Bridge to Bridge Race, Bristol, IN 8.29.2020

Brent must have behaved himself extra well, because the Almighty blessed us with an almost incomparably excellent day for racing.  Temps were in the low 70’s, the air was drier, and the skies were deep blue with enough puffy white clouds to keep the direct sun at bay. A nice breeze (which could also work for or against you during the race) was just a bonus!  Compared to the hot, muggy weather the day before, this was awesome.  Water levels were low, but passable, and plenty of weeds kept things interesting. 

But aside from the weather, this race had another interesting aspect: The Return of the Aged Kayakers.  While Bill and Ted stuck to their single-bladed conveyances, Guy, Sonja and I all returned to our roots and pulled out various forms of double-bladed paddle craft for the noon races.  All of us had been racing canoes for quite some time due to shoulder issues and such, but it seems we all decided that this race was short enough and the water conditions appropriate enough for a return to our kayaks.  We also had a couple of recreational canoeists try their hand at racing.  I didn’t have a chance to meet them, but Brandy and Dylan put forth a great effort.  Apparently at some point they decided it was a bit more than they were up for, and called it in early, but they still put in a solid lap.  

I wasn’t there for the morning races, but I understand the Gilman Team and the Beatty/Harrington Team had a good match going early on.  Apparently the Gilman’s switched sides of the river along the way, only to find the winds more challenging on their chosen side, and the shallow waters favored the very light Beatty/Harrington team such that Ted and Kelly moved ahead to clinch the morning title.  

A fairly strong current coupled with a fairly stout wind made lining up interesting for the noon races.  Typically we line up and wait for the noon firehouse whistle, which can vary by plus or minus 5 minutes or so.  Trying to hold position during that period was an effort in futility; as some of us moved to regain our positions we only hoped the whistle wouldn’t go off while we were pointed the wrong way or behind the gang.  As it turned out, Brent’s daughter and son-in-law decided to just send us off at noon, since the whistle seemed to be delayed.  They actually called out “Go!” twice, since we were surprised by the call and weren’t sure whether to head out or not.  But we got going on the second call and then heard the whistle blow just shortly after we got started.

Unlike the Wabash Race, I was in a very favorable position at the front as we started – and I laid into my paddle with hopes of reaching the first down-stream bridge turn at the head of the pack. My surf ski has the turning radius of an aircraft carrier and I didn’t want to get caught behind other boats at the tight approach to the turn.  Wish fulfilled, I headed upstream running well, taking the left side and then as I approached the shallows and weed bed, switching to the right side per Brent’s recommendation.  Meanwhile Bill and Ted were paddling hard and staying on the left side the whole time.  That turned out to be a fortuitous decision for them, for by the time I moved back over Bill was in the lead and Ted and I were running together behind him, hoping to catch up.  

Ted and I weren’t closing the gap on Bill, but then Bill made a strategic mistake.  North of the second bridge there’s a spot where the river widens significantly.  I’m not the best at reading rivers, but I know the formula Q=Av, where Q= flow rate, A=cross sectional area, and v=velocity of the flow; i.e. the current velocity drops in half when the area doubles.  Bill opted to stay close to shore.  I chose to shoot straight across instead, significantly shortening the distance while the current was weaker.  Ted decided to follow Bill’s route. The end result was I ended up right on Bill’s wake while Ted lost ground.  And so I hung with Bill the rest of the way up and most of the way back down.  I lost a little distance in the weed bed, but stayed close enough that Bill was blocking me at the downstream bridge turn.  Heading back upstream for lap 2, I was a little behind Bill, but then I made a strategic blunder and crossed over to the right side of the river, hoping if I got close enough to shore it would keep me out of the wind and that being on that side would give me an advantage by keeping me out of the weed bed.  Bill continued straight, and by the time I realized I was losing ground and crossed back to the left side I was further behind.  And so we stayed roughly in that position the rest of the race, with Bill leading and not about to back off, followed by me vainly trying to reel him in, then Ted, and Guy Gilman running close behind Ted.  

I didn’t see much of what happened otherwise in the race, but Matt Conrad told me he lost some time when he had to stop and go back to retrieve his hat when it blew off, and Guy stopped for a moment to help Sonja clear weeds from the bow of her boat. One surprise of the day was watching Deb Kanost come in just ahead of Sonja and just behind Brent; Deb has been putting in the work, and it really shows.  Lori Schaffer was back racing again, doing a great job propelling her bright orange S18S through the course, and Roger paddled a really good, clean race as well.  Thankfully the cooler weather ensured no one had any heat issues.  On the downside, Lori apparently dropped some cash at a gas station on the way up and it was gone by the time she was able to get back and see if anyone turned it in.

Following a great day of racing, several of us headed to the Mottville restaurant for some burgers and swapping old racing stories before heading home.  Speaking of heading home, I saw an Amish buggy going down the road with a pair of plastic kayaks strapped to the bed of the buggy.  First time I’ve seen that!  

Many thanks to Brent for putting on a great race, and for his daughter Tori and her husband (and his wife Michelle) for timing the race.  Results are listed below.

Morning Races

2 Laps @ 2 miles each; 4 miles total

C2 Mixed                                        Lap 1        Lap 2     Total

1    Ted Beatty & Kelly Harrington     22:25     21:24     43:49
2     Guy Gilman & Sonja Gilman      23:16     23:32     46:48

Noon Races

1st Lap 4 miles, 2nd lap 2 miles; 6 miles total

C-1 Man
1   Bill Kanost     37:36     21:19      58:55    Course Record
2   Ted Beatty     38:46     22:59      1:01:05

K1 Sea Kayak Man
1    Matt Conrad     42:56     25:09    1:07:25
2    Roger Crisp     45:04     27:04     1:12:08

K1 Sea Kayak Woman
1    Deb Kanost        42:06     23:36    1:05:42
2    Lori Blaylock      45:20     26:26    1:11:46

K1 Open
1    Steve Horney       37:44     22:01     59:45
2    Guy Gilman          39:24     22:10     1:01:34
3    Brent Ernsberger  41:36    23:51      1:05:27
4    Sonja Gilman        41:40    24:27      1:06:07

C2 Mixed Recreational (non points)
Brandy & Dylan        59:24     DNF

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