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Just the facts Jack. Nobody had more fun than us at the 2004 Wye Island Regatta. Not Charlie Vestal, who missed the race entirely, waiting for AAA to come and rescue him from the dreaded keys locked in the car scenario, not the Hepners or the Gillespies, who were forced back by foul weather and waves, not Team Hopkins, who were told to turn back by the Coast Guard when they were nearly at the halfway point. Not Paddler01 Alan., forced to beach his boat half way through and ride back with the safety craft, returning by land to fetch his boat from the lawn of some Wye Island mansion ("The master will see you now sir")
That L&L Lassies turn-back was a damn shame though, since Team Hopkins was in one of the most seaworthy boats in the regatta, the 30+ year old OT Sockeye. I’m sure they could have finished safe and upright, stroking strong to their chanted cheer of:
"We’re gonna paddle, steer, read the map, we’regonnapaddlesteerreadthemap, TIP THE BOAT...We’re gonna paddle, steer, read the map, we’regonnapaddlesteerreadthemap, TIP THE BOAT"
We were missing some of the usual contestants Ebet and Vic and some promised first time entrants David and Steffi. Next year guys. Next year we are due for benign conditions. Or perhaps for a really difficult 95 degree, high humidity, blazingly sunny heat stroke day.
Race day 2004 dawned unpromising. Tom overslept; missed joining Topher at the meeting spot by an hour, then must have driven past him on the highway. How he could have missed him on the road is beyond me - "Dum de dum de dumb...oh look, there’s a 22" long voyageur canoe being pulled by a truck with Pennsylvania tags..."
A big shout out to Blue Mountain Outfitters,
for allowing us the use of "The Bloody Mary", and to Captain Topher for his solo trailering perseverance, timely delivery and sterling sternmanship in piloting the great beast in very challenging conditions. And to bowman c2g for setting the cadence and steering the bow when needed. With a crew of eight and twenty two feet of boat you’d better have a bowman who can steer.
Challenging? Challenging and then some. With the remnants of Ivan blowing through (accent on "blowing") the conditions were, well, epic. It seems that is an adjective that comes into play frequently to describe paddling trips with Topher and all I can say is "Yea hah, let’s do it again soon!"
Waves crashing, spray flying, rain driving and boats capsizing all around us the Bloody Mary plowed on fast and steady. Not only were we one of the few boats to finish, we were the only boat racing with two bottles of rum and a cooler of beer along. Gotta keep the crew happy and hydrated ya know.
I believe we were also the only boat on the course to break into song, working our way through off-key renditions of American Pie, Show Me The Way To Go Home and assorted sea shanties led by Cap’t Topher.
One particular shanty was a seaman’s version of Fat Bottomed Girl, sung solo by our Captain when he was inspired by the capsize and attempted recovery of a racing lady endowed with swell (or swollen) cheeks and a form fitting racing outfit. Topher’s stroke rate picked up noticeably after that visual treat.
Thanks to our Captain’s GPS pronouncements we received regular updates on our progress, including distance paddled, current speed, low, average and top speed, as well as dire predications of our fate if we were overtaken by certain kayaks.
No chance of that; as boat after boat turned back, turned to shore or turned turtle. One single racing shell passed us early on, heading back, and the rower announced her decision with a loud "Bauck, bauucck, baauucckk" as she chickened out.
As we neared the halfway point, where the race course approached the open Chesapeake Bay, we noticed a few fast racing singles heading towards us with a purpose and deduced that the race had been shortened to include no open bay leg.
Looking ahead we espied a large outrigger canoe coming our way, hell bent on a collision course, and began to angle slightly off to the right. An overtaking two man shell continued to persevere into the wind and wave before veering off with a snide remark or two, including reference to our cutting them off and a something about our being "overloaded". At which point we instructed the shell’s bass-akwards facing crew to look to their right, as the mammoth outrigger churned past. We should have let it cut them down, but in the end I believe the wind and wave ended their race day with a DNF.
As it was the race was canceled before any of the big shells took to the water, with only one quad making the start and no fours or eights. Taking a $30-$40 K carbon fiber racing shell out in those conditions wouldn’t have been a good idea. Not just for the danger to the costly craft, but for the damage to the rower’s fragile psyche as the Bloody Mary kicked their butt, smoking them on the difficult return leg, surfing waves in a 22’ Voyageur canoe while her rum-swilling crew chanted dirty sea songs and laughed their way to the finish line.
Our final test on the return leg was administered by a Coast Guard vessel that bore down on us at a high rate of speed, then abruptly throttled back as it neared, throwing a huge bow wake in our direction. Nice try boys, but we’re crewing the Bloody Mary. Throttle up; off with you then, go sink a rowing shell or race kayak. Pass the rum.
Perhaps 20% of the boats that started managed to finish, most succumbing to wind, waves or attacks by rogue Coast Guard vessels. The crew of the Bloody Mary bowman c2g, Tom, Brian, Tyler, Patty, Theresa, Captain Topher and I (an all P.net crew by the way) not only finished, we finished off the cooler and cracked the second bottle of rum to celebrate crossing the finish line.
No sooner had we finished than that wonderful phrase was first heard "next year...." As in "Next year we need to have a beer midget in the crew".
Take I-495 to Rte. 50 East over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Follow Rte. 50 E to Rte. 213 S (14 miles east of the Bay Bridge and 5 miles east of Rte. 50/301 split.) Turn right on Rte 213 S and proceed 1 mile to Wye Mills. Stay straight past old church and Wye oak tree. Rte becomes 662 S. At Wye Landing Lane (c. 2 miles from Wye Mills; look for Regatta sign.) turn right and stay on Wye Landing Lane 2.0 miles to dead-end at Wye Landing. Park vehicles and trailer off Landing in areas designated.
Take I-97 S to Rte 50 E to Chesapeake Bay Bridge and follow directions above.
Take Rte. 13 S to Odessa, DE. Turn right on Rte. 299 and follow c. 5 miles to junction with Rte. 301 S outside Middletown, DE. Straight on Rte. 301 south to junction with Rte. 213 S (c. 40 miles). Turn left on Rte 213 S and follow 4 miles to intersection with Rte. 50. Follow above directions.
Wye Island Race
1 Canoe/Kayak Trailer
Touring Kayak Paddles