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Starring: The Bloody Mary, Blue Mountain Outfitter’s Clipper Mariner
2006 also marks the crew surpassing the 7-hour mark in training time, provided the cumulative training log include the 2+ hours in the 2004 race, the 2:24:28 last year and the record 2:17:46 in this year’s race.
Training? Duckheads don’t need no steenkin’ training.
This years Wye Island Race also saw the Bloody Mary receiving well deserved recognition; in just two years the Bloody Mary has become the Wye Island equivalent of Norm in Cheers – everybody knows her name and everyone greets her with some salutation, comment or question.
Beginning with warm greetings from the race officials at registration and continuing throughout the race and post-paddling potlatch the Bloody Mary drew a crowd of friends old and new.
And drew her first big-canoe competition, as Chip Walsh and the crew of the Wontonnah, a 20 foot Maine Freighter, put up a good fight until we showed her our wake in the final leg.
This year’s Duckhead Racing Association was also joined by Martin Elliot and Bob Shakeshaft competing in single rec kayak. Wait a minute, "Shakeshaft"?, I sense another nom de paddler.
After the usual start time delays, allowing for additional motivational libations and pirate costumerie, the Bloody Mary was hand launched, a struggle reminiscent of the Bogart and Hepburn’s African Queen in the Ulanga marshes. Granny Alexander remarked, "I never dreamed the mere physical act of launching a canoe could be so stimulating." This was probably due as much to Topher’s uplifted kilt as anything else.
Paddling out to the start line the crew’s intentions became clear, as we pushed the Bloody Mary over the 6 MPH mark, eliciting concern about burning out before even getting started.
Crossing the start we settled into a steady 5.2 mph pace. So steady in fact that we seemingly maintained 5.2 MPH throughout the race. Captain Topher’s mileage and speed calls - “3.5 miles, average speed 5.2”...”6.8 miles, average speed 5.2”….”9.6 miles, average speed 5.1, no wait, back up to 5.2” – led us to believe that his GPS was malfunctioning.
Approaching the Wye Island Bridge and styling sharp cadence for our race photo we began to slowly reel in the Wontonnah’s quarter mile head start. The operative word being “slowly”.
Actually we reeled the Wontonnah in fairly easily, but passing her proved another matter, we closed to within 50 yards and held that position plus or minus 20 yards for most of the race.
I believe that the sight of the Bloody Mary nipping at her heels helped spur the Wontonnah’s crew to press on, as they passed numerous sandy beaches that appeared perfect for a mid-race picnic stop.
While chasing the Wontonnah (an Algonquian word meaning "Crowded boat") we caught and passed more than a few serious racers, including an outrigger or two and even Bill Hahn and Charlie Thornton’s Wenonah. With something like 120 years of combined paddling experience, I was surprised that Bill and Charlie haven’t gotten the knack of it by now.
Entering the final quarter of the race we finally reeled in the Wontonnah, and without that disturbing visage holding us back began to extend our lead. Despite challenging conditions, including a phlegmy bowman, occasional course deviations due to Sailor Jerry’s inopportune interference, occasional deluges of rain, a headwind throughout the day’s circumnavigation (not fair!) and all too frequent boat wakes we were on a pace to break the 2:20 mark when the glorious sight of the orange finish line buoy at last hove into sight.
Bearing down over the last quarter mile, spurred on by Captain Topher’s elapsed time calls, we crossed in a Bloody Mary record of 2:17.46, besting last year’s time by nearly 7 minutes. It did not escape notice that we now have an even faster time to beat next year, but for now we will bask in the glory of our record finish and our complete and utter humiliation of the Wontonnah.
Captain Weirdbeard allowed us the usual victory grog, and we reveled in being the only race boat to cross the finish line ballasted with a celebratory case of beer and bottle (ok, two) of rum aboard, although, again, the Wontonnah gave us a run for our money in finish line libations.
Back ashore the Bloody Mary drew the usual admirers, as did Topher’s MSR Pavilion. I want a big racing canoe of my own, but dammit, now I want a Pavilion as well. That is the best thought out tarp, and probably the easiest to erect; it’s about time someone put some real thought into wing design. Compliments to the folks at MSR, I think they nailed it with this one…
The post-race confab went on well into the afternoon as usual and the Duckhead Racing Association was visited by friends old and new.
Bill Hahn stopped by, having finished in a respectable 2:46:10. It only took Bill 14 years to figure out that his previous partner was a lilydipper at heart, something we recognized in the first 14 minutes.
Bill’s visit was followed by a German racer, who regaled us with tales of helping rescue some hapless solo canoeist during the hurricane race of ’04, mentioning that all of this overmatched paddler’s implausible excuses started with the phrase “No, you don’t understand”. I miss the tradition of beating Paddler01 at Wye every year.
Donning our commemorative 1st place tee shirts and distributing hard-won race medals and other swag we were again among the last to depart, heading for the traditional carbo-load at Holly’s and plotting next year’s strategy.
Semi-official Duckhead race results:
Bloody Mary – 2:17:46 (1st 8-man canoe)
Wontonnah – 2:22:38 (1st 5 man canoe)
Martin Elliot – 3:37:55 (2nd men’s rec kayak Master’s 60)
Bob Shakeshaft – 3:37:35 (2nd men’s rec kayaks Master’s 50)
Despite Martin’s comment after the race: "Well, that’s an experience I can cross off my list and never do again" I’ll bet that once the Ibuprofen kicks in and the aches and pains go away he’ll start thinking about breaking the 3:30 mark next year.
The crew of the Bloody Mary: http://home.comcast.net/~chipCanoe/BM-at-Wye.jpg