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NECKRA Competition Meeting

Sunday, November 9, 2014    12:00     Miller residence

     After a fine lunch, laid out by Steve Miller and his wife, Katherine, the Competition meeting got under way.  In attendance were:  Steve Miller, John Kazimierczyk, Bob Allen, Peter Heed, Ted VanDusen, Annemoon van Erp, Heidi Henkel, Dave Van Dorpe and Priscilla Reinertsen.  Eric Jones attended via Skype.  Priscilla acted on behalf of secretary Jack Beusmans and took notes.

A.  2014 race attendance and analysis.

As reported by Eric Jones at the NECKRA Annual Meeting of Nov. 2, 2014, the overall downriver attendance decreased slightly this past year.  Kayak participation was down a little, while the canoe participation was stable or up a little in some instances.  Flatwater race attendance was mixed, with fairly stable total attendance. Some races experienced record high attendance.  These included the Nashua River race on June14, and the Great Stone Dam race on Sept. 7.

Race attendance is greatly influenced by weather, esp. downriver races.  Mother Nature was not unkind towards the downriver series this year, and a wet summer produced good water for flatwater races.  Kayak participation in flatwater races has been steadily increasing over the last several years.  Larger races often provide food for racers after the event, a fine drawing card.  Races that pair adults with children  (thinking particularly of the Miller’s River Challenge held early October) also draw good crowds.

It was pointed out that locations with boathouses, such as the Greater Lawrence Community Boathouse and the Holyoke Rows Community Boathouse, offer fine opportunities for promoting youth as well as adult racing.  These boathouses need used boats to augment their fleets of boats needed for the large summer programs for children that they run.  It was suggested that NECKRA promote boat donations to these clubs  (through PaddlersConnection and the NECKRA website).  As these boathouses are all 501 c3 organizations, boat donations would be a tax deduction for the donors. It was suggested that it would be good for NECKRA to have a larger presence at the early downrier races, promoting the organization.  The Westfield Novice Race and the Rat Race were considered.

B.  Discussion of possible changes to the flatwater and downriver schedules for 2015.

We will be losing a couple of NECKRA flatwater races for 2015:  Glasgo Ponds  (for 2015 only) and the Canoe-O NE Championship.  John Kazimierczyk is interested in running another flatwater race, and it was decided that June 28th would be a good place in the schedule for this race on the Connecticut River in Northfield, MA.  The Pioneer Valley Riverfront Park in Springfield, MA is interested in running another race at its location for the Potato Race.  June 18th was suggested.  MaCKRO is probably going to offer a flatwater race weekend in Bethel, ME at the end of August, the 22-23rd. This race weekend would include a long race of 20-30 miles.  There are no NECKRA races that weekend.

The downriver races were considered including whether the Wappingers Falls races should continue to be on the NECKRA Points Series.  It was decided that it should remain for 2015.  Other possibilities of late season downriver sprints/racing on the Farmington River in Tariffville will be research by Eric Jones.  Rosemary Longo-Nutt is considering running the Lower Miller’s River downhill race.  The suitability of the Deerfield River Dryway for Points Series racing was discussed again this year.  The course is for closed boats only and involves class 4 water.  Only the most skilled enter this race, and it should remain clear that the lesser experienced should not attempted this course. 

Steve Miller brought up an issue regarding the flatwater handicap system.  As it is currently set up, the system favors folks who are strong paddlers, going out with a full sprint for the entire race rather than pack racing, so that the winners will collect the highest number of points.  Does this change the racing scene from past years?  Should the number of races that are required for points series qualification, be reduce?  The matter seems to involve canoes, but not kayaks.  After much interesting discussion on the merits of the current system and the disadvantages and advantages, Steve volunteered that he would analyze the results from this year to see whether reducing the number of races to qualify would have changed the end results of the Points system and winners.

C.  Other events for NECKRA in addition to races:

The group considered clinics for young people, and beginner canoeists and kayakers.  Though Heidi and Priscilla had planned on holding one or two such clinics in Brattleboro this year, connections with the owners of the proposed location became too difficult to arrange the clinics this year.  Heidi feels that the clinics can be scheduled for next year.  Pam Browning did put on a dry-land clinic in mid-March in Orange, MA, to  encourage youth and novice paddling.  There were, in fact, many youth participating in the Rat Race and in the Miller’s River Challenge.  Additional clinics at the boathouses in Lawrence and Holyoke were suggested.

D.  Goals for NECKRA membership and ways to promote these.

NECKRA has experienced steady membership over the last several years, a little under 200.  The group felt that the most effective way to increase membership was the one-on-one approach, where a NECKRA member can personally support a new person’s paddling.  It was suggested that we look into having stickers printed for boats that read:  Bob Allen will look into this through a contact of his.

It is highly likely that the ACA National Championship for 2015 will be held on the Penobscot River above Bangor, ME  The date will be July 22 – 26. The suggestion was made by Eric that NECKRA support this effort with  both sponsorship and participation.  (NECKRA has supported previous ACA Championships in New England.) Eric will check out whether there will be a kayak class at this ACA championship .  (A dollar figure for sponsorship was not discussed, and can be discussed via email, after the event is confirmed.)

E.  Flatwater kayak and canoe interactions.

Historically, the paddling organizations in New England have been for canoe racing.  Our earliest CCRA kayak racers were Bill Baker, Paul Dyka and Glen Green, who raced kayaks in NE in the mid-70’s.  We have been delighted to have kayakers want to join in flatwater racing. Kayaker participation has increased noticeably in the last decade.  Heidi has made us aware that there have been some issues between same flatwater canoeists and some kayakers. There have sometimes been difficulties with race starts for kayakers. The group discussed what the problems are and what the confusions may be.  It was agreed that an article about race starts might be informative for race directors, especially regarding holding the line for kayakers at the start of a race.  It was also agreed that another article on matters of who has the right of way, passing and drafting should be written to educate all paddlers and make us sensitive to the needs of kayakers and canoeists.  Heidi will do some writing, and further authors are welcomed.  It was useful to consider how the needs of kayakers and marathon canoeists are not the same at the start of a race.  Separate starts as useful in these matters.  

F.  NECKRA grants and scholarships.

It was decided, upon consideration, that NECKRA will make grants to Holyoke Rows Community Boating and the Great Lawrence Community Boating  programs of $400 each, in 2015.  That leaves $300 in our budget for additional grants, should appropriate proposals be submitted.  A decision on such a proposal can be made via email to the Executive Board and to other members who attended the Competition Meeting.

G.  Approval of NECKRA membership in USACK for 2014.

The group agreed, after consideration of the various race insurance programs that are available, that NECKRA should continue to purchase a club membership in USACK for its insurance program.

H.  Other.

Peter Heed reviewed the oft-confusing situation of race insurance, and who the providers are.  Cost of insurance was reviewed.  There may be changes in the providers.  Peter supported insurance being purchased by all race directors. 

Peter also suggested that it was time for NECKRA, in cooperation with a sponsor, to host the USCA Marathon Nationals Championship again, as we did in 1988 and 2002.  Now that USCA has reduced the requirement that its August Nationals be 6 days, and may now be a 3-day event, Peter feels that, as a premier racing organization, we can take our turn once more.  He has a Northfield, MA locations in mind on the Connecticut River.  The group felt that this should be investigated, and it will be.

Adjournment was at 3:00.