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06/23 - New England Canoe-O Championships

On an airplane trip last fall I looked down to see a perfect canoe-o venue, a puzzle piece shaped lake dotted with islands. I was startled to figure out that it was the south end of Lake Quinsigamond. Most of us who use I-290 cross Quinsigamond at its north end where it is just a narrow waterway but the area south of Route 9 is totally different. 

So I began the process of finding a start/finish venue and of getting permission. I was also quite concerned about motorboat wakes and wanted a spot where the big boats don’t go. By January I had plans A, B, and C. Location A would have been the best with canoe rentals and swimming. The owners strung me along week after week until April when they finally said no. Meanwhile getting permission to be on the lake was turning into a nightmare. Not only did I need the usual DCR permit, the Environmental Police stepped in and said we also needed a permit from them and their permit application required signatures from all chiefs of police in abutting towns or cities which for Quinsigamond meant there were three. At the last minute I also learned there was a Lake Commission to appease and as well as Conservation and Recreation commissions from the three towns who could have said no. In the midst of all this, the beach where we were going to hold start and finish had to be closed on an emergency basis because a wall there might collapse and we were told to shift to undesirable location C which was 1.5 miles north and would have exposed the paddlers to a narrow gauntlet of motorboat turbulence to get to and from the islands. I almost canceled the event at that point but at the last minute a new launching point was identified back near the closed beach, only there was a 20-foot embankment down to the water. Then, finally on Friday with only a day to spare, the DCR permit came through and we were actually on.

In something new this year we were a New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association point series event. The idea was that the racing community would be encouraged to give canoe-o a try by a shot at easy points. It also meant there were no other canoe races in New England to draw those paddlers away. Sadly, only a few NECKRA teams who wouldn't have come anyway showed up. As those of us who have tried so hard to promote orienteering keep learning again and again, it’s very hard to get people to leave their comfort zone and try something new. Those we did attract seemed to like it and are looking forward to the next canoe-o on July 20th in Amesbury.

We had 34 paddlers in 20 boats for a score-o format, with 15 controls. 14 were water controls and one was on land. The majority of boats went for all 15 controls. The medium course was any 12 controls and the short was any 5. Elite paddlers and many time canoe-o winners Seth and Steve Miller took the honors as New England Champions. Not far behind were Shawn Burke and Jamie Doucett. On the medium course Andy McIlvaine & Peter Mitton paddled so hard they broke their bow seat and still won.

Those who started earlier had almost no wind and infrequent motorboat wakes. But by 12:30 the wind was up and there were motorboats all over the place. Jeff Shapiro and Ian Smith lost eight minutes when they upset in the middle and had to swim their boat to shore. The strangest of all was that the Environmental Police seemed to ignore the madhouse of careening motorboats and jet skis and instead zoomed up to Priscilla Reinertsen and Ray Thiel , throwing a huge wake their way, to check if they had life jackets and then were irritated when Priscilla and Ray struggled with their paddles to steady their boat rather than comply immediately. Having the New England Canoe Orienteering Championships on such busy water isn't typical. I promise that next year’s venue will be in a far quieter location.

As always the volunteers are what make the meets work and this time we had a great crew. Many thanks to Levi Roman, Koa Toyoda and Savitri Khalsa who worked registration, Scott Turner, Sam Levitin, Ian Smith and Jeff Shapiro who handled start and finish and especially to Bill Warren who hung around and picked up 12 of 15 controls.

Thanks,
Aims Coney