With winter starting to melt into the subconscious, a record 223 participants in 132 boats celebrated the start of the whitewater paddling season Saturday, March 30 during the 34th annul St. George River Race.

With fast water and a few challenging spots on the course, more paddlers than usual tipped and either floated down the river with their craft or were forced to portage and walk around certain sections after taking dips in the cold water.

Many of the paddlers who went for a swim flipped during a small stretch of rapids near the Robbins Mill bridge.

Ray Wirth of Belfast recorded the fastest time, paddling his kayak over the six-mile course in 41 minutes and 44 seconds. Wirth outdistanced second-place finisher Ben Randall of Sabattus, who finished in 46:04, by four minutes and 20 seconds.

Click for photos from this event.

View video at bottom of this story.

The most popular division was open canoe recreation (one male, one female in a recreational canoe) with 16 craft.

There were many paddlers from Waldo, Knox and Lincoln counties, but a few from far away, including Pacific Palisades, Calif., Half Moon Bay, Calif. and San Mateo, Calif.

On a glorious early-spring day, with temperatures in the low-50s, the race, sponsored by the Waldo County YMCA, began at the Searsmont Methodist Church, Route 131 in Searsmont.

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

Before Saturday's event, Dale Cross, Waldo County YMCA director and longtime racer/organizer of the early-season paddle events, said, "Things look good for the [St. George] race. Not real high water but high enough for a good race."

Next up is the 40th annual Passagassawakeag River Race, also hosted by the Waldo County YMCA, on Saturday, April 6 at 11 a.m. at Littlefield Farm on Savage Road in Waldo. Registration is 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. and the cost is $20 per paddler.

That course starts at the Littlefield Farm. The first mile is flat water with many curves. The course passes under a cement bridge to another mile of flat water followed by a short stretch of Class II rapids. Then a two-mile stretch of flat water to the Rolerson’s bridge, then Class I, II and III whitewater for a mile and a half, leading to a flat water stretch to the finish.

Medals are awarded for first, second and third places in each class in each race.

For information or to register, call 338-4598.

There will be a special combined race award for those who realize success in both the St. George and Passy races in the following categories: OC1/OC2 (must be the same team in both races) and kayak.

The individual St. George results in each division were:

Kayak Short (KS, kayaks up to and including 13 feet 4 inches) — 1, Hank Thornburn, Harpswell, 47:54; 2, Brian Foley, Orono, 48:48; 3, Mark Bamford, Bucksport, 49:51; 4, John Carter, Surry, 50:54; 5, William Hegstrom, Brooks, 52:19; 6, Larry Merrill, Orrington, 52:48; 7, Chad Montminy, Waldo, 53:50; 8, Dan Greeley, Belfast, 55:53; 9, Dan Baumert, Levant, 58:06; 10, Glen Vaughn, Swanville, 58:41; and 11, Anthony Nelson, Warren, 1:01:35.

Kayak (KW, women in kayaks any length) — 1, Leslie Gregory, Swanville, 51:07.

Kayak (K, kayaks 13 feet 5 inches or longer) — 1, Wirth, Belfast, 41:44; 2, Randall, Sabattus, 46:04; 3, Mark Berry, Princeton, 47:52; 4, Emmanuel Boss, Orono, 48:52; 5, Ben Fuller, Cushing, 51:03; 6, Glenn Montgomery, Belfast, 52:27; 7, Nathan Harrington, Knox, 56:53; and 8, Andrew Cooper, New Harbor, 59:52.

Kayak weekend warrior (KWW, for beginner and intermediate kayakers) — 1, Jay Baltes, 57:47; and 2, Morgan Clifford, Brooks, 1:00:25.

Open Canoe Racing (OC1, canoes with one person) — 1, Bob Martin, Dedham, 47:51; 2, Brian Battista, Parsonfield, 52:29; and 3, Aaron McGinnis, Bangor, 1:03:54.

Open Canoe Recreation (OC1R, one person in a recreational canoe) — 1, Ryan Mitchell, Indian Island, 52:18; 2, Chad Meyers, Camden, 53:02; 3, Chris Dalton, Bangor, 53:48; 4,Gary Martin, Hampden, 54:23; 5, Jason Cross, Hampden, 55:16; 6, Bob Winslow, Belfast, 56:15; 7, Mark Risinger, Newburgh, 56:31; 8, Paul Arthur, Appleton, 57:19; 9, Alexander Miller, Orland, 58:52; 10, Peter Hastings, Bar Harbor, 1:00:15; 11, Bob Miller, Harmony, 1:00:31; 12, Ted Pierson, Holden, 1:01:55; and 13, Isaac McKillen-Godfried.

Open Canoe Racing or Recreation (OC1, one woman in a racing or recreational canoe) — 1, Tammy Kelley, Lamoine, 56:54; 2, Sarah Quaintance, Aubrn, 58:51; and 3, Lynne Flaccus, Alna, 59:50.

Open Canoe Racing (OC2M, two people in a racing canoe 16 feet 6 inches to 18 feet 6 inches) — 1, Clayton Cole and Joe Fortin, Corinth, 44:21; 2, Dan Littlefield, Waldo, and J.D. Goulet, Bradford, 46:51; 3, Dick Kelley and Brian Kelley, Brewer, 47:21; 4, Bucky Owen and Xiao Quan, Orono, 54:46; and 5, Haley Bezon and Andy Bezon, Pittston, 54:56.

Open Canoe Mixed (OC2Mix, one male, one female in race length canoe) — 1, Barry Dana and Lori Dana, Solon, 43:18; 2, Jeff Owen and Katie Owen, Orono, 45:13; 3, Laurie Sproul and Michael Sproul, Brunswick, 46:44; and 4, Don Cross and Whit Cross, Morrill, 54:55.

Open Canoe Recreation (OC2MixRec, one male, one female in a recreational canoe) — 1, Greg Dorr, Bangor, and Brownwen Pierson, Bucksport, 48:51; 2, Dale Cross, Morrill,  and Caitlin Cross, Brewer, 49:34; 3, Angus Deighan and Abby Lyn Verrier, Newburgh, 49:35; 4, Tina Scheer, Hancock, and Bob Hessler, Ellsworth, 50:35; 5, Sandra Mitchell, Buxton, and Terry Wescott, Thorndike, 52:03; 6, Emilie Seavey, Orono, and Bruce Weik, Freedom, 52:33; 7, Sarah Whitty and Charlie Smith, Veazie, 52:50; 8, Mark Rosborough, Ellsworth, and Ashley Rosborough, Bar Harbor, 53:28; 9, Seth Jones and Heidi Brun, Newburgh, 54:28; 10, Ann Carson and Steve Kerchner, Wiscasset, 55:10; 11, Mike Belliveau and Mariah Kopec Belliveau, Old Town, 55:46; 12, Nicole McKenney and Kenny Daher, Portland, 56:57; 13, Todd Martin and Alexandra Martin, Bucksport, 57:55; 14, Bridget Winslow, Belmont, and Grant Starret, Belfast, 59:07; 15, Amanda Kimball and Daniel Hussey, Kennebunk, 1:02:46; and 16, Noah Kleiner, Union, and Dana Mark, Wiscasset, 1:12:39.

Open Canoe Recreation Short (OC2RS, two people in a recreational canoe less than 16 feet 6 inches) — 1, Brad Krog, Bowdoin, and Dan Kelley, Bucksport, 49:43; 2, Greg Shute and Kyle Shute, Alna, 51:27; and 3, Sam Hallowell, North Haven, and Ben Hoops, Lincolnville, 53:16.

Open Canoe Recreational Medium (OC2RM, two people in a recreational canoe 16 feet 6 inches to 18 feet 6 inches) — 1, Dan Wagner, Belfast, and Jake Feener, Belfast, 45:41; 2, Bill Deighan and Andrew Deighan, Newburgh, 47:10; 3, Brad Lindelof, Swanville, and Chad Nickerson, Nobleboro, 48:54; 4, Scott Giroux, Searsport, and John Dillenbeck, South China, 50:50; 5, Brad Coffey and Jeff Wahlstrom, Bangor, 51:15; 6, Justin Varney, Northport, and Evan Hutchins, Swanville, 53:02; 7, Tom Moriarty, Milford, and Sam Farmer, Old Town, 54:02; 8, Chris Jessen and Matt Stern, Wiscasset, 55:34; 9, Mike Sussman, Topsham, and Jim Ditzel, Brunswick, 57:52; 10, Joseph Desisto and L. Martin Hamilton, 1:00:55; and 11, Brian Galipeau and Gerome Galipeau, Indian Island, 1:06:53.

Open Canoe Weekend Warrior (OC2WW, two people, including a beginner and intermediate paddler) — 1, Christian Andrews, Hope, and Brian Wagner, Lisbon, 49:46; 2, Josh Povec, Camden, and Matt Prindville, Rockland, 52:17; 3, Eliot Lamb and Dan Fowler, Orono, 56:11; 4, Peter Moro, Portland, and Jonathan Moro, Rockport, 59:53; 5, Abby Burbank and Charles Fear, Wiscasset, 1:00:29; 6, Eric Gallant and Roberto Lopez Anido, Orono, 1:01:41; 7, Rich May, Brewer, and James Seymour, Bucksport, 1:06:56; and 8, Sam Overlock and Ryan Stone, Warren, 1:08:37.

Open Canoe Two Women (OC2W, two women in any length canoe) — 1, Kailey Schmidt and Sammi Nadeau, Orono, 52:48; 2, Stacy Linehan, Westport, and Jenn Barton, Alna, 53:51; 3, Katie O'Brien and Holly Whitney, Wiscasset, 54:26; 4, Lisa Bates, Alton, and Tiffany Bates, Arundel, 55:24; 5, Leah Boch and Heather Lowe, Wiscasset, 56:13; 6, Hallie Herz, Damariscott, and Emma Carlson, Farmington, 56:13; and 7, Jenny Shearer, San Mateo, Calif., and Jenn Goldstein, Wiscasset, 1:13:03.

Open Canoe Recreation (OC2Jr/Sr Rec, one adult, one child (ages 12 or younger) in a recreational canoe) — 1, Ryan Linehan and Sawyer Linehan, Westport, 51:14; 2, Justin Wardwell and Cy Wardwell, Hampden, 52:48; 3, J.D. Burke and Jack Burke, Newburgh, 55:47; 4, Weber Roberts and Caellen Roberts, Hope, 1:00:16; 5, Mike Bigos and Harrison Bigos-Iowe, Auburn, 1:01:55; 6, Alex Obregon and Sol Obregon, Newcastle, 1:04:03; 7, Tim Pease and Lucas Pease, Hampden, 1:07:26; and 8, Rick Hartley and Tessa Hartley, Holden, 1:09:11.

Open Canoe Recreation (OC2Jr/Sr Rec, one adult, one junior ages 13-16 in a recreational canoe) — 1, Kate Ferguson, Orono, and Rod McLain, Stockton Springs, 48:51; 2, Aaron Cross and Andrew Cross, Morrill, 49:57; 3, Eric Taylor and Peter Taylor, Dedham, 52:27; 4, Aaron Winslow and Jackson Winlsow, Belmont, 53:17; and 5, James Robbins II and James (Noah) Robbins, Searsmont, 55:41.

Century Recreation (two people with combined ages of more than 100 in a recreational boat) — 1, Chip Loring, Old Town, and Ander Thibaud, Mount Desert Island, 46:46; 2, Mary Hartt and Gary Brooks, Dixmont, 47:01; 3, D.W. Smith, Lamoine, and David Lee, Hancock, 48:20; 4, Dan Merrill, Stockton Springs, and Al Beeson, Bucksport, 51:36; 5, Richard Quaintance, Auburn, and Andrew Wyatt, Pownal, 52:48; 6, John Lightner, Belfast, and Hughes Kraft, Cape Elizabeth, 53:02; 7, Doug Introne and Ed Lamb, Orono, 54:45; 8, Matt Hopkinson, Hubbardston, Mass., and Doug Doremus, Penacook, N.H., 56:54; 9, John Scofield and Norm Yates, Glenburn, 57:05; 10, Peter Walker and Brock Wilder, Northport, 57:27; 11, Iva Sussman and Ted Sussman, Houlton, 1:01:17; and 12, Gordon Bell, Tenants Harbor, and Daniel Bell, Cape Elizabeth, 1:12:03.

High School (two high school students in a recreational boat) — 1, Calum Hamilton and Yoval Boss, Orono, 47:53; 2, Sophie Slotnick and Jeremy Epstein, Wiscasset, 1:00:04; 3, Calypso Leonard, New York City, and Andrew Holliday, Cape Elizabeth, 1:03:06; 4, Quinch Hunter, Pacific Palisdes, Calif., and Victoria Meeder, Bloomfield, Mich., 1:03:45; 5, Eleanor Broughton, New York City,  and Andrew Woosnam, Half Moon Bay, Calif., 1:05:31; and 6, Jackson Denahy, Irvington, N.Y., and Izzy Ruffin, Brownville, 1:07:22.

College (KW, KM, OC2, OC1W, OC1M, recreational crafts only) — 1, Dan Perry and Chris Introne, Orono, 51:27; 2, Max Brandstadt and Kyle Werner, Brunswick, 55:42; and 3, Daniel Zeller and Peter Yaworski, Brunswick, 57:52.

Clydesdale (two people with a combined weight of more than 425 pounds) — 1, Rick O'Donald and Renee O'Donald, Newburgh, 52:16; 2, Paul Woods and Joe Holmes, Belfast, 52:26; and 3, Justin Kinney, Yarmouth, and Chris Brann, Auburn, 53:00.

Courier Publications sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@courierpublicationsllc.com.