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2012 Downriver Competition Report

The 2012 New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association (“NECKRA”) downriver season consisted of 12 races, running from March 31st (Scantic Spring Splash) to July 1st (Deerfield Riverfest). This was an increase from the 11 races run in 2011 and from the 10-race schedule in effect from 2007-2010. It is the most races run in a downriver season since at least 1999. Two new races were added to the schedule in 2012, while the traditional Zoar Gap race was not held to give paddlers a chance to compete in the American Canoe Association (ACA) Whitewater Open Canoe Downriver Nationals held on the Nantahala River in North Carolina.

The two new races were both held on the Dryway section of the Deerfield River. Although short, the Dryway course features several Class III rapids and one significant Class IV rapid known as Dragon’s Tooth. The Dryway was by far the most difficult course on the schedule. Unfortunately, this fact kept NECKRA attendance in those races down – only one NECKRA racer participated in each of the Dryway races.

A total of 40 NECKRA members participated in at least one downriver race, up three from 2011. Twenty-three members qualified (completed four races) in the downriver series, which was an increase of five from 2011 and was the most qualifiers since 2002. Of the twenty-three qualifiers, sixteen competed in at least seven races (the maximum number that count toward the championship), the most for any season for which we have records.


Canoe / Kayak / Total





At least one race

23 / 17 / 40

26 / 11 / 37

- 3  / +6 / +3

At least four races

  8 / 15 / 23

10 /  8 / 18

- 2 / +7 / +5

At least seven races

  6 / 10 / 16

 7 /  7  / 14

- 1 / +3 / +2

The chart makes it clear, however, that the increase in both casual and competitive participation came from kayakers. Overall canoe participation (at least one race) was at its lowest level on record. Though the number of canoe qualifiers was similar to the number of qualifiers over the past seven years, it was much lower than the number seen in the early 2000s.

By number of boats, overall participation in NECKRA downriver races was down approximately 17.5% from 2011. New England experienced an historically dry winter and spring in 2012, and water conditions were marginal or poor for most races. In addition, many race directors faced a Herculean task clearing the courses thanks to Hurricane Irene and a 2011 Halloween storm that downed trees throughout southern New England. The Sturbridge race also had to deal with the aftermath of a 2011 tornado that passed directly over the race course and choked the Quinebaug River with broken trees. Both the Scantic Spring Splash and the Hockanum River Race had fewer than 100 boats for the first time since 2007. On the positive side, the Ware River Ice Breaker, Charlemont Downriver Race, and the Quinnipiac River Race (up 86%) all showed significant increases in participation from 2011.

Charley Brackett won the canoe title with 349 points. It is Charley’s seventh championship in the last ten years. Fred Thompson finished second with 347 points. The canoe series also featured two qualifiers ten and under: Tommy Palmer (4th place), ten years old, and Phoebe Jones (7th place), who turned seven during the season. It was the third year in a row that Phoebe was the top female canoe finisher.

The kayak title went to Paul Glasscock, his first championship. Second place went to Keith Duggan. Melissa Tweedie (7th), in her first NECKRA season, was the top female kayaker.

Eric Jones
Downriver Competition, NECKRA