2012 recap: Barron Heating repeats as Ski to Sea champs in exciting finish

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 16, 2013 

Course map for the 2013 Ski to Sea race.

JESSICA RANDKLEV — COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Barron Heating won its second straight Ski to Sea in 2012 and continued a dynasty that now stretches back with 10 wins since 1996.

Even though it was a dramatic finish for the repeat victory, that certainly wasn't the story of last year's race.

Failures with the race's time system at two of the seven event finish lines created confusion about exactly where everybody behind Barron and the top teams finished and frustration for the race committee.

"I heard a few comments from more seasoned racers that are in a lot of races, but most said, 'Hey that's racing, it happens at every race,'" Race Director Pete Coy said. "Some of our Recreational Division racers, they said, 'Hey, we're just happy to finish the race. We don't care about our time. We knew we probably weren't going to be all that competitive.' I was probably more frustrated than anybody by the fact it didn't work out the way it was supposed to happen."

The reason for the timing troubles happened early.

The timing system on the downhill leg suffered an equipment failure, according to Eric Ewing, manager of the Pacific Northwest division of Milliseconds, the timing company.

The timing system for the cross country leg, meanwhile, was taken out by a skier.

The result was mixed up and confusing times for both legs, and the running leg that followed.

Though overall team times for the race were accurate, and a backup system got the order of racers for each leg correct, many skiers and runners still don't know how long it took them last year.

Race organizers also had to cut short the kayaking leg because afternoon breezes kicked up chop on Bellingham Bay. To make the course safer, kayakers had to hug the shore, rather than looping around three buoys further out in the bay.

Coy said race organizers released 100 kayaks early to help them avoid the worst of the wind and get all kayaks on the bay by 5:30 p.m.

But those troubles didn't take away from what was one of the more intriguing races for the overall title in years.

Only minutes from the finish, Barron Heating's kayaker paddled past the racer for Team Aeromech Takes Flight, clinching victory in a neck-and-neck race, winning with a time of 5 hours, 33 minutes, 29 seconds.

The Barron team had to survive a brush with disaster to pick up the win: Their mountain biker, Colin Cares, took a wrong turn near the end of the next-to-last leg that ends at Zuanich Point Park.

"I just found myself at a dead end and turned around, " Cares said. "I don't know if I had my head down, or the officials weren't ready or what."

The misstep allowed the Team Aeromech mountain biker, Steve Fisher, to take the lead, but the Aeromech kayak hit the water no more than a minute or two ahead of Barron.

In the Competitive Female Division, Boundary Bay Brewery took its 13th straight win, despite an early challenge from a new team that formed with the goal of beating them: Team Fast and Female. Boundary Bay turned in a time of 6:26.24.

The race was back and forth between Barron and Aeromech, and at the end, the two teams finished only seconds apart.

"I don't know if we get much closer than that!" hollered John Barron, company owner, who hugged Zsolt Szadovszki after he finished. "This year, what a photo finish. It just doesn't get any more exciting than that."

Klicks Running and Walking won its second straight Whatcom County Division title in 5:53:34.

The nature of the 2012 downhill leg timing failure was updated May 28, 2013.

Reach Sports Editor David Rasbach at 360-715-2271 or david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com. Browse the Ski to Sea special section at BellinghamHerald.com/skitosea.

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