We went round and round and round… But we had a heck of a good time on a great course!
This year’s USCA Nationals took place in Syracuse, NY in the canal waters adjoining Lake Onondaga. Using a “Y” shaped course with a large island at the intersection of the legs, the sponsors set up a course that was very spectator friendly, with plenty of turns. Overall the water was pretty calm and reasonably deep (no real shallows, anyway), but there were some weedy areas ready to snag those who failed to heed the admonition to “go weedless” on their rudders, not to mention their recreational choices…
Contestants started at the base of the island, traveled down the canal in front of the spectators, made a buoy turn, headed back up to the island and headed right to the next buoy. Rounding that buoy, paddlers headed back and across the top of the island to the opposite arm of the “Y” and upstream to another buoy. Rounding that buoy, paddlers returned to the island and back down the base leg to the turn buoy in front of spectators. Then it was lather/rinse/repeat. Or at least repeat the course, finishing in front of the crowd (except the short courses were one loop or less). With a huge field of contestants this year, the action was intense at times. In a few very tight races with competitors bunched tightly at the buoys, some competitors were forced onto the wrong side of the buoys, necessitating a return to the buoy to round it correctly. You know that hurt in a tight race!
While some areas south of Syracuse experienced some heavy rains (as in where I was tent camping…), the Nationals course stayed dry and usually sunny for the duration of the Nationals. Temps would get into the low 80’s during the day, but down to the low 60’s/upper 50’s as night (good tent sleeping weather).
The Massachusetts Nationals two years ago was the largest I had seen in my time in the USCA, but I think the NY Nationals may have beat them out. I haven’t seen the numbers, but there were lots of boats and paddlers at this Nationals, in all classes (except SUP), and some very tough competition! Only 4 paddlers from Indiana participated, but we covered several boat types and came back with some nice medals.
I raced OC1 on Friday, with a field of 9 OC1 Man participants. Lining up below the island, we charged out hard as the gun went off. Two paddlers quickly pulled ahead, with a group of us behind them and the rest scattered further back. Coming to the first turn buoy, I had to slow because of the two guys ahead me, as the guy on the inside couldn’t seem to turn very well. As soon as he cleared, I cut the turn tightly and charged ahead into 4th place, with the goal over overtaking 3rd. Mr. Can’t Turn tagged onto my wake and followed me to the next turn buoy, where I out-turned him again and hoped I could lose him. No such luck; he caught back up and stuck on my wake again. Gradually closing on 3rd place, I finally got within a boat length when the guy behind me sprints around me and locks in on the guy ahead of us. I tag onto his wake, now hoping for a bit of a break. That worked for a short time, but then he sprints around the lead guy and they both start pushing. After the work of trying to catch up, I wasn’t in much shape to sprint hard, and they pulled ahead. It turns out the guy who was waking me was a much younger guy just saving his energy until I pulled him closer to the next boat. It was one of those situations where I didn’t have enough age and treachery to overcome youth and vitality… The rest of the race I attempted to ride some wakes to catch back up, but nothing worked out too well and I had to settle for 5th.
My SUP race on Sunday was another matter; I absolutely smoked the field; I never even saw them! Of course, it’s entirely possible that’s because I was in a field of 1… J For the SUP short course, they sent me the opposite direction at the start of the race, cutting a mile off the 6.4 mile loop (short courses were generally a single loop, while the standard course was 2 loops). The start of my race was a lonely event, but with the advantage of calm water – until the buoy judges came by in powerboats. I dropped to my knees as one of them passed with a rather large wake, but kept paddling. Eventually other canoes and kayaks caught up and we had some fun encouraging one another as I occasionally negotiated their wakes, sometimes trying to ride them. My SUP race was largely uneventful, but I did have a bit of a surprise going through a shallower area with lots of weeds. My skeg sheds weeds beautifully, but one weed plant was a bit more aggressive than most; it darn near brought my board to halt, nearly tossing me in the process!
I don’t know the particulars of the other races, but I did see Bill Kanost in an intense race for dominance in Sea Kayak Veteran 2 class, coming in second place by just 0.3 seconds! Tom Thomas and his partner Bob Allen were running neck and neck with Roland Muhlen and John McQueen (although they were in difference age classes), coming in just 0.9 seconds apart! And I watched Deb Kanost paddle to a very solid second place in Sea Kayak.
Some of the performances were truly awe-inspiring this year. In K2 Mixed, Mike Herbert and his daughter Savanah Herbert were so well synched that we thought it was an individual kayak coming down the river until they were fairly close and we could see the two paddlers. Their surf ski seemed to be practically skimming the surface as they passed by! And the top C2 mixed teams could make those canoes move in utterly remarkable ways – they would seemingly lift out of the water at every stroke! It was very cool to have so much action taking place in front of the spectators. All in all it was a very well run Nationals and some top-rate racing. Ya’ should’ve been there!
Indiana Nationals Placements:
Bob Allen / Tom Thomas 2nd C2 Men Grand Veteran 1
Steven Horney 5th OC1 Man
Bill Kanost 5th C1 Man Veteran 2
Tom Thomas 3rd C1 Man Grand Veteran 1
Bill Kanost 2nd Sea Kayak Man Veteran 1
Deb Kanost 2nd Sea Kayak Woman Veteran 1
Steve Horney 1st SUP Man