Wildcat Creek Race 6.3.17 Lafayette, IN
Terry Pontius may get nominated as the host of all remaining races for 2017; so far he’s the only one able to pull off a race this year and he has darn fine weather and water for each one! Wildcat is arguably the most interesting race on the circuit, but it’s also a wild card – too little rain and it drains quickly. Too much and water levels could be problematic. And most years we seem to have a storm in the middle of the race. But this year water levels and the weather were both about as good as one could desire for the Wildcat.
Terry’s reputation having preceded him, the parks we normally use for the Wildcat race blocked him out. Not being one to take no for an answer, Terry simply adjusted the course a bit and created an even better run. Our new start was a little further downstream than usual, with the finish line just on the front edge of Lafayette for a total distance of 9.5 miles. Morning and afternoon races both ran the same course. Everyone seemed to find their way to the new start ok – or almost. Matt Conrad appeared to get a bit mixed up on where he needed to be and ended up at the start location for the Wabash race. Thankfully we saw him go by during the shuttle and Roger managed to track Matt down during a timing lull and bring him back to the proper launch spot.
Lining up and drifting down beneath the bridge at the start, we hit the water hard at sound of Roger’s “Go!” only to descend into confusion and anarchy right off the bat; a canoe wake pushed Tom Thomas’ C1 against the stern of Bill Kanost’s C1, sending Bill careening across the river to the right, blocking off me and a few other paddlers. Though it was claimed to be an accident, I’m leaning towards a conspiracy theory by the C1 paddlers on this one. They’re a hard-core competitive bunch. This was demonstrated again in short order as Bill worked to cut me off shortly thereafter as we both turned towards a channel through the first rock/riffle set. No problem, there’s a lot of creek left to pass. As we continued down the Wildcat, we were treated to the stunning scenery of this wooded creek at every turn – and there were a lot of turns. The Wildcat is a rather technical paddle, presenting the paddler with shallows, boulders, riffles, eddies, rapids large enough to pour water into the boat, turns where the current seeks to sweep the unwary into trees jutting into the water, and numerous opportunities to select wisely – or not – the proper course as the water split around small islands or ran through rocky shallows. In other words, about as much fun as you can have paddling!
Bill and I duked it out all along the course, each seeking to gain advantage through (hopefully) keen river reading skills, often taking different lines around island or through shallows. At one point Bill, who was behind, began moving up rapidly and coming around me when I realized he was picking up some pretty good current a little further out in the curve. But as I started to move over it expired and returned the advantage to my boat. But there came a point where we had to work together. It seems that Terry and Skeet “casually forgot” to mention that there was a split in the creek no one else knew about – a split that hadn’t been there before (prior flooding joined another creek to the Wildcat). Those guys will do anything to gain an advantage but it came back on Skeet’s head during his run. He managed to acquire the “swimmer” trophy, as he demonstrated a move that he knew would get you in trouble. Apparently he just wanted to prove the point. Deciding to switch lines coming up to a rapids, he had the canoe leaned when the lowered wing bumped a rock, bringing about instant refreshment and clear thinking.
At the split I had a sense that I would end up in Illinois like an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, popping up and saying “I must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque…” Bill and I discussed it for a moment, deciding that going left look liked the best option, and thankfully ended up eventually passing Roger’s waiting stop watch. Terry also told us there would only be two bridges but I counted at least 4. Still think there wasn’t a conspiracy?
Roaring across the finish line and setting new course records in the process [because it was a new course :)], we turned to see if anyone else was nearby. Wouldn’t you know it none other than Tom Thomas came charging in right behind us! Tom sure knows the secret to making a C1 boogie… He was back there the whole time, trying to reel in Bill, but Bill kept just out of reach. At least he was able to observe the lines we each took and figure the best option for himself!
I had a blast running Wildcat! Despite the warnings of the naysayers about running a long boat, the Stellar SEL ended up with just a few scratches on finish of bottom of boat and that over-stern rudder was a blessing in many of those tricky curves. I thinking I experienced more hazards going to and from the race: deer thinking about crossing the freeway, a truck/farm equipment collision, and big rig / small flat-bed trailer collision.
It was great to see a good number of our regular paddlers along with two recreational paddlers: Jack Baldwin and Lin Hoppel.
The afternoon races exhibited the skill of Matt Conrad in Sea Kayak, Terry and Skeet in a C2, and the aluminum crew of George and Hilman. Terry says Matt was just ahead of them during most of the race, looking back so frequently they wondered if he would get a sore neck. Each time they got close Matt would sprint ahead, but Terry and Skeet chose the better side going around the RR bridge near the end and managed to just take Matt. Matt is really getting strong and he put on quite a fight running with a C2.
Results are listed below.
2017 WILDCAT CANOE AND KAYAK RACES
C-1 Man 1st Bill Kanost 1:14:33
2nd Tom Thomas 1:15:54
3rd Terry Pontius 1:25:00
4th Skeet Craig 1:26:39
5th Dave Hendricks 1:26:45
K-1 OPEN 1st Steve Horney 1:14:19
K-1 Man Downriver 1st Brent Ernsberger 1:25:10
K-1 Woman Downriver 1st Wendy Brinson 1:30:22
C-1 Rec. Man 1st Jack Baldwin 1:26:49
C-1 Rec. Woman 1St Lin Hoppel 2:03:23
C-2 Alum 1st. George Tinsley 1:29:43
C-2 Cruising 1st. Skeet Craig 1:21:45
C-2 Alum 1st George Tinsley 1:35:14
K-1 Sea Kayak 1st Matt Conrad 1:22:05