Sunday, January 7, 2018

Race Report: CGT Winter Series #1

SUPerman Robert Norman, and his sidekick Champ the Chihuahua, at the shop after the race.

Race: The first race in the CGT Winter Series.

Date it happened: 7 January 2018

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: For this series there are two courses: a short one that goes downriver to a buoy and back (2.9 km), and a longer one that goes downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.4 km).

Conditions: Though it's much warmer in South Florida than anywhere else in the Eastern United States, it was still chilly by our standards- about 9 Celsius in the early morning and maybe 15 during the race. The river level was quite low, and the tide was ebbing with a current speed of about 0.7 kph according to my paddling in current calculator. There was a moderate wind from the Northeast that tended to be a tailwind on the downriver leg and a headwind on the upriver leg.

Participants, Results and Gear: There was a good turnout of the usual suspects, plus some new racers, including Carlos from Puerto Rico and Steve from Boston. Some of the crew opted to paddle their sit-down water toys instead of the usual standup boards. Justin DiGiorgio joined longtime kayak racer Murray Hunkin in the "surfski" kayak class, while Mark Athanacio and Matt Kearney both paddled outrigger canoes. Matt's outrigger is the "OC1" type, which has a rudder and minimal cockpit, while Mark's is the Tahitian "V1" type, which has no rudder and a deeper cockpit. Both types have the outrigger, called an "ama" on the left side. Penny Kappler paddled a 14' non-racing kayak. In the 12'6 SUP class Cindy Gibson, Saralane Harrer, Donna Catron, Dr. Damien Lin, and Beth Schadd represented for the women. The SUP men all rode 14' boards except for Patrick Scheel who toughed it out on an 11'6 surf style SUP. My toughest SUP competitor was SUPerman Robert Norman, down from Inverness Florida. Robert has been biting at my heels for a year, and lately he has been posting times from training that are faster than what I can do, so I knew he would be tough to beat. Today wasn't his day, though. Here's the results:

Racer ** Class ** Model ** Course ** Time
Murray Hunkin ** Surfski Kayak ** Epic V12 ** 6.4 km ** 0:38:16
Justin DiGiorgio ** Surfski Kayak ** Nelo 550 ** 6.4 km ** 0:39:09
Mark Athanacio ** V1 Outrigger ** ?? Long & Green ** 6.4 km ** 0:40:00
James Douglass ** 14' SUP ** 23-wide Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:42:12
Matt Kearney ** C1 Outrigger ** 20'8" Puakea Ehukai ** 6.4 km ** 0:42:35
Robert Norman ** 14' SUP ** 23-wide Hovie GTF dugout ** 6.4 km ** 0:43:09
Bill Mussenden ** 14' SUP ** 23.5 Hovie GTO ** 6.4 km ** 0:46:58
Steve from Boston ** 14' SUP ** 28-wide BlkBox Uno ** 6.4 km ** 0:47:20
Phil Trudgeon ** 14' SUP ** 25-wide Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:47:46
Cindy Gibson ** 12'6 SUP ** 24-wide Hovie ZXC ** 6.4 km ** 0:48:12
John Weinberg ** 14' SUP ** 25-wide Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:49:37
Carlos Alberto Colon ** 14' SUP ** 24-wide Hovie GTO ** 6.4 km ** 0:50:09
Beth Schadd ** 12'6 SUP ** 24-wide Riviera RP ** 6.4 km ** 0:54:32
Donna Catron ** 12'6 SUP ** 26-wide Bark Vapor ** 6.4 km ** 0:55:22

Bryan Herrick ** 14' SUP ** 23.75-wide Riviera RP ** 2.9 km ** 0:21:31
Patrick Scheel ** 11'6 SUP ** ?? ** 2.9 km ** 0:23:58
Damien Lin ** 12'6 SUP ** 26-wide Hovie ZXC ** 2.9 km ** 0:25:08
Penny Kappler ** Rec Kayak ** ?? ** 2.9 km ** 25:17
Saralane Harrer and dog ** 12'6 ** 26-wide Riviera RP ** 2.9 km ** 0:28:14

Play by play: We started in smaller groups than usual this race, because of the variety of watercraft. Justin and Murray went first on their surfski's. With much splashing, Murray burst ahead, and Justin got into his wake. The next starter was Mark Athanacio, who went alone on his V1 outrigger, then Matt Kearney, who went alone on his C1 outrigger. I believe I was in the first SUP group, with Bryan Herrick and Cindy Gibson. Robert Norman had said he wanted to start in the group behind me rather than the one with me, which made me nervous that he had some kind of trick up his sleeve. I had a pretty fast start and nobody drafted me.

I had decided before the race that after the sprint start, my focus would be on one aspect of stroke technique- "falling" on the blade with my body weight and not over-straining my arms and shoulders. Doing that I was able to keep a decent pace, except at times when I strayed into shallow waters that slowed down the board's glide and caused the paddle blade to hit the sand. I knew the river well enough to avoid most of the those shallows, though, which was apparently not the case for Robert. His plan was to catch me before the half-way point with the superior speed of his specialized flatwater board, but it didn't work out because I had too big a head start, plus the better path around the sticky shallows.

Approaching the downriver bridge that marks the turn-around point, I passed Murray going the other way, with Justin not too far behind. Justin said Murray was toying with him the whole time, easily keeping within conversation distance while Justin paddled his guts out. I reckon that's the benefit of Murray's decades of intense kayak racing training. Athanacio wasn't too far behind the kayaks, so obviously he was making good time. He posted some pictures yesterday of his technique for turning his 24' long, rudderless V1 around the pilings of the bridge, by dropping one leg in the water on the side that he wanted to turn to. I assume he did the same thing in the race today.

Matt was further behind Mark, and it looked like I might be closing the gap on him a bit. After I turned around the bridge I saw Robert. I was reassured that he was too far back to catch me on the upriver return, but I wasn't sure if he was gaining on me or not, and I knew he didn't actually need to pass me, just get a better time, to win the race.

I kept paddling hard on the upriver leg, still trying to focus on the "falling on the blade" technique and not on my suffering. I was definitely catching up to Matt, but then he looked back and saw me and started pulling away again. For now we're quite similar in speed on SUP and OC1, both in flatwater and on the downwind ocean paddles we have been doing lately, but I expect that Matt will begin to pull away as he gets more familiar with the OC1 technique and/or starts pushing himself harder.

Anyway, after 20ish minutes of suffering upriver, and a harder push for the last 400 m, my race was over. My overall time was considerably slower than my personal best for this course, and far from the course record for SUP of 40-minutes even that Mark Athanacio set last year. But I was happy to hold off young challenger Robert Norman for one more round.

Here's my GPS track from the course:

Bill Mussenden had a solid finish in just under 47 minutes, but newcomer Steve from Boston was surprisingly close to him with a time of 47:20, and could be a dangerous competitor if he gets a narrower/faster board. Phil Trudgeon was also looking sharp on the 14x25 Riviera "Whitey" that he picked up from Bill. Whitey was my board once upon a time, then Mark Hourigan's then Bill's. It's looking a little used now, but still fast as ever. Right behind the big dudes on their big boards was Cindy Gibson on her 12'6, the first women's finisher in 48:12. That's very impressive, given that 12'6 boards are inherently slower than 14' boards.

After the race we had good eats in the shop at CGT, and talked about our race plans for the season. There was also a lot of wheeling and dealing going on with regards to board sales and stuff. I learned that Bill M. has just picked up a 14x24.5 Starboard AllStar that he'll use on downwinders and some of the rougher water races. (We've been doing lots of downwinders lately, but that's a story for another blog post.)

Hope to see y'all at the next race!

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