The Ride the Bull Race and the Double Beaver Race both held in Jamestown, Rhode Island are tough rough water courses by New England standards. Today was a typical day on Narragansett Bay, light winds but building, opposing tide and current, swells, refractory waves from all that water being pushed from Rhode Island Sound to the East or West Passage in Narragansett Bay. Add some boat traffic made up of high end racing sailboats to car carriers, to cruise liners, well you get the picture. Well half the picture. I left out the Beavertail Lighthouse and the Can we turn on five miles from the start and quarter mile from the lighthouse. The State Park at the lighthouse has the most stunning views of Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound you will ever see. Best in all of New England or best on the East Coast one could argue.
Today’s race was a great tune up for the Blackburn Challenge in two weeks or for the New England paddlers doing the Canadian Surfski Championships and the grand daddy of them all the Gorge(400 paddlers including 200 surfskis) in 3 weeks. While the Blackburn is almost twice as long as today’s race of 10 miles, the Double Beaver Race requires 90 minutes of complete focus. You must be locked in, and ready to go mentally, and physically. Mike Dostal in his Stellar SES 2G, Greg Lesher in his V10, and Eric Costanzo in his new V12 were on their game finishing 1,2,3 respectively. Chris Quinn finished 4th and is quickly cementing himself as a top paddler only after a few months on a ski.
My race went well today. Most of the previous races I have been training through in hopes of peaking for the Blackburn. So for today’s race I tapered a few days to be fairly well rested which I was. For most of us in today’s race, an intermediate class boat is the surfski class of choice. With a garage full of skis, I opted for my SEI Excel with my newly customized 6 inch rudder that I had been testing over the past week with Chris and Tim in vary conditions. I want to optimized the best rudder for this boat with my skill level, so I have played around over the past year with the standard 8 inch, my cut off 5 inch that I used at last year’s Blackburn. I even used the massive 9 inch one day on a training paddle in Jamestown(way too big, but incredibly stable). So with the top end intermediate ski tuned up with my 6 inch rudder, my new paddle of choice (Braca XI 705) that provides a firm but very efficient catch with early exit), I figured I would at least be in the right equipment for the race: comfortable, stable, and able to apply good power in the washing machine waters. There are many excellent boat choices now in every class. Heck, I very briefly demoed the Nelo 550 last week with Chris, and have yet another Think Evo 2 Ultimate coming to my garage next week. Choices and more Choices!
Picking the right ski for today’s race is critical, optimizing your skill level with the correct ski. The last few weeks Tim and I were paddled our advanced skis over the same course but it took a lot more energy and we were not going any faster though great training.
My Race to 5th.
I got off to a quick start up with the leaders for a quarter then settling in by the half mile mark with Chris Quinn (4th place) passing me as you can see in the video. Shortly afterwards, Tim slides over to me and I draft off time until mile 1 before House on the Rocks. I tried to pull briefly, but Tim asked me “if I was slowing down?” I replied “no” but the pace was too slow for Tim at this point.
At the Captain’s meeting, I suggested to the top guys not to stray out too far on their way to the Beavertail Can as some did last year. The lead pack over compensated by taking a line far right that certainly slowed them down. With an outgoing tide, I took the widest line of any racer and it paid off handsomely. I figured I picked up 45 seconds in the 3 mile stretch of open water. Tim pick a line only 50 yards to my right but I still managed to catch and pass him while drawing just a few boat lengths from Andrius at the Can. Chris Chappell followed my exact line powering his way in his Nelo 520 to just a few lengths of me and Tim at the turn. Coming back, the lead pack took a line very close to shore to avoid the outgoing tide but getting more refractory waves along the rocky coast. I took a more moderate and direct line to Bull point. At this point in the race I was solo, having passed Andrius at Short Point. I had no idea who was behind me. So I tried to keep my focus on maintaining my Heart Rate at 160. With a mile to go in the Jamestown harbor, I veered left to get out of the current hoping the less informed would get slowed by the tide. I looked around briefly but saw no one. “Just keep up the pace”, I told myself. I always know that Tim will be making a strong push and sure enough he did, although I had not seen him since mile 2.5. I pulled across the finish line a mere 20 seconds ahead of him. We finished 5th and 6th respectively on a course we have done together for the past 14 years.
Mary Beth trying out the V8 pro, won the female class. It was great to catch up with Ken Cooper and his wife Abby. Ken and I reminisced about some of our races and training paddles. Ken even went back to the 1970’s when he paddled wild water. It was great that Mike Dostal made the long drive down and Eric Costanzo(3rd) made the long drive up to race. John Redos in preps for the Blackburn too, paddled his OC 1 today and got his money’s worth. John is hoping for a good Blackburn too.
So thanks to Tim for putting on another memorable Double Beaver race as he gets ready to make the rip out west to race the Canadian Surfski Champs for the 2nd time and do the Gorge. Oh, I almost forgot, the etched beer glasses are great! Looking forward to hearing all the great stories in the coming weeks from New England paddlers going out west. We should have another story about grinding it out at the Blackburn, New England style!
Sean Rice will he here July 29th and 30th for workshops and Battle the Bay race! Get registered for both.
Below is my Video!