St. Joe River, Three Rivers Fest, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USCA, paddling, paddlers, racing, canoe, kayak, race, United States Canoe Association, Steve Horney, river, flat water
Saturday dawned…well, cloudy and cool.  Even foggy in some areas.  But it warmed up quickly, and by the start of the Three Rivers Festival Canoe & Kayak races the temps were moving into the upper 70’s and the sun was shining brightly.  The raft race, a long revered tradition of the festival was declared “canceled” due to high water levels earlier in the week, but by our Saturday launch the water levels had returned to their normal range.  The current was sufficient to increase the upstream workload a bit and to give some “braggin’ rights” on downstream speed, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary.  With all the other traffic off the river we essentially had our own race course.  It was a welcome change, not having to joust with DNR power boats, air boats, and other tourists.  Just one lonely rower jointly occupied the waterways at the time of our event.  On terra firma we had some very encouraging supporters who cheered us on, even going to the bridge at the confluence to root for us.  Somehow having someone watching and cheering for you seems to bring out just that extra little bit of performance…
 
We had 2 recreational paddlers join us, both in 10 ft kayaks.  Sue found she needed to go a little easier Saturday and opted to changed her classification mid-race, giving us 3 rec paddlers by the end of the races.  One of the new rec paddlers, a young gal by the name of Liesl, had a very good high angle stroke and a lot of enthusiasm.  Hampered primarily by the heavy, draggy kayak that she rented for the race, she could really excel as a paddler down the road with a good boat and paddle.  
 
Rec racers were started on their 5.2 mile course about 5 minutes prior to the USCA racers departing on their 7.8 mile journey.  The plan was to have everyone finish fairly closely so no one would be hanging around a long time waiting on awards.  It all worked surprisingly well, and we had the excitement of watching 4 boats finishing closely at the end. 
 
Rec racers made a beeline down the St. Joe to the confluence of the three rivers, turned around the St. Joe Blvd Bridge, and returned.  USCA racers followed the same initial course, but continued onto the Maumee and then back up and onto the St. Mary before returning back to the confluence and upstream to the boat launch.  Overall the river was clear, but a log part way across the St. Mary River by the old fort squeezed paddlers into half the river and almost caused a collision between Lori Blaylock and Ted Beatty.  Probably texting while paddling…
 
Most of the race thrills came from the “races within the race”.  Out front, the C2 Mixed team of Guy and Sonja battled it out with Bill Kanost for the better part of the course, until the Gilman team went wide in the river bend after passing the fort, thinking a structure off to the side was the next bridge.  Bill saw his chance, grabbed the lead, and refused to relinquish it to the end.  At the opposite end of the race Noel Schutt wisely tucked into the draft of the Tinsley/Culp C2 Aluminum and rode it almost to the end.  Shortly before the finish line Noel made the jump to the lead, but as he did so he got pushed into the aluminum boat by an eddy off the bridge pylon, bumping the aluminum boat and sending it off in a different direction.  That irked George a bit, but they recovered and pulled it on in nicely.  In fact, the end of the race looked pretty cool as Noel and Tinsley/Culp arrived at the same time as the recreational paddlers, giving us a 4-boat scramble to the end. 
 
Brent Ernsberger borrowed Sue Payne’s Epic 18X and made that boat run, pulling in a nice 4th place finish overall, even edging out Ted Beatty’s C1. Poor Ted had originally planned to put the hurt on me with his downriver boat, but he capitulated to the threats and peer pressure of Matt Meersman and Bill Kanost, opting to paddle C1 instead.  He hung with Bill for the first mile, but the going got rougher after that.  He still did a fine job with the C1, but Bill was just too strong for almost anyone to hang with.  Skeet Craig added to the gaggle of C1’s in the race, pouring his heart into it.  His comment at the end was “That hurt!”, but he still paddled powerfully, running neck and neck with Matt Conrad. 
 
Speaking of Matt, I noticed he seemed to be running slower than usual – typically he’s a real powerhouse.  Apparently he had significant cramping during the race that took its toll on his performance.  Nevertheless he had a huge smile when he found out he still took first in Sea Kayak!    
 
Deb Kanost continues to refine her kayak stroke, and her smooth performance really shows with another first place in Woman Sea Kayak.  Lori was only a minute behind, but she was hampered by foam block issues.  Attempting to change her seat arrangement to keep her body further forward but lower, she moved some of the foam blocks in the boat, only to find they shifted while she was racing.  It’s tough to perform your best when your seat/comfort/balance are out of whack, but she definitely made the best of it and showed her tremendous paddling skill in still making the boat run well.
 
Roger was back “looking good” and getting ever more competitive in his strip wood kayak.  Roger said that he found the only way to really get into race shape is to “race into shape”.  It’s just too hard to get in shape paddling on your own! 
 
Many thanks to Brian Goff for helping with timing and photos, to Lori for the use of her tent, to George Tinsley and Hilman Culp Jr for helping me set up, and to Roger for all his help getting things taken down and put away.  And especially to my lovely wife for her help with timing, awards, and all the details that I would have forgotten.  A tough day on the water (or in the registration tent) demands a solid recovery meal.  Roger, Julie, and I accomplished that mission with giant burgers and fries at the local 5 Guys restaurant, where Roger entertained us with great stories from past paddling adventures.  Not a bad way to end another day of racing!
 

Placements and Times:

USCA Points Race (7.8 mile course)
 
K1 Open
                1st           Steven Horney                  1:12:08
                2nd          Brent Ernsberger             1:19:10
                3rd           Roger Crisp                       1:27:40
 
K1 Man Sea Kayak
                1st           Matt Conrad                       1:26:56
 
K1 Woman Sea Kayak
                1st           Deb Kanost                        1:22:15
                2nd           Lori Blaylock                    1:23:20
 
C1 Man
                1st           Bill Kanost                          1:14:19
                2nd          Ted Beatty                          1:20:13
                3rd           Skeet Craig                         1:26:14
                4th           Noel Schutt                        1:32:45
 
C2 Mixed
                1st           Guy Gilman / Sonja Gilman                         1:15:02
 
C2 Aluminum
                1st           George Tinsley / Hilman Culp Jr.               1:32:54
 
Recreational (5.2 mile course)
                1st           Susan Douglas                   1:28:39
                2nd          Liesl Muehlhauser            1:38:29

                3rd        Brent Stryker                     1:38:50

About River Bear Racing

Surf ski and kayak racing form a huge part of my life; as soon as the water is open in the Midwest, I'm on it 'till it freezes over again! Follow the aquatic adventure with the latest boats and equipment from Stellar Kayaks and Mocke Paddling Products. See you on the water! Steve ;)

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