THEY'RE OFF AND PADDLING: 2014 Raisin River Canoe Race

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By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario - Hundreds flocked to St. Andrews West, as canoes took off in a rush down the Raisin River in an annual race that runs deep as the water itself.

In total, 305 paddlers braved the frigid waters and challenging rapids this Sunday.

Phil Barnes, assistant race coordinator, was pleased with the increase in participation this year.

“The 42nd annual Raisin River canoe race provided plenty of thrills and chills along the banks of the mighty Raisin River, with boats running the gamut of 1930’s vintage right through to futuristic Kevlar composites of the 21st century,” said Barnes.

Unlike last year, when water levels were too high, the lower levels and subsequent lower flow rates allowed racers to attempt crossing the Martintown Dam, where it flowed at a cool 7.5 degrees celsius.

While 167 entered the race, only 160 actually got their boats wet. Large crowds cheered as 136 canoes paddled their way through the finish line; a trek that took some up to four hours. Ahead of the pack, Corey Van Loon of St. Andrews West completed the race in just 2 hours, 46 minutes, and 23 seconds.

Albert Lafave of Williamstown was awarded the Simon Fraser Trophy for Supporting the Canoe Race. And the high school champions with the largest contingent of youth paddlers were Char-Lan, with 14 registered paddlers.

Dozens of organizations rallied to make the event possible: the local volunteer fire departments of St. Andrews, Martintown, Williamstown, Lancaster, and Glen Walter, OPP Auxiliary, ARES Communications, St. John’s Ambulance, and co-op students from St. Lawrence College and La Citadel.

Siblings Christie and Dale Vanderburg, from Apple Hill, were ready to conquer the 42nd annual Raisin River canoe race.

Dale, 22, participated in the race when he was in Grade 11, while Christie, 29, is a full-fledged newbie.

The 30-km course, which runs from St. Andrew's to Williamstown, has a reputation for being the longest canoe race in eastern Ontario. But avid participants and spectators are more familiar with its contrasting duality.

What starts as a peaceful paddle down the river, quickly escalates into an exciting rush as the course dips through the Devil's Chute, rapids, and the dreaded Shoot the Dam, as it makes a turn for one more exciting twist at the McIntyre Rapids.

"Last time I didn't make the dam," said Dale. "This will be exciting, that's for sure."

Christie was visiting with family before she heads back to British Columbia. She considered the race a great opportunity to try something new with her brother.

The Vanderburgs had a trial run on Friday to test their skills. Dale borrowed the canoe from a friend, which he hopes comes back in one piece after the event.

"This race is a real challenge, and I think together we can conquer it," said Christie.

For race results, visit the Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA) website.

Geographic location: Raisin River

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