Organizers, paddlers negotiate high, fast water during Souadabscook Stream Race

Posted April 13, 2014, at 3:59 p.m.

There was no issue with low water this year for the 39th annual Souadabscook Stream Race in Hampden.

Instead, the levels were so high, and fast in the whitewater sections, that race co-director Rick O’Donald had to make some adjustments.

“I’ve been running that river for about 30 years. I know I’ve seen it that high, but it’s been a long, long time. It was just boiling,” O’Donald said.

The downriver race was shortened to about five miles, while officials also conducted a short-course race to accommodate the less-experienced paddlers.

“We stopped it right after Emerson Mill Bridge,” O’Donald said. “I didn’t want to flush anybody down over the falls.”

When all was said and done, paddlers in 35 craft had negotiated at least the respective courses on a gorgeous spring day that featured temperatures in the upper 50s.

Shortly after the start at Vafiades Landing, paddlers this year encountered a diversion from the normal race route. Instead of cutting across Hammond Pond, which was still iced in, racers followed an improvised path.

“We couldn’t go through the pond, so we had to go about a mile through the trees,” said O’Donald, who explained that was possible because the water had flooded up into the trees in that area.

“That was kind of cool. I blazed a trail and put some ribbon in the trees and you had a path right out through the forest,” he added.

O’Donald said the only difficulty with that arrangement was that because of the mass start, paddlers sometimes converged on the entrance to the path at the same time, creating some bottlenecks.

The overall winner of the Souadabscook downriver race was Hank Thornburn, who finished in 29 minutes, 52 seconds competing in the K1 Long Racing classification.

Jeff Owen and Kailey Schimidt, winners of the OC2 Mixed Recreational division, were second overall in 30:10, while Clayton Cole and Justin Wardwell clocked a 30:11 to claim top honors in the OC2 Medium Racing classification.

The Souadabscook short course title went to Terry Wescott and Ander Thebaud, who stopped the timer in 28:00 and claimed the OC2 Mixed Rec division. Nathan Hayes and Ryan Hayes (OC2 Short Racing) placed second in 28:43, while John Carter (K1 Short) took third in 28:53.

“There were a lot of spectators on the bridge, the crowd was out,” O’Donald said of Saturday’s welcome spring weather. “People have been cooped up so long this winter, they’re just glad to get outside.”

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