How it works: Canoe leg faces biggest challenge from Mother Nature

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 1, 2012 

THE COURSE

Where: On the Nooksack River, from Everson's Riverside Park to Hovander Homestead Park outside Ferndale.

Course length: Approximately 18.5 miles.

Approximate time to complete: One hour, 45 minutes for top finishers, two hours or more for everybody else.

Course description: It's not just a lazy ride down the Nooksack River. Competitors will have to navigate a course that is considered class 1 (on a 1 to 6 scale), but there are plenty of deceptive hazards due to logjams, submerged logs, undercut trees and other obstructions. Water level will play a key role in the speed of the river, and it's likely a number of competitors could go for a swim.

Canoe exchange race chair: Dave Schwab.

River chair: Thom Prichard.

Pre-race meeting: 9:30 a.m. at Riverside Park in Everson

Timing chip: Receive the timing chip from the road biker, swipe the chip to record the finish time for the road biking leg, canoe to Hovander Homestead Park, pass the chip to the mountain biker. The mountain biker will swipe the chip to record the finish time for the canoe leg.

WHAT'S NEW

Plan C: In 2008, the canoeing leg had to be cancelled because of unsafe water levels and speeds on the Nooksack River. With spring runoff possibly being a problem, once again, the Ski to Sea race committee is looking at the possibility of staging the leg on Lake Whatcom as an alternative to cancelling the leg, should the need arise. The alternative would end the relay portion of the leg, but should allow the canoeists a chance to compete.

TRAVEL AND VIEWING ADVICE

Park Drive, directly in front of the park, will be closed from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. to all vehicles to facilitate the exchange. Traffic between Lynden and Everson will be rerouted to Van Buren Road and Hampton Road during the exchange time.

Parking for participants will be in the field just north of the park unless it rains. Parking will be distributed throughout the area if the fields are too wet to drive on.

Best place to watch the leg: While any of the bridges over the Nooksack River between Everson and Ferndale offer a great view, the best place may be any beaches near the Guide Meridian and Hannegan bridges if the water levels aren't too high. If it's a nice day, bring a picnic lunch.

TIPS FOR THE RACE

• Racers can take canoes to the park Saturday, May 28, and Boy Scouts will watch them overnight.

• Racers should remember that they must haul their canoes down the dirt path to the launching area. Boy Scouts also will be available to help hauling the canoes.

• Loose-fitting clothing is best. Keep in mind you'll have to wear a life vest. Wear a top that you can easily take off because you'll work up a sweat.

• You can tip over. Be ready for this. Wear clothing that air-drys fast.

• Stay in the middle of the river. Paddling from side to side won't give racers an advantage.

• Coast Guard approved life jackets must be worn at all times during the leg. The river also will be closed to all boats but those in the competition and safety boats.

TOP GUNS

Male winners

2008: Leg was cancelled because of unsafe conditions

2009: Jeff Kolka and Nick Bauer (Samuel's Furniture) 1:48:23

2010: Steve Corlew and Bill Torongo (Boss Construction) 1:43:15

2011: Brad Bauer and Greg Barton (Barron Heating) 1:49:48

Female winners

2008: Leg was cancelled because of unsafe conditions

2009: Gail Howat and Duncan Howat (Mt. Baker Ski Area Veterans) 1:55:21

2010: Debbie Chadwick and Deighen Blakely (Boundary Bay Brewery) 1:54:10

2011: Debbie Chadwick and Deighen Blakely (Boundary Bay Brewery) 2:01:51

SOURCE: SKI TO SEA

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