ST. ANDREWS WEST, Ont. – Canoes took off in a rush down the Raisin River in an annual race that runs as deep as the water itself on Sunday.
In total, 319 paddlers in 177 canoes braved the frigid waters and challenging rapids at the 44th annual Raisin River Canoe Race, which takes participants through Martintown and on to Williamstown: a total distance of over 28 kilometers.
A few weeks ago, it was looking like the race would miss the peak flows the paddlers like for fast conditions, but organizers got an odd hand-out from Mother Nature.
“The snow storm last week was a blessing in disguise,” said Phil Barnes, assistant race co-ordinator. “Combined with the light drizzle, the fresh snow melt, raised the water levels of the Raisin River almost a meter.”
The 30-km course, which runs from St. Andrews West 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.
Throughout several points in the course, people of all ages lined up against fences, leaned over bridge railings, and stood along riverbanks to get the best view of canoeists and kayakers.
Race day conditions saw flows of 18,000 Litres per second; more than double that of last year’s race.
The fastest time down the river belonged to the tandem of Harold Walker and Pierre Brault, from the Ottawa region. Their time was 2 hours, 32 minutes and 5 seconds. The pair were the runners up last year. The better conditions helping them shave nearly 15 minutes off their previous effort.
In the high school category, Char Lan and La Citadelle tied for the most number of participants.
“We can’t thank our sponsors and support staff enough,” said Lissa Deslandes, race co-organizer. “We’re very happy to have Emard Brothers Lumber and Goodman Air Conditioning and Heating as our title sponsor this year.”
Barnes thanked the community for helping to put on such a high calibre event.
Dozens of organizations and businesses rallied to make the event possible, including: volunteer fire services, OPP police and auxiliary, St. John Ambulance and the ARES radio support group.
Preliminary results are available at the Raisin Region Conservation Authority’s website at http://www.rrca.on.ca.