An April Classic 2002       Picasa Photo Album
Bangor Daily News Photo by Leslie Barbaro
Carl Olson (top right) of Bucksport cringes as he and his partner, Jim White plow over kayakers Stephen and Jocelyn Hatch of Clinton at Six Mile Falls during the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race on Saturday.

By John Holyoke, Of the NEWS Staff e-mail John Last updated: Monday, April 22, 2002

An April Classic

Every year around this time, folks from all over the state flock to a small town in eastern Maine, eat baked beans for breakfast, and drag their canoes or kayaks to the water.

After miles of arm-numbing flat-water paddling, they arrive at Six Mile Falls, get wet … or don’t.

And most years, a man comes down from Canada, conquers hundreds of other paddlers … and Six Mile Falls … and the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race championship.

Then he vanishes, leaving the townfolk to their whispers: “Who was that fast man?”

All that happened again on Saturday, as 493 boats carrying 903 paddlers headed from Kenduskeag to downtown Bangor in the 36th edition of the April classic.

But here’s a twist: That fast man from the north? The guy who won this year’s overall title in a speedy time of 1 hour, 58 minutes, 42 seconds over the 16½-mile course?

He wasn’t 12-time champ Robert Lang. Lang, a Scot from Renforth, New Brunswick, finished second.

The new champ is Trevor MacLean, a 25-year-old marathon kayak specialist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

And here’s what he did on Saturday: He started a minute behind the top kayakers — Lang, Kenny Cushman, Fred Ludwig and Jeff Sands — and eliminated that minute deficit within a few short miles.

Then, after a brief “rest,” he smoothly pulled away.

“He was fast, huh?” Ludwig asked his fellow competitors as they rested in their kayaks at the takeout point late Saturday morning.

He sure was.

Lang, who set the course record of 1:50:08 in 1997, returned to the Kenduskeag for the first time since 1999 to post a 2:00:07 clocking. Ludwig was third in 2:04:15, Cushman took fourth in 2:04:30, and Chip Loring and Jamie Hannon paddled their racing canoe to fifth overall in 2:08:16. Other top canoeists: Clayton Cole and Paul Cole (6th in 2:09:27), Jeff Owen (8th in 2:10:38), Barry Dana and Lori Dana (2:10:42) and Paul Brown and Brad Lindelof (10th in 2:12:07).

MacLean, who has been Canada’s entry in the world marathon kayak championships the past three years, said he came into the race with a modest game plan.

“I had very few goals,” he said. “I didn’t want to break the boat. I didn’t want to break my paddle. And I didn’t want to tip. None of those things happened and I finished the race, so it went well.”

MacLean said he was familiar with the race, having competed in it in 1995 (a broken seat made him complete the course while sitting on the bottom of the boat instead). He also has watched it on TV, since the Bangor signal is beamed to Atlantic Canada.

“This was one of my goals,” he said. “To come down here and win Kenduskeag.”

Lang, who made up ground on MacLean on the white water, said the fact that MacLean won the race in an Olympic-style flat-water kayak was impressive.

“He did exceptionally well on this water, considering,” Lang said. “It’s a good boat for the flats, but it’s not a good boat for the white water.”

MacLean said his choice of boat was simple.

“It’s just an old beater that I wanted to take downriver and didn’t mind banging up a bit,” he said. “That’s not my racing boat, though.”

Loring, who lives in Orono, teamed with Old Town’s Hannon en route to the fastest canoe time of the day.

Hannon said he and his partner headed to Six Mile Falls for a quick practice session on Friday night and thought the canoe record might be within reach.

“The first thing is, you want to have fun,” Hannon said. “And after that, we wanted to win our class. And we thought maybe there was a chance that we could get the record this year.

“But the water level wasn’t where it needed to be, and I guess neither are we, right now,” he said with a chuckle.

One top paddler didn’t have the kind of day he’d hoped for, and ended up providing some interesting moments at Six Mile Falls.

Cushman said something pushed the stern of his boat around, and he found himself pinned up against a log. Then, after a few hairy moments when safety was the top concern, he had to take a roundabout route back to the final ledge drop of Six Mile Falls.

“I ended up having to go backwards, and then ferry across, paddle upstream, and then turn and come back into the current,” he said. “I lost some pretty good time here.”

But Cushman said he knew the incident probably made for good viewing by the throng of race fans on the side of the river.

“But it was fun. I said, ‘I hope people are enjoying this, watching me get myself out of a conundrum,’” Cushman said. “At least it was a crowd-pleaser.”

Another group of crowd-pleasers showed up in costume, with four paddlers donning red wigs, red noses and clown makeup.

The foursome turned out to be Maine Maritime Academy students Eric McCaslin of Winslow, Matt Carrier of New Gloucester, Terry Nichols of Bingham and Dave Howe of Chelmsford, Mass.

Though the foursome paddled hard, they also wanted to have fun. While some paddlers resort to signs to get the attention of fans, they opted for makeup and wigs, which they said was inspired by the Pennywise the Clown character in Stephen King’s bestseller “It.”

And Carrier said the costumes fit.

“We’re just a bunch of clowns,” he said. “It’s pretty simple.”