BOO and the 2014 Gorge Distance Race

Screenshot (69)On July 19, 2014 the Bend Oregon Outrigger Canoe Club (BOO) competed in the Gorge Distance Race hosted by Waterwalker at Stevenson Washington. The race was approximately 12 miles and is one of the most challenging races of the year. Check out the map for details.

The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest and is well known for its extreme wind and fast waters.  In Bend, OR practice is held from March into the Fall in the relatively calm waters of the Deschutes River. Even though many members have experience in the open ocean and in the conditions of the Columbia River, the conditions in Stevenson, WA on July 19 were very challenging.

boo-huiCut to a pre-race huli – and the men’s open OC-6 team got a hasty and wet warmup. One of the more experienced of the BOO men’s team, John Von Gaertner was very pleased with how the team calmly got the canoe upright and back ready to paddle.

One thing he did mention was that the iako was set at 69 inches. In the wind and wave conditions it might have been better to set it out a bit further.  As it was, there was little extension of the iako past the hull so when they tried to stand on the end to counter-balance and right the canoe there was very little footing.  Some of the teams had added weight to the ama – which is allowed. That and other strategy decisions are part of what makes racing in challenging conditions so compelling.

SUP athlete and guest paddler, Glenn Haupt (Bend) explained, “We managed to right the canoe and get back in fairly easily. It was good experience for me to huli – and then get my mind back into thinking about paddling, timing, keeping up my power and focusing on my stroke.  It was my first time catching waves from anything larger than a SUP raceboard.

We would catch swells and bump our speed in the process – but from Seat 5 I felt in the middle of 2-3 troughs and swells, not feeling us catch the glide like I am used to. It was exhilarating and fun – and exhausting!”

Coming from Oregon you cross the Bridge of the Gods to get to the little town of Stevenson, site of the Gorge Outrigger race.  Here you will find one of the most beautiful views in the Pacific Northwest and definitely one of nature’s most challenging race courses.

With the wind and waves delivered last Saturday, the start was a very tricky time for a steersman and the crew.  Glenn had a bit to say about the experience, “As we made our final turn back into the wind, we encountered the largest swells yet….head on.  It was pretty gnarly trying to turn the canoe. I thought it would be easier since we were with the current at that turn – not so.  Several times I flew out of my seat only to be caught by the spray skirt which held me in tight.  The final leg was definitely the hardest. I gained a ton of respect for the skills and fitness that outrigger racing demands.”

BOO coach and stroke for the Gorge Race, Jason Tedrow,  was very pleased with how the crew performed in very challenging conditions. The crew was comprised of a mix of experienced and novice paddlers. Reflecting on decisions he had to make as far as stroke pace, power and strategy he had this to say, “Thinking back on what I might have done to create an overall faster boat and maybe a better experience for all might have been to slow the frequency of the stroke a bit. This might have given the less experienced paddlers more time to get their return and catch completed. That could also have improved our overall timing – and as a result improved our hull speed.”

The BOO Women’s team paddled the gnarly 12 miles in 1:51:15 – which is a long time to stay focused, tough and fast in big winds and waves. They scored a 4th place finish among 12 starting canoes – huge shout out for an amazing race!

Here are some photos from the 2012 and the 2013 race – view and enjoy.

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