A little less than a month after the Rivanna River Race in May, 2011, I entered the Camp Kumbayah Downriver Race on the James River starting in Lynchburg, VA. This was my second year at this particular event, but the first year racing solo. (In 2010 I raced in my tandem Keowee II kayak with my oldest son and he and I won the Tandem Kayak division.)
This section of the James is gently rolling with few rapids and certainly nothing too technically challenging so I once again decided to paddle the Viper.
This race featured a shotgun start with all paddlers and I got in the water early to warm up a bit and also to ensure I got a good spot near the actual starting line. Starting too far back in the pack would certainly be detrimental.
We were all lined up listening to the countdown and then the starting horn blew and we were off!
My strategy was to get off to a quick start but as soon as I took a stroke or two, some guy in a blue kayak cut right in front of me going perpendicular to the river as if he was trying to cut me off. He just got right in front of me and seemed to stop paddling. I was extremely ticked off as I watch the fastest paddlers jump out to a lead ahead of me. Urgh!
I did my best to recover from a terrible start due in no part to anything I had done yet my efforts were not enough to catch up to the leaders. I wound up in 3rd place that day. That race was ten miles long and it was in the heat of the day. It was a long, tough race.
The winners had fiberglass or composite kayaks.
I was disappointed but also satisfied because I knew I could consistently run with the best paddlers in the area. Now it was just a matter of further refining my technique and possibly upgrading my boat.
I had learned at this point that plastic kayaks are inherently slower than fiberglass or composite kayaks (of same or similar design and length) simply due to their weight, but I also knew the design of the Viper was so fast that it probably put me at near parity with those faster boats.
I scraped the bottom of the river many times that day and it felt like my plastic kayak just grabbed onto the rocks and didn’t want to let go. The boat also was much faster in deep water than it was in shallow water so I knew I wasn’t 100% optimized with gear for this type of river race.
I went forward with nothing but high expectations as I prepared for the Wye Island Regatta in September. That is a flat, deep water race and I had improved as a paddler so much in the past year that I was confident that I would have a good showing this year.
Camp Kum-ba-yah Race, 2001