South Bend Race 9.21.19

Roger Crisp and his classic ’73 Volvo P1800

Conditions for our final race of the season were looking rather marginal this morning, as many of us made our way to the South Bend area under gloomy, rain-filled skies.  Two of our racers (Matt Meersman & Ted Beatty) were even crazy enough to strike out on the run with rain falling.  But not long after we arrived the rains let up, and we had what were really ideal conditions for a race: overcast skies (no sunscreen!), modest temps (mid to upper 60’s), and plenty of water!  

Every race seems to have its “boat character”, and this race was no different: it was canoes & sea kayaks day!  Matt Meersman and Kelly Harrington paddled C2 in the morning races, “violating” the race class times so they could run C4 in the afternoon, but otherwise everyone else was in a C1 (I was in an OC1, but it’s sort of the same…) or a sea kayak.  Terry Pontius graced us with his presence in C1 this morning, his first race outing since Mary Ann passed.  It was really great seeing him again!  Roger showed up in his classic ’73 Volvo P1800 (see photo), and pretty much stole the show.  We were hoping to see Lori Blaylock racing today, but ’twas not to be.  She was on “baby-waiting duty”, and her daughter had a beautiful baby in the wee hours of the morning (see photo).  I reminded her that had she been really committed, she still could have made it, but she seemed to feel that getting some actual sleep was a higher priority.

Heavy rain hit the South Bend area yesterday, providing plenty of high water to facilitate the trip around Kamm Island, along with the associated faster current and some eddies and such.  No waves, though (in the morning), as the power boaters seemed to be taking the morning off.

At the word “go”, we charged downstream from Veteran’s Memorial Park towards the walking bridge that serves as our turn point.  I charged out hard, matching Matt & Kelly, then locked onto their wake as I began to fade, and managed to stay in their draft all the way to the turn bridge, where I fell off the draft in the turn.  But riding the draft that far gave me a solid lead that made Bill work extra hard to catch me. 🙂  Heading upstream, Matt and Kelly poured on the coal and gradually moved further way, but Bill had to wait to catch me until we passed the start point.  As he passed, I locked onto his wake for a distance before I lost his wake in some funny water near the shore.  But I managed to keep pace going up to the island.  Meanwhile, Ted was just a short distance back and working on closing that distance with Paul Kane just behind him.  Coming into the island channel, it was nice having Bill in the lead as I watched him navigate the way and made certain to follow his path.  I had no problems going around the island, but I always seem to lose ground in the fast moving, shallow waters and this time was no exception.  Bill added some distance in the channel, and Ted managed to just catch the tail of my boat as I rounded the top of the island.  But now we were back in deeper water going downstream – a good place for the OC1 – and I managed to pull away from Ted.  I kept hoping to close the distance on Bill, but that wasn’t to be; I kept pace with him, but that was all I could do.  Up ahead of Bill, Matt and Kelly were keeping the boiler on full tilt, coming into the finish with a record time, beating the time set by Bruce and Roxanne Barton back in 2010!  Next the C1/OC1 canoes came in (Bill, myself, Ted, and Paul), all within roughly a minute and a half.  After a short pause, the Sea Kayak gang of Brent, Matt (Conrad), and Roger pulled in, all within less than a minute.  Another short pause and Deb and Terry come in just seconds apart.  We had some tight racing today!

For the afternoon racing, the Meersmans and Gilmans brought out their C4 weaponry and prepared to duel!  Some intense racing followed, with the Gilman crew putting a bit of hurt on the Meersman crew and edging them out by less than a minute.  Lacking a C4 seat, I opted to stand and paddled my SUP on the short course, utterly obliterating the competition. 😉  It would have been a fairly benign trip, except for the powerboat whizzing up and down the course.  Those wakes added a measure of interest to the course, but what’s a race without some challenge?

Following the race we had a great time of post-race food and fellowship at the Crooked Ewe.  

Many thanks to Matt and Danielle Meersman for putting on a great race!

That pretty well wraps up our race season.  We’re looking at having another fall BBQ sometime in the next few weeks, followed by our Fall meeting/pot luck on November 2nd.  It’s been another great race season!  Thank you all!


Matt’s comments and the link to the results are below:

Thanks to everyone who came out today for the 16th Annual St. Joe River Races. It was a wet n’ wild one with the rain and all the storms last night, but it was a great day on the river with friends. The results and course records are now posted on the event page here:

Friends of the St. Joe River Association, Inc – 16th Annual St. Joe River Races

With your support we raised about $200 for the Friends of the St. Joe River Association this year. I hope you all come back next year on September 26th for the 17th Annual St. Joe River Races.

Happy Paddling!

Matt Meersman

Grandma Lori!

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