SITKA - Sitka residents Lon Garrison and Tim Fulton were the first racers to cross the finish line in Saturday's second annual Sitka Sound Ocean Adventure Race, claiming the top time in the 13.5-mile short-course race in their double kayak.
Garrison and Fulton covered the course around Middle Island in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 18 seconds. Rich Forst was the second person to cross the finish line in his single kayak, posting a time of 2:36:53 to edge out Bill Winslow in a single kayak in 2:38:30.
The mixed double kayak of Kelly Gebler and Todd Gebler finished fourth in the short-course race in 2:49:45, followed by the mixed double kayak of Mary Mackey and Bryant Mackey in 2:53:21. The only all-female double kayak of Litia Garrison and Nancy Knapp finished in 3:16:43 to take ninth overall in the short-course race.
Mark Gorman, the only non-kayaker in this year's field, rowed a single scull as he won the 22.2-mile long-course race, posting a time of 3:49:48. The long course went to a marker near Beehive Island and back to the start-finish line at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus boat ramp on Sitka's Japonski Island. Gorman was nearly 20 minutes ahead of single kayaker Steve Reifenstuhl in 4:09:29, while Paul Gloe finished in 4:33:56 for third place overall in the long-course race and Matthew Turner finished in 4:52:52 for fourth overall.
The Sitka Sound Ocean Adventure Race is open to kayaks, canoes, rowing shells, paddle boats, Tlingít warrior canoes and other human-powered watercraft. It is a benefit fundraiser for the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, which is in the process of renovating the historic Japonski Island Boathouse so it can be a maritime heritage center for Southeast Alaska.
Fulton and Garrison had different partners when they competed in last year's inaugural race, and Saturday was their first time paddling together this year.
"We felt good. We had a nice kayak and we were a good team," Fulton said.
"I hadn't even paddled since the race last year," Garrison said. "But we matched up pretty good. It was fun. We didn't take things too seriously, and it was fun to compete."
Forst was one of the few competitors who wasn't able to compete last year, and he was happy to hold off Winslow to be the top single kayaker in the short-course race.
"I wasn't going to let anyone beat me," Forst said, adding that he kayaks a little bit for fun but his focus is on biking and running.
Some of the competition involved friendly rivalries, such as the race between the Geblers and Mackeys. All four work together at the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Mount Edgecumbe Hospital - the Mackeys in pharmacy and the Geblers in nursing and respiratory therapy.
"Our goal was to keep the Geblers in our sight," Bryant Mackey said, with Mary Mackey adding they didn't start kayaking until April.
"And our goal was to keep the Mackeys behind us," Kelly Gebler said.