2008 Essex River Race – by Wesley Echols

What a turnout today for the Essex River Race!!! The most entrants ever according to Bill K., race director, and company. They did a fantastic job, organizing the race again this year. So thanks to Bill and everyone who helped put on the race. Also thanks to Andrew Binks who unfortunately could not make it today, for posting all the surfski races and more on Nesurfski.net

There were many more surfskis at this year’s race. The forecast for windy conditions never materialized. We settled for a small breeze and tiny chop and mega shallow water with many weeds. For those of you who could not make it to the race, here is a brief description from my mid pack position in the surfski division. Remember this is just my perspective!!!!

Cory Lancaster, Ken Cooper, myself, and Tim Dwyer in that order are all a in line for about a ¼ mile when Cory and Ken opened up a gap on Tim and I. It did not take long for this familiar duo to be well out in front of the rest of us. Tim and I paddle together for about another 1 mile or so and then in true Mike Tracy fashion, Mike comes from behind passing both us. I chided Mike before and afterwards at what point was he going to employ the come from behind tactic, the 1 mile mark or the 4 mile mark. He employed it early this year!!!! Meanwhile far up ahead I noticed Cory bearing left while Ken took an opposite tact by going right. Later Ken told me he caught back up to Cory at the Island. This was the last I saw of Ken and Cory. Ken finished 1st with Cory about 20-30 seconds behind if I remember correctly from the few seconds I was able to look at the director’s time sheet.

Shortly after Mike passed me and Tim and just before the island, who do we spot off to our right. None other than Jim Gilligan in his brand new Think Evo. Jim swore off for years getting a faster ski. He finally bit the bullet. Not that he really needed a faster ski. He was doing incredibly well in his XT. Just take a look at his Blackburn time last year in his faithful XT. Anyway, Jim blows by me and Tim with Mike McDonough within yards of each other.

On the way up around the island, Ken O. from CT is inching closer and closer to shore. I was wondering why he was doing this. Not til afterwards did I meet Ken and this was his 1st surfski race coming from racing canoes. Ken would later push me in the last mile. I was able to edge him out by about 10 seconds. So great job Ken in your 1st surfski race.

As we round the island, I get dropped by Tim, feeling discouraged in being dropped and passed by Jim and Mike like I was standing still. Shortly afterwards Tim and Kirk Olsen are working together. At this point I am not sure where Tim passed Jim and Mike to come in 4th behind Mike Tracy. On the leg home, I am trying to make up some ground. I eventually catch Kirk as Ciro catches me. Kirk and I had slight miscommunication as I am locked on the back of his ski while trying to go one way and Kirk is turning the opposite way. We eventually separated with Ciro and Kirk taking a different line.

At this point with about ½ mile to go, I make up a little ground on Mike M. and Jim with Ken O. chomping at me to go faster.

So Ken Cooper was 1st, Cory Lancaster 2nd, Mike Tracy 3rd, Tim Dywer 4th, Jim Gilligan 5th, Mike McDonough 6th, me 7th, Ken O. 8th. Not sure what the order was after that until the results are officially posted.

Congratulations to Ken Cooper whose recovery time is non-existent. I don’t think he needs any time to recover from all his training. Cory though not able to do as much off season training as he would have liked, was showing no worse for the wear. Mike Tracy had another very good race deciding to put the hammer down much earlier in this race than before. It paid off leaving the paddlers well in his wake with a margin no one was able to shorten. Tim Dywer, as usual, always gets faster as the finish lines gets closer, putting it into another gear. Tim was able to overcome a severe paddle malfunction just prior to the start of the race. He can tell you about that one! Jim Gilligan, what can I say. My god is he fast in the Evo or any boat he decides to paddle. Mike McDonough off-season training program is doing wonders!! Ciro while only owning a surfski for a few short months is quickly shortening the learning curve coming from racing sea kayaks. He is looking incredibly strong and steady on much, much, much, bigger conditions than we saw today.

This was just my perspective from the 7th position today. I hope other paddlers will post their comments about their race within a race for everyone to see. I find it exciting to hear about how other racers did and different things that happened along the way. I encourage some other paddlers to share their perspective. Although looking at the race results are the end to a hard fought contest, it is the details that gets the excitement and the enthusiasm flowing for other racers and keeps the attendance growing and growing!!!! I know there are much better writers than me out there! Take a look at the surfski.info site and see all their narratives.  ~Wesley