Tippicanoe River Race, Lafayette, IN 5.7.16

Tippecanoe without “Tyler Too” – but we did spot Bigfoot

If you’re a fan of change, Tippecanoe is your race.  Some years it’s warm and inviting, some years it’s cold and foreboding.  Most years we face at least the threat of rain, often thunderstorms.  Water levels and current vary, even between morning and afternoon races.  And the water temperature this time of year is nearly always…uh…invigorating!

This year the river was “mellow”, with optimum water levels and current: plenty fast enough to be fun, sufficient water to cover the rocks, and not so fast as to cause a lot of turbulence.  As evidence I point to the fact that everyone had a fast ride to the end, and no one swam – by intent or otherwise.  But we did find some canoeists are geared up for almost any eventuality.  When a couple of thunder claps and a brief downpour delayed the start of the morning race, we looked across at the aluminum C2 of George Tinsley and Hilman Culp tucked against the far bank, and noticed something most of us had never seen in a racing canoe prior to this: Hilman was holding an umbrella!  Leave it to George and Hilman to be trendsetters in an otherwise staid event.  No one seemed quite certain how  you’d paddle a canoe while holding an umbrella, and the rain gave out before we had the opportunity to find out, but I’m certain it would have given them a performance edge…

The weirdness of the day amped up exponentially when during the shuttle ride back from the finish I discovered we had not one, but TWO urban legends in our vehicle.  I am of course speaking of Bigfoot and a Unicorn.  No, actually it was something much rarer: Jim Andersen and Ted Beatty.  It was good to have them rejoin our merry band of water warriors.  Speaking of which, Skeet Craig was back, now with X-ray vision.  Skeet seems to have recovered well from his eye surgeries and he used his new super vision to put the hurt on his buddy Terry Pontius, who found that Indiana’s distinct lack of alligators results in a lack of motivation compared to paddling in Florida.

I’ve long noted that you never want to say anything besmirching another person’s reputation to someone in Indiana, because they’re likely related.  The same holds true for Hoosier boats.  Brent Ernsberger showed up to dominate the K1 Downriver race by channeling the spirit of Skeet Craig.  No, not some new-age weirdness; he was paddling the channels of the Tippecanoe River with the Spirit, a downriver boat formerly owned by Skeet.  Roger Crisp recalled Skeet doing quite well with the Spirit at a USCA Nationals prior to the RPM becoming the dominant downriver boat, although Skeets memory was a little cloudier on the event…

Outside of the rain delay, the morning race launched with little fanfare but a lot of speed as the current helped generate impressive looking GPS numbers.  I paddled a new Stellar SEL Multi-Sport with matching Stellar performance attire.  Someone nominated me for “Best Dressed” entrant, at which point I noted that if you aren’t fast you should at least try to look good – sort of a variation on the Red Green admonition that “if the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy”.  And speaking of speed, as I was zooming along at the head of the pack minding my own business, I noticed one of those annoying C1’s off to the side paddled by – you guess it – Bigfoot!  Actually, the other urban legend Jim Anderson, and he was paddling powerfully in his beautifully spiffed up Diller.  It seems that every time I pulled ahead of Jim and thought I was cleverly taking a faster line, Jim would cut the inside corner and catch back up.  My thoughts at the moment were “Wow – Jim has really picked up speed lately.  Or else I’ve really slowed.  Or both could be true”.  I got my answer at the end of the race when Jim said “you’ve really slowed.”   Looks like more workouts are in my future…

After swapping wake riding a few times and assuming the two of us were going to be duking it out at the end, along comes another C1.  The Old Testament book of 2nd Kings in chapter 9, verse 20 quotes a watchman on the gates of the city describing a chariot spotted in the distance  as saying “… the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously!”.  This C1 was piloted by non-other than Bill “son of Nimshi” Kanost, and he was paddling furiously.  This resulted in the epic battle of the day between Bill and Jim for the two top spots in C1, and in a surprise move Bill managed to nip Jim at the end to take 1st in C1 Men.  Unfortunately for Bill, his mother (apparently “wife of Nimshi”) was heavily involved in an exciting game of cards in the car and missed his golden moment in the sun – or clouds, in this case.  You’ll just have to repeat your performance next time, Bill…

All the racers came in within a fairly short time range.  AJ Spoerner had traded his Epic 18X for a more conventional sea kayak (Valley Nordcap?), which is slower on rivers, but more stable and comfortable for AJ.  As Roger has noted many times, racers are always faster when the open side is up, and AJ came in with a smile on his face.  Matt Conrad put on a blistering performance to win Sea Kayak class, and Deb borrowed Bill’s kayak to come in 2nd overall in Sea Kayak and win K1 Sea Kayak Woman.   Tom Thomas, Dave Hendricks, and Ted Beatty filled out the middle of the C1 Man class, and the Gilman Duo of Guy and Sonja smoked all comers in C2 mixed.  Everyone set records at this race; Roger’s stopwatch got bumped on the way down from the start to the finish, losing the time in the process, so Roger graciously gave us optimistic times.  He needs a raise…

The weather cooled down for the afternoon race, but the race heated up with a climactic battle between Jim Anderson and Ted Beatty in a C2 Pro boat and the Gilmans and the Kanosts in a C4 Standard boat.  The Pro boat took the honors, but the war canoe wasn’t far behind.  All in all a great way to end the day!  We followed the races with our Spring USCA meeting, then most of the attendees headed to the Oakdale Dam Inn for a meal, because we all like to hear ourselves ordering a “Dam Burger”. 

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