May 27, 2019
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Warmer weather to greet paddlers at Souadabscook and Marsh stream canoe races

File | BDN
File | BDN
Paddlers make their way downriver at the start of the 2017 Souadabscook Stream canoe race in Hampden. This year's event will be held on Saturday.

Kayakers and canoeists will be welcomed by more comfortable temperatures this weekend when back-to-back races on the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization schedule will be held.

The third annual Eliot Lamb Memorial Souadabscook Stream Race will be held beginning at noon Saturday in Hampden, and Sunday will feature the 25th annual Marsh Stream Sprints and Downriver Race, which originates in Frankfort-Winterport.

The Marsh Stream sprints begin at 9:30 a.m., and the two downriver races will start at 12:30 p.m.

Both race directors said the water conditions will be favorable for the competitors.

“It’s going to be an ideal level. It isn’t going to be crazy high,” Marsh Stream race director Bill Deighan said. “I’m glad we got the snow. The stream had been dropping early in the week, and if we didn’t get the snow, combined with the warm temperatures coming at the end of the week, it might have been too low.”

“It won’t be too high or two shallow. It will be normal,” Souadabscook race director J.D. Burke said. “It won’t be as fast as it has been in years past.”

Burke said having temperatures predicted to be in the 50s and 60s is “really nice.”

“It’s usually 30 or 40 degrees,” Burke said.

However, he said the snow can have a negative impact because it reminds paddlers of winter rather than spring.

“It can put people off,” Burke said. “They’ll start thinking about skiing again.”

Both events offer multiple races.

The Souadabscook features a 7.5-mile race and a shorter one that is 3.5 miles long. The latter is designed to enable less experienced racers or those with children to avoid the big (Class III or Class IV) drops.

“We don’t want them to worry about swimming,” said Burke, who said half the racers do the long course and the other half choose the shorter course.

The Marsh Stream race has sprint races that involve a course that is a little less than a mile, and downriver races that feature a 6.3-mile circuit and another that is 5.2 miles. The 5.2-miler is safer because competitors are dealing with Class I and Class II whitewater instead of level two and three, which is offered on the longer course.

Deighan said if the water reaches Class III on the shorter course, competitors can elect to portage.

Having races on back-to-back days can be both a positive and a negative. The negative is some racers will decide to run just one of them.

But Burke pointed out that “we have people from southern Maine and out of state, and they like being able to come up here and run two races in a weekend. They’ll stay with friends and make a whole weekend out of it.”

Deighan said having the Marsh race in April gives them a better chance to have good water conditions.

“We used to have it in May and, a couple of years, we had no water,” Deighan said.

Both races require helmets, and Deighan recommended that racers put air bags or tire inner tubes in their boats so it makes it easier to retrieve them if they dump.

Harpswell’s Hank Thorburn was the Souadabscook winner a year ago with a time of 1 hour, 37 seconds competing in the Kayak-1 Men’s Long class. The fastest canoeists were Justin Wardwell of Dedham and Clayton Cole of Corinth (1:01:21) in the OC-2 Medium class.

At the Marsh Stream race last year, Ben Randall of Sabattus won the sprint (6:22) and the long-course events (45:02), and Cole and Wardwell were the top canoeists (48:55).

Levant’s Dan Baumert won the short-course races at each.

Randall has won the first two races of this season: the 40th annual St. George River Race and the 46th Passagassawakeag River Race, with Thorburn finishing second.

The Lamb race is named after Orono’s Eliot Lamb, an avid kayaker and canoeist who died in a work accident.

The Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society is volunteering to handle the safety and rescue at the Marsh Stream races but has asked that a $500 donation be made to the Make-a-Wish Foundation for children with critical illnesses.

Registration for the Lamb races is from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the put-in on the Bog Road in Hampden. The registration fee is $20.

Registration for the Marsh Stream races will be from 8 to 9 a.m. for the sprints and 11 a.m. to noon for the downriver races at the Winterport Snowmobile Club. The fee is $20 for either the sprint or a downriver race, and $25 if a paddler wants to do both the sprint and a downriver race.



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