Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Green Race update

The great thing about the southeast is a year-round paddling season, however, most paddlers' favorite time of the boating year is when the weather is cold and all the leaves have fallen. For whatever reason, it seems there are a lot more places to paddle in the winter. Each fall two events stand out for kicking off the winter creeking season in the South - the Green Race and the fall Tallulah whitewater releases.

The Green race is always held on the first Saturday in November, and this year it was the 4th. Besting the previous record of about 75 racers, this year over 130 paddlers competed for the coveted glass trophy made by Todd Graff and awarded to the racer with the fastest overall time. The stage was set for a big upset this year - defending 5-time Green Race Champ, Tommy Hilleke moved to Colorado last year, and while he managed to defend his title in 2005, his main competition, Pat Keller, was unable to race due to a broken hand he sustained paddling in Costa Rica earlier in the year.

However you look at this year's Green Race, the biggest news for this race concerns Pat Keller. Last year's disappointment drove Pat to design a long boat in conjunction with Dagger, specifically for the Green Race. Dubbed 'The Green Boat", Pat's design looked awesome as he prototyped it and trained on the Green in the weeks before the race. Similar to the previous 'hot boat' in the Green Race, the Prijon Tornado, "The Green Boat" is around 11 feet long, but the direct similarities end there. Pat improved on the Tornado by adding an outrageous amount of rocker and volume to his design, which can be seen below.

(click this and other images to enlarge)

Long (pun intended) story short, Pat achieved his long-time goal of winning the Green Race, besting Tommy's third place time and finishing with a 4:36, a time only two seconds slower than the race record on a slower course, due to wood in the race line through Pin Cushion. Andrew Holcombe, also paddling a "Green Boat", earned a very strong second place finish.

Pat Keller
Photo: Casey Jones

Andrew Holcome
Photo: Casey Jones

Tommy Hilleke
Photo: Casey Jones

From my vantage point at the base of Gorilla, I remember seeing a boat and paddle come through and waiting in silence with the rest of the crowd for the unfortunate boater to flush through the drop. To our relief, someone in the crowd had a fantastic throw with a rope and pulled the swimmer to the side, literally just before he flushed into the Notch. The spectators gave up a big cheer when he was pulled out of the water and we knew everything was ok. The scariest moment of the race, however, came when a competetor flipped after the Notch, missed a couple of rolls, and went off Gorilla upside down, landing directly on the decapitator rock in the left of the LZ. Everyone heard him hitting rocks the wholeThe rest of the race was very entertaining to watch from my position on belay for the rope holders at the base of Gorilla. There were many fast and clean lines, a lot of good lines, some carnage, and some good saves. The crowd was really into the whole race, cheering when a racer way down and it was obvious that he was badly hurt when he didn't roll up after Speed Trap. Toby McDermot was the rescuer when he dove into the Green after the unconscious boater. I was still on belay when the accident happened and would probably have been pulled into the river after Toby if my friend Ben hadn't grabbed me as I was being pulled down the rocks below the Monkey.

Photo by Casey Jones

Toby and Tommy pulled the unconscious racer from his overturned boat, and he came to within a few seconds. He wanted to finish the race, but Polk Deters checked him out and pulled him from the race and had him evacuated to the hospital. I won't go into the list of injuries he sustained, but his injuries are a good reminder that the Monkey can bite you - so be careful!
While I had planned to race in the short boat class in this year's Green Race, a bad line at Sunshine the week before the race shook my confidence and I decided to content myself this year with competing in the head to head race after the time trials were finished. The head to head class does not race through Gorilla, as the time trial does, but it starts in the eddy below Gorilla and is a lactic sprint through several class V rapids that utilizes the same finish at the bottom of Rapid Transit as the time trial does, all with five or more racers struggling for the fastest line through each rapid. As is easy to imagine, carnage is plentiful in this race and a good start is necessary for a chance at winning.

Chan Jones
Photo: Casey Jones

I can't imagine racing a faster, more maneagable creek boat than the Salto. It was awesome in the head to head race against creek the Riot Magnum and Pyranha Burn! The Salto is a smaller feeling boat than most, I think it is slightly faster than the majority of creek boats available.

At the lip of Scream Machine

Head to head race
Photos: Casey Jones

Several of us started in the overcrowded Gorilla eddy, egged on by race organizer Jason Hale. I had a pretty good start and was third going into Scream Machine, but the first racer was stuck surfing the hole and I had to choose between drilling him in the ribs with my bow or subbing underneath his boat and getting stuck in the hole as well. I chose the latter because racing isn't worth hurting another boater on purpose to me, and I ended up loosing the race. I'm not not disappointed because I raced for fun, but you can count on me being back next year and racing again!

Until next time...


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