For the last two weeks, avid paddlers have eased into their competitive seasons with user-friendly races on a pair of local rivers.
The honeymoon is over.
This weekend features a full slate of races that will present those racers with bigger, badder obstacles, while also offering a couple of legal ways to avoid the nastiest drops on both Souadabscook Stream in Hampden and Marsh Stream in Frankfort.
The weekend’s schedule: Saturday, the 2nd annual Eliot Lamb Memorial Souadabscook Stream Race starts at noon. Registration begins at 10 a.m. at the put-in on Bog Road. Sunday: Marsh Stream Sprints start at 10 a.m., with registration from 9 until 9:30 a.m. at the Winterport Snowmobile Club. Downriver race begins at 12:30 p.m., and registration must be completed by noon.
J.D. Burke, the race director of the Souadabscook Stream Race, said the race presents new challenges to participants.
“It’s got multiple drops in a row, and they’re usually a steeper ledge drop with very little room for error. Usually, most drops you can run it in a couple of places and be OK, but some of the ones on the Souadabscook you’ve got to hit it in just the right spot or you’re swimming with the fishes,” Burke said.
In addition, paddlers will have to test out their foot speed for the first time all season.
“This is the first race with a portage. So you paddle for five miles or so, then you’ve got to get your legs going and run a quarter of a mile around a couple of drops, and then get your arms going again,” Burke said.
And to top it all off, the Souadabscook’s format guarantees that paddlers will have some great head-to-head competition.
“This race is always run with a mass start by class. The two earlier races are two boats starting every minute, so you don’t know where your competition, Burke explained. In this one, you start with your competition, and you’re neck and neck the whole way, hopefully.”
Both the Souadabscook and the Marsh Stream races have changed a bit over the last few years, and each now offers an option for paddlers that might be intimidated by the bigger rapids: Don’t run them.
“What we’ve had the last few years is we’ve had a short race [as an option for paddlers, in addition to the full-length race]. It’s only about four miles, takes you through flatwater, through some ripples, a couple of small drops, and it stops above Manning Mill.”
Bill Deighan, the race director of the Marsh Stream races, said Sunday’s action will take place on a pretty formidable piece of water.
“One of the things that makes it a great race is it’s got some stretches that have some continuous stretches of Class I and II whitewater, and in the final mile it’s got some Class III and Class III-plus,” Deighan said. “It’s got whitewater on it that’s national-caliber-type drops,” Deighan said. “And the Souey is similar to that. They’ve both got a little more extreme whitewater than the other races on the circuit.”
The sprint races are about a mile long, while the two downriver courses are 5 and 6.3 miles long, respectively.
“[The short course] leaves out the last mile, where the biggest drops are. There’s one class II-plus drop called snowmobile, and it’s still in the short course, but there’s a portage route around the right side. Anybody who feels like they don’t want to go through that doesn’t have to,” Deighan said.
The end result: Races that will suit most avid paddlers.
“So we have a course there that suits anybody who’s proficient in a canoe,” Deighan said. “It wouldn’t be an ideal place for someone who’s a total beginner to go, but anybody who knows their way around a canoe and who likes to paddle a little whitewater now and again would be able to enjoy the short course.”
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