Recent rains and warm weather certainly made things wet and wild at the 36th annual Passagassawakeag River Race Saturday morning.
Kayaker Ray Wirth of Belfast emerged fastest among the 97 boats that started the race — 93 of which finished — covering the eight-mile course from Waldo to Belfast in 39 minutes, 4 seconds.
The two-man team of Mark Ranco of Carmel and Chris Francis of Levant took second overall in 40:06, followed by Aaron Cross of Norridgewock and Dan Wagner of Belfast (40:23), Bryan McCarthy of Hope (40:45) and Matt Dingle of Carmel and J.D. Burke of Newburgh (41:13).
Wirth made plenty of practice runs during the week, but that was before the area got a couple days of rain.
“It felt a little wild. The water level was at least a foot higher, faster; bigger waves, stronger current,” Wirth said.
However, those factors went on to produce some fast times, as Wirth’s winning effort was the fastest here since Kenny Cushman’s 38:05 in 2005.
Wirth last won this race in 2007 and finished second at the St. George river race March 28.
“I would say so,” he said. “Bigger water, it usually means a faster current, faster times.”
That doesn’t mean things weren’t a bit treacherous out on the water.
Not only did a number of paddlers take spills, but the water level was fairly high at the Poors Mills Road bridge about a mile into the race.
“If the water level had been a foot higher, [race organizers] might have had to think about [canceling the race],” Wirth said.
“I heard there were quite a few [spills] both from people doing the rescues and other paddlers.”
Wirth, who has run the Passy race “seven or eight times,” plans on competing in the Kenduskeag Stream race on April 18.
He and the other competitors had a number of standing waves to deal with.
“Standing waves, especially in a narrow kayak, can knock you off balance and could swamp a canoe,” Wirth said.
Ranco and Francis went on to capture the Open Canoe class while Cross and Wagner topped the OC2RM division while Dingle and Burke were second.
Other category winners were: Greg McMorrow of Thorndike and Bill Anderson of Morrill taking the Century Racing division in 41:29; Rick O’Donald of Newburgh and Paul Brown of Swanville at 42:48 in the Century Recreational division; Dan Flammini and Jason Cross of Winterport in 46:08 in the college division; and Leslie Gregory of Swanville in the women’s kayak division (52:20).
James Mabee of Bangor took the OC1 class in 43:59 and Joe Dana of Indian Island the Open Canoe Recreational class in 45:11.
Chris Deane of Canaan and John Goulet of Bradford emerged in the Open Canoe Junior/Senior 13 and over class in 43:37 with Chip Loring of Old Town and Ander Thibaud of Somesville triumphing in the OC Mixed Recreation class in 42:52.
Alan Paradise of Pittsfield, N.H., and Priscilla Reinertsen of Contoocook, N.H., won the OC2 Mixed class in 41:58; Brad Krog and Dawn Krog of Bowdoin took the OC2 class in 45:05.
Leslie Winchester of Bangor and Bronwyn Pierson of Dedham won the OC women’s class in 47:27 while Chris Simmons of Morrill and Cliff Littlefield of Waldo won the OC Whitewater class in 45:07.