There was no question about it: no one got cold at this year’s Wabash River races! Oh, it was pleasant enough on the drive over, with temps in the upper 60’s, but that was just nature’s way of deceiving you into making the drive with the anticipation of comfortable race conditions. The sun had other ideas… But we survived, and even thrived – but not without the assistance of shade wherever we could find it and a cooling wind on the return trip! Sometimes a head wind is welcome.
This year’s course was our “classic” course: we headed north/upstream from the Mascoutin Park ramp, under the Sagamore Parkway bridge (which was blocked the last year or two), and up to the island roughly 3 miles north of the park. Once around the island, and back to the ramp. Easy enough. But the Wabash never lets you have it perfectly easy. The river was deep enough this year that running close to the shore wasn’t too hazardous, but there were a few logs and such hiding below the surface just waiting to grab a paddle or possibly bump a rudder. Or grab a C2; but more on that in a moment.
In the morning races, at the word “GO!”, we had a notable difference of opinion on the preferred side of the river for the northern trek; Terry Pontius and the Gilman duo opted to hug the left shore, while the rest of us clung to the right. I’m not sure what attraction the left shore posed for that gang, but ultimately the right side was shown to be the superior side for tackling the Wabash. Maybe some of it had to do with shallows and currents, but the biggest advantage: Shade!!! Trees along the right side provided significant shade from the morning sun and that in and of itself was a decided advantage.
C1 masters Bill Kanost and Ted Beatty engaged in a hard-fought battle that put them in an insurmountable lead early on. Ted was leading around the island, but Bill reeled him in on the way back and reminded him who is boss. Meanwhile Skeet Craig (back from some medical issues and paddling very powerfully!) and I ran side-by-side for quite a while, with the Gilman duo and Terry Pontius hanging tough on the other side of the river. A little further back Betsy Arnold was once again in her downriver kayak, and Paul Dilts joined us (also in downriver) after a 14 year absence from racing! George and Hilman were faithfully bringing up the rear, maximizing their hours/dollar race ratio.
I eventually pulled past Skeet, but meanwhile the Gilmans had crossed over and were working with Skeet just a short distance back. Coming into the island, we found the current to be quite a challenge; trees across the river and debris along the sides meant you had to face the current directly in the middle of the channel for much of it, only to be greeted with an exceptionally large shallow (and fast current) zone at the top of the island. Skeet and the Gilmans opted to cut across the shallows, while I took the longer route. That brought Skeet alongside me once again, with the Gilmans coming in close behind. And from there it was a long sprint to the end, working hard to stay just ahead of those two. The persistent sounds of “hut, hut, hut” from the rear provided a significant level of motivation!
Names and faces switched around in the afternoon, but this time all competitors opted to head upstream on the right side of the river. Now in my ruggedized surf ski, I opted to run closer to the shore than I did in the morning. For the most part that worked ok; I kept a loose grip on the paddle for those times it hit a log or something and I had something in the water cause my boat to slide over a few inches at one point, but the biggest potential challenge was a log at the entrance to the island channel. Coming into the channel I suddenly found myself sliding across the top of a log, with annoyance building around the thought that I might be grounded in a moment, killing off my lead. But thankfully the boat just managed to slide over the log. The C2 teams of Ted Beatty/Guy Gilman and Bill Kanost/Terry Pontius weren’t so lucky; both of them ground out and had to exit their boats to get going again. Bill Kanost said Terry Pontius literally popped back in the boat, right into his seat, ready to take another stroke, as if he were a young, spry athlete!
We had the fun of catching and passing a number of rafters on the return trip, along with the challenge of negotiating some boat wakes. Two of our “races within the race” resulted in amazingly close finishes: Larry Swift just got edged out by the C2 team of Kanost/Pontius; it looked like Larry might catch them for a moment at the end. Then Lori Blaylock and Roger Crisp ended up dueling it out to the finish, with Roger just edging out Lori. Sadly, no one got a photo of those finishes… Matt Conrad and Deb Kanost put in great times in their Sea Kayak classes, and the faithful team of George Tinsley and Hilman Culp once again dominated the C2 Aluminum class.
The river was at 4.4 feet and approximately 90 degrees in the pm races.
After the race several of us went to the 9 Irish Brothers pub for a great meal and some great post-race fellowship. Many thanks to Terry Pontius for putting on a great race!
2019 Wabash River Canoe & Kayak Races Results
1st Bill Kanost 55:46
2nd Ted Beaty 57:18
3rd Skeet Craig 1:02:06
4th Terry Pontius 1:05:18
1st Betsy Arnold 1:04:37
2nd Paul Dilts 1:07:25
1st Steve Horney 1:00:01
1st Sonja Gilman 1:00:25 Guy Gilman
1st George Tinsley 1:15:23
Sea Kayak Man
1st Larry Swift 58:50
2nd Matt Conrad 1:03:01
3rd Roger Crisp 1:05:40
Sea Kayak Woman1st Deb Kanost 1:03:41
2nd Lorie Blaylock 1:05:41
1st Steve Horney 55:00
1st Ted Beaty 57:20
2nd Bill Kanost 58:49
1st George Tinsley 1:13:35