Running with the Big Dogs but coming up short

The week following the Tye River race in 2011 I decided to try to paddle my Cobra Viper kayak down our local river, the Rivanna, where our local canoe and kayak races were to be held the following Saturday.  I was nervous about the trip because I was still somewhat fearful about turning over in the craft so I asked some paddling friends to accompany me downriver.  I used my normal whitewater paddle because it provided me a level of comfort and security if I should need to brace or if I flipped over and lost my paddle.

So we paddled down river without incident.  I was very tentative in some of the bigger rapids but I made it the entire way without flipping.

I decided to paddle the Viper on Saturday for the race.

Race morning came and I found myself at the starting line in the Viper–my first river race in the boat.  Again, I decided to use my flat-bladed whitewater paddle because I was a little too nervous about combining this boat with flowing water and a wing paddle.

I started in the first heat with one other boat that was 16′ or longer, and that paddler was one of the top 2 area paddlers.  He and one other paddler had been winning this race year after year, usually trading wins back-and-forth from one year to the next.  The horn blew and Rick and I were off!

I jumped out in front and stayed there for the first two miles of the race, but Rick was just behind me the whole way, trying to find ways to get around me but every time he tried, I found a way to kick it up a notch and stay in front.

I was fine until the first set of shallow rapids where we actually dragged bottom.

My plastic Viper seemed to stick to the rocks and Rick’s fiberglass boat seemed to skim off them as he zipped past me.  I struggled to free myself as I pushed along the bottom of the river with my hands but at one point I found the paddle in my hand worked its way under a tree branch or a piece of rebar at the bottom of the river.  I had to work some more to free my paddle and then I saw the other top paddler catching up to me as I remained stuck.

I managed to free myself but a lot of my energy was sapped.  I tried as best I could to catch up to Rick but I never did close the gap enough to even be able to see him again.

Meanwhile, I had a new threat behind me.

Dave S. behind me also just skimmed through the rapids that I got stuck in as the Carbonlite material of his Eddyline kayak seemed highly resistant to grabbing the river’s bottom.

Dave S. was close behind and closing the gap.  My goal at that point was merely to not let Dave pass me.  He started in the second heat so I knew he had already gained about 2 minutes on me so I figured he would post a faster time, but I wanted to do whatever I could to at least not give him the satisfaction of passing me.

He never did pass me but it was very close at the finish line.

I had a respectable finish and proved I could compete well with the fastest guys on our river, but I wasn’t fast enough that day and I lost a lot of time being stuck on rocks.

I knew that if I could combined that boat with the wing paddle downriver that I’d be hard to beat next year.

So that was the plan for 2012.


Rivanna River Race 2011 video


The 2011 Rivanna River Canoe & Kayak Race as videoed from my kayak

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