APPLETON, Maine — Clear skies and chilly temperatures greeted the start of the state’s 2010 canoe and kayak racing season Saturday, with 112 watercraft participating in the 31st annual St. George River Race.
That marked the second straight field of more than 100 entries for this event, with 103 of the watercraft completing the six-mile route.
Competitors left two at a time a minute apart from the starting line in Searsmont Village for their waterborne journey to the finish at the Route 105 bridge in Appleton.
Just three seconds separated the top three finishers. Solo kayaker Ryan Linehan of Westport Island, who placed third here a year ago, won this year’s race in 41 minutes, 11 seconds. He was two seconds ahead of Belfast’s Ray Wirth, who finished second for the third straight year.
The two-person canoe entry of Barry and Lori Dana of Solon was third in 41:14, followed by kayaker Bryan McCarthy of Hope (42:14) in fourth and the canoe tandem of Aaron Cross and Dan Wagner of Morrill (42:44) in fifth.
Race organizers were concerned just a week ago with low water levels caused by a lack of late-winter rain or snow in the midcoast region and beyond.
But rain early this week then created concerns about overly high water, only to have that fear abate when the water level on the river dropped by two feet late in the week, leaving what race director Dale Cross of the Waldo County YMCA described as nearly ideal conditions for Saturday’s mix of competitive and recreational paddlers.
The Maine Canoe & Kayak Racing Organization schedule continues at 11 a.m. next Saturday with the 37th annual Passagassawakeag Stream Race, an eight-mile event that begins in Waldo. For more information on the Passy, call the Waldo County YMCA at 338-4598.