and each boat’s times are adjusted at the end of the race according to their specific handicap.

Anyways! Most boats in Kauai’s race fleet are Olson 30s including Kato, Fast Company, Weatherly, Double Espresso, Speedy, and Ozone. Other regular competitors include Papa ‘Au (Express 27), Bonjolea 2 (Sydney 40), and Iwa (Beneteau 50).

Kauai’s Thursday night races are not singlehanded events—what fun would that be? Teamwork makes the dream work and for racing purposes, five or six crew members is typically ideal. Positions on Kato include helmsman, trimmer, pit, foredeck, squirrel, and rail meat. Regular competitors are Kevin (Holo Holo Charters’ founder/owner), his wife Katie (yours truly), Adrian (Holo Holo Charters’ Engineer), Dave (Captain on Leila) and some other friends of ours, just depending on the series and the season. Yep, we work together and actually choose to spend our time off together; racing is a drug and we’re completely addicted!

There are several buoys set in Kalapaki Bay and each week, the race committee sets a course. Then it’s up to us to get in sync and steer and tack and jibe and trim and hoist and dump and hike our little hearts out until we cross the finish line, always employing “Dave’s Rule”. “Dave’s Rule” in a nutshell is to not let ourselves get flustered and lose hope when we’ve flubbed a leg, but rather keep our heads in the game and keep racing with one hundred percent effort because, as Dave will sternly remind us, “We’re still racing!”. We’ve had some pretty epic comebacks thanks to “Dave’s Rule”.

When we’ve crossed the finish line (hopefully first!) and we’re heading back into the harbor is when we crack some brewskis, give each other high fives and talk about the things we did right and the things we need to do differently next time. We apologize for what we said when we were hoisting the spinnaker and laugh it off and grow together, as individual sailors and as a team. The thrill of the competition satisfies our addiction but it’s the Team Kato community and support system that feeds our souls.
If you want to watch the race on any given Thursday—please do! The race starts at 5 pm and spectators gather around the race committee on “the jetty” in Kalapaki Bay. For the race schedule and more information visit the Nawiliwili Yacht Club at

Kauai sailing

Cheer for the team with the neon green shirts!

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