Clear comfortable weather, a light breeze, a start that resembled herding cats, and race course confusion – at least for the noon races. Such was the character of the just revived Bridge-to-Bridge race. And it was a lot of fun!
Two couples faced off for the morning C2 races, with the Gilman gang edging out the Beatty bunch in some close racing. I didn’t personally see them race, but the times look pretty close.
In theory the noon race would have had all the racers lined up at the start, awaiting the noon firehouse whistle that serves as the starting gun. In practice, we were scatter hither and yon upstream and downstream of the start when the whistle blew roughly 5 minutes early! I happened to be well on the upstream side while Bill Kanost was well into the downstream side. This wasn’t looking good for me… Once we collected our wits and got going, everyone pulled pretty much together heading into the downstream bridge that served as our first pylon. I was one of the last to the bridge, and found my long surf ski had roughly the turning radius of the USS Enterprise. This was getting tougher. With Bill well into the lead, I was going to have to work my rear off if there was to be any possibility of catching him.
This segment of the St. Joe river presents some real challenges: lots of shallow suckwater, a fairly fast current, and plenty of weeds in certain locations. Taking the correct line can make all the difference in a race. Going upstream, I basically followed Bill’s line and gradually moved past the other racers until Bill was the last one to catch. But it wasn’t going to be easy. Years ago, racing Brent, I managed to gain on him at a section of the river where it widens significantly. Brent took the far left, while I cut straight across. This year Bill also went far left, so I cut across and managed some gain as well. Moving past the first island, the tollway bridge, and into the second island I continued to gain on Bill, but then we hit the top of the island, where racers were to turn around the island for the return trip. Here I met my next nemesis: weeds! ‘Ol Bill just rocketed right across them, and while my boat slid over them without any issues, it was a different story for my paddle. It seemed to snag every weed in existence. I could only watch Bill increasing his lead as I tangled with the recalcitrant weeds. Free of the weeds, I hoped for some serious downriver speed to catch that ornery C1, but much to my chagrin I found Bill seemed to move faster downstream than he did upstream (relative to me). This was getting tougher….
Part of the trickiness of the revived course was a stipulation that paddlers were to stay left of the islands and turn counterclockwise around bridge pilings. Bill missed the memo and went rocketing down the right side (and shorter side) of the islands, increasing his lead but not following the course. After a couple of us notified Bill of his error as he passed back upstream, he opted to go for a “fair finish” by waiting on me to arrive a couple hundred yards shy of the finish. As I pulled up next to him, we both broke into a sprint for the finish. I pulled ahead initially, but stayed on the left side of the river. Bill opted to head to the right side, where he found more favorable conditions and managed to pull off a win by 0.34 seconds! It was some great racing, and Bill definitely deserved it (I think he was faster overall on the course).
Bill and I weren’t the only close finishes: the Gilmans pulled ahead of Matt Conrad by just 0.67 seconds (Matt was really strong in this race); Deb Kanost nipped Brent Ernsberger by 15 seconds; and Roger Crisp edged out Lori Blaylock by just 0.49 seconds! We had a smaller group this time, but the racing was fun and first-rate! Then several of us capped off the morning with a hamburger run to Mottville.
Many thanks to the timers: Jan Streib in the morning and for the noon race Tim and Victoria Taylor (along with dogs Gizmo and Indie). And many thanks to Brent for resurrecting this fun race!
C 2 Mixed (5 Mile Bridge to Bridge Course)
1st Guy & Sonja Gilman 1st Lap 22:34 2nd Lap 22:40 Final 45:14
2nd Ted & Michelle Beatty 1st Lap 22:43 2nd Lap 23:01 Final 45:44
Noon Races (7 mile Course Fly Island & B 2 B)
C 1 Man 1st Bill Kanost 1st Lap 38:15 2nd Lap 24:26.67 Final 1:02:41.67
Open Kayak 1st Steve Horney 1st Lap 40:00 2nd Lap 22:42.01 Final 1:02:42.01
C 2 Mixed 1st Guy & Sonja Gilman 1st Lap 41:42 2nd Lap 23:17.32 Final 1:04:59.32
Sea Kayak Men 1st Matt Conrad 1st Lap 41:44 2nd Lap 23:20.99 Final 1:04:59.99
Sea Kayak Women 1st Deb Kanost 1st Lap 43:22 2nd Lap 24:55.12 Final 1:08:17.12
Downriver 1st Brent Ernsberger 1st Lap 44:19 2nd Lap 24:13.14 Final 1:08:32.14
Sea Kayak Men 2nd Roger Crisp 1st Lap 44:00 2nd Lap 25:48.53 Final 1:09:48.53
Sea Kayak Women 2nd Lori Blaylock 1st Lap 44:47 2nd Lap 25:02.02 Final 1:09:49.02