SITKA - Race co-founder Mark Gorman claimed the overall title in the inaugural Sitka Sound Ocean Adventure Race on Saturday.
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The race for any human-powered watercraft benefited the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, which is renovating a historic boat house so it can be used as a museum. The entrants used kayaks, rowing sculls and two Tlingit warrior canoes (which usually have crews of between 10 and 14 paddlers). Most of the competitors were from Sitka, but there were two from Juneau, one from Kodiak, one from Salt Lake City, one from Couer d'Alene, Idaho, and one from Adelaide, South Australia, who joined the crew of one of the warrior canoes.
Gorman rowed a single scull to cover the event's 17.7-nautical-mile alternate, bad-weather long course from Sitka Sound to the end of Silver Bay and back in 3 hours, 26 minutes, 38 seconds. The course was switched just before the start because of blustery winds and heavy chop on the race's original course from Sitka Sound to Nakwasina Bay and back.
Race co-founder Steve Reifenstuhl, who paddled a single kayak, took second place on the long course in 3:35:37. Even though he won, Gorman said he held a gear advantage over Reifenstuhl, especially once he hit Silver Bay where the ocean chop disappeared and the water became glassy smooth.
"We both had GPS's in our boat, and mine said I went 6 miles an hour and Steve's said he went 5.7 miles per hour, which is phenomenal for a kayak in this water," Gorman said. "If he was using my boat, he'd probably have gone 6.5 miles an hour. The only reason I beat Steve was because I had a gear advantage."
Reifenstuhl said his kayak is very light, so he carried a 15-pound rock in a bag to the starting line, thinking he might tuck it into his boat's bow for ballast. At the last minute, he decided to leave the rock in his car.
"It was a judgment call. It would have helped smooth things out in the chop, but it also would have meant I was carrying 15 extra pounds," Reifenstuhl said, adding that he's comfortable with the differences between Gorman's rowing scull and his kayak. "With Mark and I, this is fine. It evens things out between us."
Taking third place over the long course was Matthew Turner in a single kayak, who posted a time of 4:08:05. Finishing fourth was Sandra West of Kodiak, who used a brand new single scull she borrowed from Sitka's Rob Allen to post a time of 4:22:55. The pair of Andrea Thomas and Cindy Edwards took fifth place in a double kayak, finishing in 4:29:38 to edge sixth-place single kayaker Paul Gloe in 4:29:57.
Gorman not only won the long-course race, but he passed all of the short-course racers who started an hour ahead of him. The short course was 10.7 nautical miles to the entrance of Silver Bay and back, and that race was won by the mixed double kayak of James McGowan and Ivy Hammons. The McGowan-Hammons boat covered the short course in 2:34:25, finishing just a little over a minute ahead of the hard-charging Reifenstuhl.
"It was fun and wet," said Hammons, who added that at one point she and McGowan hit a spot of water where there was like an eddy that made it hard to keep their boat moving. McGowan said it was like a reverse current.
"We didn't decide to do this until Thursday, two days ago," McGowan said. "But now that we've done the first one I'll be back for the next race."
Taking second place in the short course race was the double kayak team of Lon Garrison and Peter Gorman, who had a time of 2:38:04. The double kayak team of Tim Fulton of Sitka and Eugene Eichner of Couer d'Alene took third in 2:44:00, while single kayaker Scott Harris was fourth in 2:48:40.
Finishing fifth in 2:52:14 was the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Tlingit canoe known as "Toowu Latséen," which means Inner Strength. During training, the canoe lost six of its paddlers to injury, but captain Erin Kitka said he's got a lot of friends. Toowu Latséen's goal was to beat the Sitka Traditional Canoe Club's boat, "Kaasada Heeni Yaakw'," which means Canoe From Indian River. Kaasada Heeni Yaakw' finished eighth in 3:04:22.
Next year, the race will be on June 14. Race results, information, safety tips and entry forms are online at www.sitkaadventureracing.org.
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