Splash, Bump & Beach 2007

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We entered a team into the 2007 General Clinton Canoe Regatta Grand Prix Relay with high hopes of being a contender. The General Clinton Grand Prix Relay Race uses one standard class aluminum canoe and a team of 10 paddlers to cover ~30 miles on the Susquehanna River from Oneonta to Bainbridge. There are four exchange points where the canoe pulls into a “pit stop”. The paddlers jump out, excess water is dumped from the the canoe and the new paddling team jumps in for their stretch of the race.

This is a race that I had done as a teenager in 1970 and 1971 and we submitted a team in 2005. Our 2005 team was rammed, dumped, was dead last in the 1st leg and ended up finishing 15th of 33 teams. So we had reason to believe that with some luck we could be a top ten team.

Our team was aligned thus:

Leg

Distance

Male

Female

Description

1

3

Jim Muller

Kathryn Muller

Chaotic start

2

9

Phil Waite

Bonnie Klossner

Long with deep water

3

8.75

Skip Shoemaker

Cindy Cochi

The water varies with deep and some rapids

4

4.25

Mark (Sparky) Spaulding

Connie Fiveash

Water is usually shallow & canoe handling can be tricky

5

4.25

Steve Ingraham

Bonnie Klossner

shallow parts

We got off to a good start. We had good position on the bank – starting 12th in a lineup of 33 canoes. We made it out in front of the pack, moved up a couple of positions and cleared the chute under the bridge. I was feeling good about our place as we had moved up a couple of positions and we had a lot of space around us.

About 1/2 mile below the start the river makes a bend to the right, with the water forming a chute along the right bank and there is an overhanging tree – perfect for disaster. A team cut in front of us going right to left and we converged at the chute with a team on our right. At this juncture we got hit on the left by the team that had crossed in front of us, pushing us into the other team. They hit the tree but were just far enough ahead to get under the overhang. Kathryn and 1/2 of our canoe made it under – the stern and I did not. We dumped! AGAIN.

15 minutes later and only with the help of Race Assistants were we able to get the canoe extracted from the water, dumped and on our way again. Kathryn had lost her paddle and all the teams were long gone. We used our spare paddle and managed to catch and pass two boats before finishing our leg of the race.

At the exchange I located the team that lost a paddle and been given our floater as a replacement. Since I just paid a sizeable sum to have Mr. Gillespie repair and refinish my paddles over the winter I was glad to have it back.

Our remaining teams paddled strong, didn’t dump and we managed to finish 27th overall out of 33 teams with two teams scratching and/or not completing the race.

I really had a good time. With one or two tweaks (like staying afloat) I still feel like we could be a Top 10 (“I could’ve been a contender“). I may sneak down to Oneonta with my chain saw at some point and ensure that obstacle won’t get us again! Of course, my partner is not sure she will ever paddle that section again and it may take a few months and several intoxicating beverages to get her to agree to paddle in the race at all, but I am already planning for 2008.

On a positive note we had a good starting position due to our early entry. Next year we should focus on having our team established by early April. I thought our exchanges worked really well and considering how ad hoc we were I don’t think we lost any time. I was glad we had the rope on the back and the spare paddle.

Thoughts for 2008:

  • Overcome the nasty overhanging tree/chute
  • Maybe find a faster aluminum canoe. I am grateful to Dave Parson’s for loaning it to us, but he admits “it fell off a truck”
  • Recruit additional team members. We can always use additional females and/or people that can paddle stern.
  • Getting some of our team mates together in a canoe before the race would certainly help our synchronization, timing and performance.

I have pictures of the race at http://www.theswirl.org/trips/Splash-Bump-Beach-2007/index.html

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