Sunday, May 16, 2010

BRWA Canoe Race - May 15th

I had a good time yesterday at the Blackstone River Watershed Association Canoe/Kayak Race. A total of 49 boats entered, and I was surprised to see that half were tandem canoes. I was the only solo canoe.  Here I am at the starting line.


It was my intention to paddle my J-200 racing boat, but as I was getting ready to leave for the race, I noticed a large crack in the gunwale. I had time to glue up the gunwale, but decided to take my Bell Yellowstone Solo instead. Not exactly a racing boat, but it turned out to be a good choice considering the conditions.

When I arrived at the put in around 10:00 there was already a good crowd. I saw a few familiar faces, and talked for a little while with Ranger Chuck Arning who was helping out on the safety crew. When I commented that I hadn’t paddled the upper sections of the Blackstone very often, he suggested that the section from Riverlin Street in Millbury down to Grafton is also nice when there is more water. Add that to the list of places to paddle.

Registration went quickly, as did the safety talk. By 11:00, boats were lined up at the starting line. Kayaks started first, followed by canoes. Since I was the only solo boat, I was a division of one – guaranteed a first place finish. I started in the middle of the pack with the Tandem Mixed (men and women) and Tandem Masters (both paddlers over 40) Divisions.

The race starts in Grafton where Main Street (Route 122A, Google Map - 53 Main Street, Grafton, MA) crosses the Blackstone, and ends at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge - 12 miles with lots of twists and turns. Water level was low – about 2’ on the Millbury gauge, 3’ on the Northbridge gauge. The race course can be divided into three sections.

From Grafton down to Plummers Landing is mostly flatwater with two portages. The first is a dam at Depot Street which is protaged on river right.  The second is a dam at Riverdale which is protaged on river left.  I held my own in this section, and even passed some of the slower kayakers who started before me. I also got passed by several of the faster tandem teams that started after me.

The section from Pummers Landing down to River Bend Farm was extremely scratchy. This turned out to be an advantage for me since I could float over many of the shallow areas that forced the tandem boaters to get out and walk. Even when I had to walk, my small solo was a lot easier to maneuver. It was actually nice to take a break from paddling and stretch the legs.

The loop through River Bend Farm went quickly. My Yellowstone was perfect for the river section. After portaging over to the canal I still felt good, so I did my best to stay in front of a tandem team that was right on my tail. They weren’t able to pass me.

I ended up doing the 12-mile course in 2 hours and 33 minutes. Respectable time, good people, and I won my division - can’t beat that.

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