Kenduskeag Challenge 2000

From a side comment, not really sure from which side, a number of months ago, and that is not really important anyway, an internal GONZO challenge developed between the VIKING/Popeye Cosortium and the IMAX/Mountain Dancer Foundation. Obviously far and away, our two top teams, even though I wouldn't count out Wentzell and Gray if they really got out and trained, they delighted the rest of us as time went on and the challenge grew into mystical proportion.

Stories of:

-Popeye paddling his sea kayak many hours a day in the Northumberland all winter.
-IMAX setting up system of pulleys in the basement for weight training.
-VIKING going to Nu Bodies and lifting weights.
-The Consortium ever going more high technical in their effort to gain a stead that is the fastest thing on the water. From paddling a borrowed Discovery 158 in 1997 (Viking and his son Andrew), they have moved from a borrowed Wen-o-nah to the present NB purchased Gillies "Stealth" With this gained speed, down goes their stability in white water.
-Over the past four years the Foundation has also developed their craft, going from an Old Town Camper(lake camping family type canoe) to a white water Applacian, to the present 17 foot Penbscot, a river racer that will handle some white water, not as well as the Applacian but faster.

As the lake opened up in late February, Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings became a regular training time for whomever wished to paddle. As friendly rivals, IMAX and VIKING trained together. They were joined by Sungod, Motor, and Dipper on a regular basis, having tea after provided by Helaga. Popeye, who was actually on the Northumberland at home, did get 3 or 4 sessions with us on Lake Thomas. Mountain Dancer also paid his dues when he could get there.

So, going into Race Day:

-the Consortium had a faster, but less stable craft in white water.
-the Foundation had a river racer which would handle haystacks better, but is assumed a bit slower on flat water.
-the Consortium are aerobically highly trained from triathlons and ultra running etc. built up over a number of years.
-it was noted by myself and the Dipper that this number of years is many, very many. The total age of the Consortium is 108 while that of the Foundation is 71, 40 years younger.
-Popeye is tough.
-VIKING is tough.
-IMAX is tough.
-Mountain Dancer is tough.
-The Race will be tough.

After give and take over the past few weeks it was time; "Lets get ready to rumble."

With a side wager between the teams, Mountain Dancer and Popeye claim they are just pawns in this event, of the team with the fastest time having dinner provided by the other, the morning of the race dawned.

As tested the day before, the water level was down from a week ago, and it was assumed by the author that the Stealth would have the same advantage speed wise in the first 10 miles of flat water, no matter high or low, as high water. This assumption is strictly on the technical makeup of the craft and has nothing to do with the strength, cadence, or skill of the paddlers. On the other hand the technical makeup of the Penobscot will allow the paddlers to better handle white water without swamping, a higher level would have been to their advantage, but be advised. this is a relavent statement. The water was not low, it was just lower than last week. It is still probably the second highest in the 5 years we have gone. Again this is a technical statement on the craft and makes no comment on the white water abilities of the paddlers.

For those not familiar with the course, it is 16.5 miles long, the first 10.5 being over fairly fast moving water with a few level I sections and a few drops through down stream V's. Possibility of a few problems but highly doubtful. At the start of the final 6 miles is Six Mile Falls, a section of Level II with a bit of Level III water according to water level.

As this is an optional portage (tough 2 minute carry, up/down a grade) this is the first critical decision point. You can run(paddle) the falls and maybe lose 15 seconds. The physical strain is looked at differently. Some think a portage is a rest and a change. Some find the portage to be a tiring stress. There is also the obvious, the portage is finite. It will take you the same time every time but it is not as estetic. To run the falls always has the possibilty of problems, your own or others in your way. Lots of paddlers of minimal skill try to run the falls only to dump in the single line through causing devastation to the more skilled.

The Consortium never had a decision to make. Their choice to portage is historical and never bending. No chance of foul up, besides their canoe is not built for heavy white water much less 4 to 5 foot drops, and they have never claimed to have high technical whitewater skills.

The Foundation on the other hand had those high tech skills, and a craft, though not of the ability of the Appalacian, that can handle the falls (especially with the spray deck desigened and produced by IMAX). They feel a portage would be tougher on them than any two minute rest from paddling. Also IMAX, with his partner Mountain Dancer, along with many others in the bow (myself included) has succesfully run the falls 30 or 40 times over the past few years with only one mishap. My assumption is he and Ben could run it a 100 times and not dump.

The main problem was there were other craft on the river today, other craft running the falls today, and to the Foundations regret, other craft in the falls as they came through the main tounge. The water was cold and unforgiving. By the time they had gotton to shore, dumped their canoe, jumped back into the canoe (together at the same time and flipping over again to the delight of the couple thousand spectators at this spot) got back in and continued on down river they had lost about 5 minutes.

Jerome "Gezzer" Bruhm, one of our three porters, timers, sherpas, and chauffers (Ian Ross and Ross "Scrounger" Mitchell the others) noted that going into the falls the Foundation was 1 minute behind the Consortium and after were about 6 minutes. Not looking good, or looking great, whichever team you were backing.

But the 6 miles of white water was still to come. Both teams made it successfully through the first 5 miles and the two mandatory portages, with only the Thunder Hole to come before the mile sprint to the finish.

The Thunder Hole, and its 300 yard lead in is not what would be called a high tech section, BUT you have to run 100 yards of fairly high back to back to back haystacks, get straightened out, and then drop through the Thunder Holes tounge into a small, then big haystack and it will be off to the races.

The Consortiums high tech, flat water, high speed Stealth, and their decision to portage Six Miles, had given them a lead. Did they still mainatain the full 6 minutes, had they gained or lost some time?


Could the Stealth handle the haystacks???????????????????

Going through the first set of boiling water, the sharp bow nose cut through the haystack like a knife and the water came in over the gunnells and swamped them. Up, dump, in and onward to the Thunder Hole. The sharp bow nose cut through the haystacks like a knife and the water came in over the gunnells and swamped them. Up, dump, in and onward sprinting to the finish.

How much time did they lose? Did the Foundation have problems here?

Who was to buy who dinner? Where were we to be eating that night? Choice of the winner.

A lot rides on the results.

After everyone was finished and we had loaded our craft on the trailors and cars, changed into dry cloths we had a couple hour wait for the awards ceremony.

At this point in time the VIKING brought out a trophy he had made for this, what he noted was to be a yearly competition. It was a three level thing with a base for yearly recognition, three pillars holding on top a canoe with Gonzo paddling a long.

Since this challenge "sort of" started last year where Imax's partner was his daughter Erin, the VIKING first presented the trophy to last years winners. Imax and Erin's boyfriend Darrin accepted the trophy. After this bit of administration was complete it was time to have the trophy presented to this years winners.

The winner of the trophy, presented proudly and with great glee by IMAX and Mountain Dancer to this years winners-------Viking and Popeye.

The reading on the plaque-" 2nd Place in the Annual Challenge"

IMAX and Mountain Dancer had beaten the Stealth by 1 minute and 23 seconds.

As a side note, having lunch at Wendy's in Sackville, NB on the way home, Ian's Suburban bus drove in with an extra canoe tied onto the Stealth. The Consortium had purchsed the next step in technology, an even higher tech, Pro Boat, sharper nose, faster flat water, lower gunnels.

As next year gets closer, will there be a decision to "try" this craft if the water level is low? What will be the Foundations decision at Six Miles? Time to start training. 363 days to go.

Cheers and love and kisses

S g