Thursday, April 10, 2008

Marathon Canoe Racing Information

The above photo was taken on the Mississippi River during the 4 hour Palisade to Aitkin Canoe Race in 2003. I'm in the stern in canoe #88. We did win that race, but some will recognize my bow paddler, Al Rudquist. The canoe in the foreground with Kjell Peterson (bow) and Jason Larsen (stern) took 2nd.

The above photo was taken March 10, 2007 of my Crozier J-193 C-1 on the Mississppi River.

I stopped racing back in 2004 , but this year I may do a few smaller races.

I used to be the (Marathon Canoe) Racing Director for the Minnesota Canoe Association (MCA) back in 2003.

This link, , has some canoe racing related items that I had posted on the old MCA website back in 2003. This old site was prior to a more user friendly site (forum) later that year, but that forum has since been corrupted and it never returned. This link is to the current MCA website.

I resigned as racing director and I am no longer a member of the MCA since 2004. I may or may not get into why later. I still get out and paddle several times a week in my Crozier J-193 C-1.

The article I wrote back in 2003, What is Marathon Canoe Racing, was published in Silent Sports magazine and posted on several websites. Here is the article with the update links. I have competed in all three races in the US and Canada since I wrote the article and several other Minnesota paddlers have since completed in the three big races.

What is Marathon Canoe Racing?

Marathon canoe racing is a sit down style of paddling over a distance that varies from a few miles to over 100+ miles in one day including multi-day races. Some of these races may include some portages. The races can be held on lakes and rivers. The rivers are mostly calm but they can have some rapids of moderate difficulty with clear passage that may require some maneuvering. The larger races may have several classes whereas the smaller races there may be only a couple classes. These classes can be based on age and sex of the paddlers and the type of canoe.

Each paddler is paddling on opposite sides and they will switch every 6 to 12 strokes or so. The stroke rate is usually between 50 to 80 strokes a minute, the average being between 60 and 70. The bow paddler usually sets the pace and this person is usually the heavier, more powerful person. It’s easier to trim the canoe with the heavier person in the bow. Paddlers new to canoe racing usually start in the bow because it’s easier to learn. The stern paddler will say, “Hut” or “Hup”, when its time to switch sides. The stern paddler usually sets the course in the river or lake. The stern paddler has to call the “Hut” before the canoe starts to turn. The stern paddler has to anticipate the turn rather than reacting to the canoe turning. Both paddlers have to be compatible in technique and stroke rate to be efficient in the canoe.

Marathon canoe racing relies mostly on the upper body strength and to a lesser degree the legs but the sport also relies on technique and strategy. It’s not always the strongest paddler that comes out ahead.

Marathon racing canoes are designed to go straight and fast. The stroke that makes the canoe go fast is called the forward stroke. There some basics to the stroke but each person will have some slight differences. There are other strokes the paddler needs to learn.

Where in Minnesota can a person learn the basics of the forward stroke and other aspects of Marathon canoe racing? One place to learn is at Monday Night Rookies. It’s held at the East River Flats Park on the East Bank (University of Minnesota) on the Mississippi River. Starting the Monday after Daylight Savings begins and goes till the fall when we have to turn the clock back an hour. Rick Lorenzen wrote a article last year on the tradition of Monday Night Rookies. The late Karl Ketter and Jeff Howe practiced canoe racing on Mondays in 1976 at the River Flats Park. Over the years the tradition still continues on. Today, Ketter Canoeing sponsors Monday Night Rookies by providing canoes and life jackets at no cost. Experienced racers show up to provide instructions for the new racers. Ketter Canoeing.

The “Triple Crown of Canoe Racing” recognizes the top performances by Marathon Canoe Racers who compete at the following three races that make up the Triple Crown.
General Clinton Canoe Regatta, a one day non-stop 70 mile race on the Susquehanna River from Cooperstown to Bainbridge, New York. This race takes place on the Monday of Memorial Day Week-end General Clinton Canoe Regatta

AuSable River Canoe Marathon, a 120-mile non-stop race down the AuSable River from Grayling to Oscoda, Michigan. This race starts at 9 PM and goes through the night into the next day. The winner usually finishes around 14 to 15 hours. A paddler must finish the race within 19 hours to be considered an official finisher. This is a very interesting and exhaustive race for both the racers and the spectators. The race is billed as the “The World’s Toughest Spectator Race”. One reason is that many of the spectators follow the racers the full 120 miles down the river. This race is held the last weekend in July. AuSable River Canoe Marathon.

La Classique de Canots de La Maurice, this is a three- day, three- stage race starting in La Tuque, Quebec over the Labor Day weekend. On Friday the racers meet in La Tuque to get their race packet with the information about the race and have their canoe measured. All the racers, one at a time, do a 2 to 3 minute sprint around a small lake in their canoe. This time is added to the overall time the racers finish in the next day’s first stage of the race. Last years race ended on Monday in Trois-Rivieres.
There are portages in all three of these races.

The 2002 Triple Crown Champions were Serge Corbin, of Quebec, and his partner Jeff Kolka, of Grayling, MI. They also won this award in 2000 and 2001. Local racer, Fred Rayman, of Ely, MN, placed 15th in 2000 and 8th in 2001. Local racer, Kjell Peterson, now living in Duluth, MN, placed 8th in 2000. Devin Arenz, of Cass Lake, MN, placed 10th in 2001.

Another local racer, Al Rudquist, of Grand Rapids, won the General Clinton in 1984, the AuSable Marathon in 1989 and La Classique 1983, 1984 and 1995. Al has also been a top finisher in all the races for several years.

The late Irwin “Buzzy” Peterson won the AuSable Marathon four times in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1971. Steve Peterson raced with his father, “Buzzy”, in the AuSable Marathon in 1967 and they took 2nd place, in 1968 they took 3rd place, and in 1971 they took first place with a time of 15:36.40. “Buzzy” also race the La Classique in Quebec winning that race in 1955,1956,1957,1958,1959,1960,1961,1962,1964 and 1965. “Buzzy” was a dominant figure in marathon canoe racing in his day.

Another Minnesota paddler, designer of racing canoes, Gene Jensen, won the La Classique in 1949,1950,1971 and 1973. Gene’s wins in 1971 and 1973 were with his partner, Dan Hassel. Gene’s highest finish in the AuSable Marathon was 3rd place in 1962.

Two Minnesota women paddlers, Io Harberts, has done the La Classique and Deighen Blakely has done both the La Classique and General Clinton in New York.

There have been other Minnesota paddlers who have competed in one or all three of the major races and have done very well.

There are many races in Minnesota and beginning at the start of the season you can just about find a race every weekend. These races can last as long as an hour to about 4 hours. Hoigaard’s put on their Canoe Derby every Thursday at Lake Calhoun starting around the end of May and going onto August. They have many different classes and this is excellent time to practice your racing skills that you learned at Monday Night Rookies practices. The race season here in Minnesota starts the first part of May and goes into September. I will be putting out the 2003 Minnesota Marathon Racing Schedule when I get all the confirmations from the race organizers. I plan on putting this schedule on the Minnesota Canoe Association Website and on Marathon Canoe Racers also have organized practices throughout the week at different locations. These practices usually start after ice out in the spring and goes into the fall. Also, there are Ladies ONLY Practices.
Again, I wrote the above article in 2003.

Here is the current information on Monday Night Rookies for 2008 for those who want to learn to race or just become better paddlers.

Rookie Racer Practice for 2008

26 weeks of Fun, Camaraderie, Inspiration and Perspiration

Free except for parking fees April 21 through October 27

What is it? An evening paddle for canoe racing technique and practice.

Who comes? Women and men who are interested in long distance canoe racing in marathon racing canoes OR anyone interested in a 90 minute core body workout. Canoe experience is a plus but not a requirement. Adventure racers and triathalon contenders often show up to learn and practice for the "canoe legs" of their races.

How does it work? "Rookie Racers" are paired up with expert or more experienced racers. We get right on the water and learn by paddling.

When? Monday evenings during Daylight Time, April 21 through October, except for Holidays.

Time? Meet at 5:15-5:30 p.m., we pair up, get on the water by 6:00 p.m. and paddle until 7:30/8:00 pm

Place? Except for possible special Monday evenings for "Buoy Turn Practice" we meet at the Mississippi River Flats which are below the U. of M. Campus Coffman Union on the East Bank of the River (off East River Road) downhill from the stainless steel Weissman Art Museum building.

You Need? A positive attitude (the racing stroke is like no other) and willingness to do some vigorous exercise. Canoes are provided by the experienced paddlers. Initially, you should bring a water bottle and a change of dry clothes for afterwards because unexpected paddle splashes happen. Eventually, we'd like you to bring your own paddle and your own PFD (life preserver).

Parking Fees? Yes, you need about 10-12 quarters for 2 hours on the meters, or click up this link buy a (12 Month) Park Patron parking permit for $27. This permit is good at many park sites and especially at Thomas Beach on Lake Calhoun, the site of the popular Hoigaards series of canoe races (Thursday evenings, in June and July)

Cost? Amazingly, since it is informal, it is still free. We will want contact information.

Canoes? If you have a fast cruising canoe such a We-No-Nah “Jensen 18”, or the We-No-Nah “Minnesota II”, bring it, you'll not be left on the bank. If we are short canoes, it is first come, first served unless some experienced person is willing to do a split run. The experienced folks will bring racing canoes of the "pro spec" or the "USCA spec". Old pros, please bring extra canoes, or a single if you have them so that we won't have to turn any rookie away. We've been doing this for about 35 years. We know the river well. We go upstream and down. When we reach bridges or certain other points, we stop, drink (from bottles, not the Mississippi), chit chat, give some paddling tips and wait for slower teams to catch up. Then we're off again. There are about 5 stopping points going downstream and about 5 coming back up, so the paddling is not continuous, but it will be vigorous.

Apres Canoe? After our practice session, many of us head up the hill to Oak and Washington and have supper at the Lotus Restaurant (Vietnamese)—informal and lots of good company.
Regulars: Bring racing canoes and/or (especially for early in the season) a fast cruiser, or USCA spec boat for stability. But hey, if you don't have a stable boat, then bring the tippy one! An extra paddle or two helps as well as an extra lifejacket.We try not to leave anyone standing on the bank. Tip-overs are rare, but a couple of us usually throw a dry bag with some warm clothes into the racer in case anyone gets chilled after a tip. We usually have about 14 paddlers, but have had as many as 33. In a typical season, we see some high water, some low water, some rain, lots of beautiful sun, a lightning storm (maybe). In season, we might have some watermelon treats and in Oct. take some Jack-O-Lanterns in the canoes.

Come and share le esprit de corps des canotiers !
Joe and all the Gang
Chuck Ryan

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