I was very lucky to paddle the Whitewood race with Mike Vincent, one of the best stern paddlers in Canada (and elsewhere?) Luckily, Mike is patient and takes a pedagological approach to paddling in these local races, so I got a lot of coaching and feedback, as well as a lot of strategic lessons. Mike’s philosophy is more to stay and play rather that go out in front and spend 2 hours paddling alone. It was better for me to learn, and gave his wife Fiona (paddling with Bill from Manitoba) a chance to wash ride and (hopefully) get second place.
Graham and Art led most of the first half of the race with us washriding. They were really fast, but tipped on one of the rapids and had trouble getting in quickly. We waited a bit, but the other boats caught up and we had to move. Graham and Art spent the rest of the race making up ground, enough to get 4th place in the race.
The twisting river made for lots of opportunities to ride eddies, pass people, washride, bump up (and into) sandbars. We took a shortcut or two, and hit the shore a few times (all my fault for not keeping the bow out better – live and learn). Mike was strong enough and wiley enough to help us recover from that and pass the boats that passed us during our ‘shore leave’. We ended up passing the last boat with 10-15min left in the race, and were comfortably ahead crossing the line.
I was pretty tired after the race, but had a good stretch and visit with all the paddlers before getting in the car for a 5-hour ride home. Graham will race this coming weekend with Canadian godfather of marathon canoeing Ron Williams at the Ski to Sea race in Bellingham on the Nooksack River, which is currently pretty swollen with snowmelt. Saskatoon paddlers Ivan and Trevor will also race, it should be quite a battle. It is a relay race so you don’t always get to start with the other fast boats and you need to treat it like a time trial. Good Luck Graham!