Jamie McEwan is New England Whitewater Kayaking’s White Knight. He and his wife Sandra Boyton, have been supporting slalom and wildwater racing in New England for the past 20 years, as well as the USA Teams. Jamie purchased the “River House” in CT as a place that aspiring athletes could live rent free, or super cheap while making a full time paddling commitment. This year he brings the “T’Ville Triple Crown” to New England in his push to increase the level of competition there. New England was once the epicenter of competitive kayaking in the USA. Top slalom and wildwater racers came from Dartmouth, Ledyard Canoe Club, Amherst College, and more New England hotspots. With coaches like the “Wipper” and Events like the Mascoma, T’Ville, Rattlesnake, West, etc. etc. there was alot of activity there. In the past 20 years the influx of new events and athletes from New England has been less than the rate of decrease of them. With so many great rivers and programs, the resurgence of New England whitewater prowness is immenent. Add Jamie MCewan and groups like World Kayak, Zoar, StillRiver, and others and you have a recipe for success.
This story is about the big event, bringing Freestyle, Slalom, and Wildwater (downriver racing) together into one event.
The concept was simple- There were three competitions and your results in each event is added together for a final placing. The winner of each event got 30 points, second got 28, third got 27, and then each placing got 30 points minus your finish place. On Saturday we had prelims. This means that we did a wildwater race, a slalom race, and a freestyle competition, all in one day! The top 15 men would make the finals and the top 5 women for Sunday.
The wildwater race was done two people at a time, head to head over a 4 minute course. I was paired up with Isaac from DC, a slalom racer who I didn’t have much experience with. I didn’t want to have to chase him down the river in a boat I have little experience in. (a wildwater racing boat I borrowed from John flatley). I charged out of the start full steam ahead and pulled an early lead over the first 30 seconds and shook him off my side. i was racing down a section of river that i didn’t have experience with and never raced, reading and running, while Isaac kept trying to pass me. I was sprinting to prevent the pass, and getting lactic early in the 4 minute race. i warded off the final pass attempt above the big drop at the finish line and entered that drop with right hand angle, as i was told I should do to prevent hitting a big chunk of dam that was down below the drop. when i went over the big wave my bow dropped and caught the eddy and I got eddied out 10 feet above the finish line. isaac hit my stern and passed me as my stern was about to cross the line. He got a 4:03.00 and my time was a 4:03.10. close race and very exciting. walking back up to the RV to get my slalom boat for race #2 i was sure I was going to throw up. Jure’, my old slalom coach’s son, from DC, won that event with a 3:55. I didn’t throw up, but I didn’t fully recover before my first slalom run. i focused on a clean run and got one good enough for first place after first runs. Jure missed gate 10 due to forgetting it. Isaac came back from 2nd place to win on second runs. There were some Canadians there too. Katrina Van Wick, and Sara Bodin (2008 Olympian for slalom), and her brother. also a strong slalom and wildwater racer.
It was very cool watching the freestyle paddlers doing slalom, and seeing the two groups mixing. Normally, slalom racers only watch freestyle, and vice versa, and often have a lack of respect for the other group as athletes. This event eliminated that kind of watching from a distance as all of us were required to compete in all three events, and if we wanted a shot at the $1,000 Triple Crown prize, we would have to do well in all events, making each event an important part of the weekend.
During the Freestyle prelims, it was apparent who had playboats in their quiver at home and who didn’t . Not unlike the slalom races too. I got first in the men’s prelims, followed by Dane, who had some great rides. Jessie Stone won prelims, and was really looking good at it.
The day of competing ended up with awards at the Cracker Barrel Pub. Some river rocks were attached to upside down ashtrays and were very cool appropriate awards.
The next day I woke up and got a note that told me I forgot to deliver some All-Water and Riviera boats for the Collinsville Canoe and Kayak show. I loaded them on the Mini-cooper at 6:30am on Sunday morning, and got Kristine to take them over because I had a competitors meeting to go to at 8:00am in a next town. the day was already getting a ready start.
We all met up at the start of the Wildwater race- at T’Ville Park. i was last to go this time and watched the top 14 men, and 5 women go off the start. most of the racers took off with a sprint and had the hammer down around the corner as far as I could see. i got ready to go and in the water 3 minutes before my start for a warmup.
Jamie McEwan was overseeing the start and got to see his son, Devin, take off down the course.
This was the first race I was doing for the big day, finals, which meant it really mattered for the triple crown ranking. I was actually a little nervous, because the boat I was paddling was super tippy, didn’t turn unless you lean it to the outside of the turn. If the bow hits an eddyline you can get railtroaded into the shore instantly and it takes 10 seconds to turn it around again. i already heard that the Canadian guy did just that, and I did that on my prelims run that cost me second place.
i got a sprinting start and then backed off to my 4 minute race pace. i did the first two rapids better than yesterday and was able to focus on my foward stroke instead of preventing a pass. we did finals individually instead of head to head. The next rapid has a bunch of bridge pilings in it and i went down the right of them but forgot about the nasty rock at the very end of that rapid. My bow got to the left of the rock and my body to the right. I had to hit the brakes and try to swing my bow back to the right. I dont’ know how much time it cost me, but it got me to hit the gas and go into overdrive and try to make it up. the rest of the race was reasonable and went fine. I made it accross the finish line without eddying out. i was not as dizzy as the prelims, but felt like I was faster. When we got the results in I was 8 seconds faster and got a 4:55. i was happy to have improved that much. I found out that Jure got a 4:55 and Isaac got a 4:53 so i was third in finals of the wildwater race as well as the prelims. meanwhile, Katrina won for women, followed by Sara.
The slalom race was next and started right away. I went immediately after Jure and we were kidding with each other, knowing that he needed to win the slalom event, if he wanted a shot at the Triple Crown. He already told me he wanted Dane to beat me in freestyle, so that i would lose the 2 point win bonus and make it so he wouldn’t have to get as good of a freestyle result (his weak event) to do well. Jure looked great on his first run from what i could see. i took that que and hit the gas right out of the start, focused on clean and fast. Other than missing the top wave from 16-17 and having to ferry a little on that move, I had a good run. I got a 118.03. Jure got a 115, and Isaac was 119 +2, and the Canadian was 118.69. I was in second so far. Jure was joking about my boat and I decided to try his for fun on the second run. that was dumb, as i was all over the place and didn’t even bother to check my second run score.
Isaac got a 113+2 on his second run, and awesome job and a close 2nd to Jure. That pushed me back to 3rd again. I was now in 3rd place after the first two events with 54 points. Jure had a perfect 60 points, and Isaac was second with 56 points.
In the women’s class, Katrina also had a perfect 60 points after the wildwater and slalom. Sara had 56 points, Jessie had 52 5th and a 3rd, and Elaine had 51 and Hannah Farrar had 50. They set up the freestyle finals in reverse seed based on the points for the first two events.
Jessie got a 130 point ride on her first ride and that was way ahead of the rest who all only got one move for 10 points. On second rides, Jessie secured her first place position in that event, with Elaine in second, then Katrina, hanna, and Sara. After the points were tallied, Katrina won with 87 points, Sara in second, and jessie in third.
In the men’s class there were three heats of 5 men in finals. Jure had to get 6th place or better in Freestyle to win the overall to win, assuming that I won. By the time our heat was up, there were two solid rides on the board by Dane and another guy in an All-Star ( i forget his name, but he was awesome). The scores were 340 and 320 for the first two heats top scores. i needed to at least beat those scores to win the freestyle event. I was the only trained freestyle boater in the final heat, because the slalom and wildwater racing trained athletes had their events first and had pushed the other freestyle boaters down the ranks in the Slalom and Wildwater races. Both Isaac and Jure had more points than i did going into the freestyle event. jure needed a 6th or better and Isaac needed a 2nd or better. I needed a win.
Devin, and Ted Devoe had good first rides, but not better than 340. My first ride was right at 300 points with two flushes, not good enough for a win. Jure didn’t have a good first ride, but Isaac had a reasonable one, but not 2nd place.
On second runs, I got past 340 points and hadn’t flushed yet, allowing me to try anything I wanted. I secured the win as niether jure or isaac would likely get the moves needed to beat that score in the next ride. it was now up to isaac and Jure to perform their best and hope for better than 2nd or 6 place.
Once the results came out, I had won, Jure was 7th, and Isaac was in the top 10 too, but not 2nd. the first Triple Crown ended up being won by a primariy freestyle boater for men, and primarily slalom boater for women. What a great concept! Who will win next year? Will the slalom racers train more freestyle? will the freestyle racers train more slalom or wildwater? will primarily wildwater racers train both?
I missed the awards ceremony to paddle the new All-Waters down the Satan’s kingdom section of the Farmington with some local paddlers. I took a Dynamic Duo down with Doug, who had never been in whitewater. He did great. dinner at margaritas with 10 people, including Andy, who is jamie’s right hand man, and the powerhouse behind the event, made for a great wrap up. We are now headed to Reno!