Updated with video, link to photos

Paddlers finally challenge whitewater in St. George River Race

Week after 35th annual event postponed, competitors battle high, fast water
By Ken Waltz | Apr 08, 2014
Photo by: Ken Waltz It is tipping time for two paddlers in a canoe during the 35th annual St. George River Race, run April 6. The event is hosted by the Waldo County YMCA.

Searsmont — High, fast water made for a tough trek and plenty of spills into the cold water Sunday afternoon, April 6 as more than 178 paddlers in 102 watercraft finally got the opportunity to accept the challenge that was the 35th annual St. George River Race.

The whitewater paddle event had been postponed eight days after ice in the river forced the race to be moved from its original date of March 29.

In fact, the St. George race was held one day after the 41st annual Passagassawakeag River Race was canceled on Saturday, April 5 due to too much ice in the river.

So, on a glorious early-spring day, with temperatures in the mid- to high-40s, paddlers in canoes and kayaks, as well as standing/kneeling on paddle boards, essentially rode the waves as they worked their way down the challenging, sometimes grueling, course.

Click for photos from the event.

Watch videos below, including that from a camera mounted to a paddler's helmet.

In the end, there were more paddlers who did not complete the course than during a typical year, mostly given the difficult water conditions. In fact, there still was snow and ice on the river banks.

Ray Wirth of Belfast, a multi-time winner of the event, turned in the fastest time as he paddled his kayak across the course in 39 minutes and one second.

More than 100 fans stood in and around the Robbins Mill Bridge to cheer for racers and shout funny comments when paddlers fell into the water or got stuck on a rock or the banks.

Those high-and-dry fans especially enjoyed cheering for the parents paddling with their children, some of whom were especially young.

The water was so high and fast that many of the rocks in the river often visible this time of year were covered.

The race, traditionally held at 11 a.m. but moved to 1 p.m. Sunday, is sponsored by the Waldo County YMCA.

The two annual river races have been a rite of spring for decades and rarely get postponed or canceled. The races have been run in brutally cold weather, rain and even snowstorms, in both lower and higher water. But ice in the river creates roadblocks and a dangerous situation, thus the initial postponement of the St. George and the ultimate cancellation of the 'Passy.'

The races are for the brave and hardy to sit in a canoe or kayak, or in a more recent phenomenon, a paddleboard, in all types of weather, both good and bad, and paddle down rivers in Waldo County.

The whitewater canoe race circuit traditionally begins when the YMCA hosts the St. George River Race, usually on the last weekend in March, and the Passagassawakeag River Race, on the first weekend in April.

But Mother Nature conspired to postpone one race and cancel another.

To many, those races mark a family fun beginning to spring in Maine.

The St. George race course started at the St. George Bridge in Searsmont Village, included three miles of dead water, one mile of rapids, two miles of dead water and curves with one Class III drop. The race includes Class II–III rapids, plus or minus depending on the water level.

There were plenty of rescue personnel on hand in kayaks, in the water and on the banks as first responders from Appleton, Camden and Searsmont used the event as their annual water rescue class, said Tracy Harford of Searsmont.

As Joel Cox of Searsmont sat in the water wearing his water rescue/survival suit, he said the rushing water felt a "warm 32 degrees," as he noted the chunks of ice flowing past him.

Dale Cross, longtime paddler, event director and Waldo County YMCA director, said the races would not be possible without the support of financial sponsors Viking Lumber, Camden National Bank, Consumers Fuel Company, Allen Insurance/Financial and O’Donalds Concrete, as well as the volunteers "who work diligently to make these races a safe experience for all racers."

The individual St. George River Race results from April 6 were:

Century Recreation — 1, D.W. Smith, Lamoine, and David Lee, Hancock, 44:58; 2, Dan Merrill, Sandy Point, and Al Beeson, Bucksport, 48:46; 3, Randy Cross, Hancock, and Don Cross, Morrill, 50:22; and 4, John Lighter, Belfast, Hughes Kraft, Cape Elizbabeth, 53:10.

Clydesdale — 1, Nolan Mabee, Bangor, and Rick O'Donald, Newburgh, 49:55; 2, Eben Allen, Rich Marshall, Sedgewick, 1:11:49; and 3, Joseph Zydlewski, Hamden, and Jeff Vieser, Orono, 1:14:36.

High School — 1, Calum Hamilton, Nash Allan-Rahill, Orono, 44:21; 2, Emilie Seavey, Kate Fergusson, Orono, 53:41; and Jackson Winslow, Belmont, and Grant Starrett, Belfast, did not finish.

Kayak — 1, Ray Wirth, Belfast, 39:01; 2, Hank Thorburn, Harpswell, 41:12; 3, Andrew Scott Cooper, New Harbor, 42:37; 4, Ben Fuller, Cushing, 45:51; and Ben Randall, Sabattus, did not finish.

Kayak Short — 1, Brian Foley, Orono, 45:45; 2, Mark Bamford, Bucksport, 45:56; 3, John Carter, Surry, 46:58; 4, Jay Baltes, Brunswick, 51:19; 5, Chris Piik, South Portland, 54:48; 6, Dan Baumert, Levant, 1:00:18; and 7, Daniel West, Lincolnville, 2:16:47.

Kayak Women — 1, Leslie Gregory, Swanville, 49:20; and 2, Danielle Natale, Lincolnville, 1:31:56.

Kayak Weekend Warrior — 1, Glen Montgomery, Belfast, 49:11.

OC1 — 1, Bob Martin, Dedham, 45:45; and 2, Brian Battista, Parsonsfield, 52:16.

OC1 Recreation — 1, Chad Myers, Camden, 48:49; 2, Dick Kelley, Brewer, 49:34; 3, Jason Cross, Hampden, 50:30; 4, Wyatt Roberts, Morrill, 57:23; 5, Bob Winslow, Belfast, 57:25; 6, Nathan Harrington, Knox, 58:01; and 7, Adam Sawyer, Trenton, 1:18:39.

OC1 Women — 1, Hanna Renendo, Orono, 1:03:02; and 2, Lisa Dettart, West Gardiner, 2:03:45.

OC2 Junior/Senior 12-and-younger — 1, Katie Owen, Orono, and Jeff Owen, Orono, 44:18; 2, Matt Dingle, Rockport, and Max Dingle, Rockport, 44:46; 3, Ryan Linnehan, Wesport Island, Sawyer Linnehan, Westport Island, and Kestral Linnehan, Westport Island, 48:23; 4, Justin Wardwell, Hampden, and Finn Wardwell, Hampden, 48:57; 5, Dan Kelley, Bucksport, and Colby Kelley, Bucksport, 51:33; 6, Ashton Mabee, Bangor, and Leslie Mabee, Bangor, 53:55; 7, Weber Roberts, Hope, and Caellen Roberts, Hope, 55:19; 8, Christian Halsted, Searsmont, and Eli Jolliffe, Searsmont, 55:30; 9, Jack Burke, Newburgh, and JD Burke, Newburgh, 57:13; 10, Aaron Winslow, Belmont, and Mia Winslow, Belmont, 1:01:17; 11, John Dietter, Rockport, and Zeke Dietter, Rockport, 1:01:23; and 12, Michael Bigos, Lewiston, and Harrison Bigos-Lowe, Lewiston, 1:01:57.

OC2 Junior/Senior 13-and-older — 1, Andrew Cross, Morrill, and Aaron Cross, Morrill, 46:33; 2, Eric Gallandt, Orono, and Liza Gallandt, Orono, 49:04; 3, Eric Taylor, Dedham, and Pete Taylor, Dedham, 49:12; 4, Harriet Manaker, Orono, and Bruce Weik, Freedom, 50:22; and 5, Stanley Levitsky, Orono, and Keith Manaker, Orono, 53:11.

OC2 Mixed — 1, Lori Dana, Solon, and Barry Dana, Solon, 41:12; 2, Priscilla Reinerston, Pittsfield, N.H., and Al Paradise, Pittsfield, N.H., 42:58; and 3, Sarah Whitney, Veazie, and Charlie Smith, Veazie, 47:13.

OC2 Medium — 1, Mark Ranco, Bangor, and Chris Francis, Bangor, 40:30; 2, Dan Littlefield, Belfast, and John Goulet, Holden, 43:45; and 3, Justin Kinney, Yarmouth, and Drew Pickering, Yarmouth, 49:06.

OC2 Mixed Recreation — 1, Chip Loring, Old Town, and Ander Thibaud, Mt. Desert, 43:41; 2, Caitlin Cross, Brewer, and Dale Cross, Morrill, 45:39; 3, Mary Hartt, Dixmont, and Bill Deighan, Newburgh, 46:06; 4, Scott Nelson, Belmont, and Lynn Hempen, Bangor, 47:17; 5, Lara Dorr, Bangor, and Greg Dorr, Bangor, 48:16; 6, Bronwen Pierson, Holden, and Dave Monnier, Hampden, 48:19; 7, Emmanuel Boss, Orono, and Sasha Van Walson, Orono, 48:48; 8, Tammy Kelley, Lamoine, and Sean Maguire, Augusta, 50:07; 9, Sandra Mitchell, Buxton, and Terry Wescott, Thorndike, 50:34; 9, Emma Carlson, Wiscasset, and Lily Brunswick, Wiscasset, 50:34; 10, Tina Scheer, Ellsworth, and Bob Hessler, Ellsworth, 52:42; 11, Geoffrey Scott, Camden, and Anita Brosius-Scott, Camden, 52:46; 12, Tom Moriarty, Milfor, and Meghan Kennedy, Waldoboro, 54:56; 13, Alyssa Keating, Hope, and Oliver Cote, Hope, 55:05; and 14, Lauren Cote, Union, and Noah Kleiner, Union, 56:09.

OC2 Recreation Medium — 1, Jake Feener, Lincolnville, and Dan Wagner, Allagash, 42:33; 2, Evan Hutchins, Swanville, and Justin Varney, Camden, 47:59; 3, Jon Thurston, Searsmont, and Glen Widmer, Montville, 50:22; 4, Brian Walls, Bar Harbor, and Josh Stoll, Lamoine, 50:44; 5, Nathan VanSoest, Islamorada, Fla., and Gordon Mackay, Bangor, 51:54; and 6, Dave Preston, Hope, and Chris Grotton, Camden, 1:15.33.

OC2 Recreation Short — 1, Sam Hallowell, North Haven, and Ben Hoops, Lincolnville, 50:37; 2, Kevin Coombs, Belfast, and Brian Wagner, Lisbon, 1:00:05; and Lee Corson, Liberty, and George Deans, Limerick, did not finish.

OC2 Women — 1, Samantha Nadeau, Orono, and Kailey Schmidt, Orono, 47:23; 2, Lisa Bates, Belfast, and Tiffany Bates, Arundel, 50:16; and 3, Sheila Sullivan, Portland, and Kate Ziminsky, Freeport, 50:54.

OC2 Weekend Warriors — 1, Ryan Lister, Waldo, and Chris Coleman, Waldoboro, 50:54; 2, Nathan Wilson, Gray, and Liam Kalloch, South Portland, 51:34; 3, Kevin Roux, Alan, and Jeff Dick, Newcastle, 51:55; 4, Charles Fear, Woolwich, and Abby Burbank, Brunswick, 53:00; 5, Rich May, Brewer, and Bud Robbins, Old Town, 54:30; 5, Mike Bridges, Appleton, and Lydia Morin, Appleton, 54:30; 7, Dustin Nadeau, Searsport, and Eric Hatfield, Searsport, 55:11; 8, Doug Fox, Unity, and Silas Fox, Unity, 55:39; 9, Leah Boch, Wiscasset, and Heather Lowe, Wiscasset, 1:00:18; 10, Scott Giroux, Searsport, and Alex Hogan, Searsport, 1:02.51; 11, Dan Baker, Old Town, and Peter Baker, Old Town, 1:21:03; Dean Redding, Bangor, and Matthew McKay, Hampden, did not finish; James Greeley, Lincolnville, and Todd Greeley, Morril, did not finish; and Carly Segal, Wiscasset, and Clare Churchill-Seder, Kingston, N.Y., did not finish.

Paddleboard — 1, Chris Strout, Bar Harbor, 58:55.

Tandem Kayak — 1, Daryn Slover, Lewiston, and Ellis Slover, Lewiston, 1:00:58.

St. George River Race
Scenes from the 35th annual St. George River Race April 6. (Video by: Ken Waltz and Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Bird's-eye view from paddler's helmet cam
The Republican Journal editor Dan West shows a helmet cam view during his paddle down the St. George River during the April 6 event. (Video by: Dan West)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Anita Scott | Apr 08, 2014 19:23

Fantastic still pictures Ken! Great job!!



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Ken Waltz
Sports Director
594-4401, extension 114
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Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.

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