Wells River Rumble
by Cassie Hayden
On April 27th I particpated in the Wells River Rumble. What a great low-key event. First day back in a kayak and I was in a creek race. I wanted to send a special thanks to Jolyon, and the Dartmouth crew who helped make the super-fun event a success. To anyone who likes creek races you should do this race next year. The Wells River is a short pool-drop style run, probably about a mile and a half long. Scoring was based off finishing position, not time.
Jolyon showing us how it’s done, he organized the race while also racing himself.
Most people showed up a little bit early and got in a practice run before the race started. This was great for many of us because it was our first time on this class IV/V run. The race had two boat classes, long boats over nine feet, and short boats under nine feet. There were also prizes for the female winner and the best carnage. After the practice run Jolyon lead the competitors meeting and the race involved running the river twice, game-on time.
The first run down was broken into four segments. The first segment was a mass start with about 25 boats on the starting line. We raced into about a five-foot wide line on river left through the first rapid. I was side-by-side with another competitor as we hit the bottom hole. The chaos continued behind as people were bounced into the hole. This segment continued until the bottom of the next class IV rapid. We were broken into heats based on our finishes. Each heat had one long boater, who probably should have been in their own heat, and three short boaters. I was the first short boat to reach the cones in the first section, and was already feeling worn out after the sprint.
This is not how it should be done, but if you like carnage a head-to-head creek race like the Wells will dish it out.
The second section was a winding rapid with fun ledge holes and several route options. It was pretty fun to be running each section in a small pod of racers. The real trick was to try and draft the long boats off the start and then watch where they went. I had developed some good separation from the other short boats when the bottom of a slide pushed me into an eddy and I watched somebody catch up to me. I got back in the current and was side-by-side with them when all of a sudden they got stuck on a sand bar and I made it to the cones first, lucky.
The third heat I had a bad start and was left playing catch up. Not an easy section to make up any time though, because this section included El Salto Falls. El Salto is about a thirteen foot waterfall with several line choices from easy to robust. Mostly because I didn’t want to land on anyone I finished third in this heat, the long boat got spun into a rock outcropping and we passed him; always nice to go past a long boat.
The final section was a close start but I was left slightly behind the others. I managed to pass one competitor early and was drafting the other short boat in front of me. I was bumping him a little trying to find a way to get around as we neared the final drop. At the entrance I was in a slightly faster current and was getting pretty close to him. He nor I really wanted to run this one tandem, and he decided to let me pass on the way in. So I thought I was going to be the first short boat again, but as karma would have it I hit slow current just before the finish line and he was able to just sneak by in front of me.
The second run was a full-length race with everyone from top to bottom. The start was chaotic again as I watched 25 boats coming towards me. I ran the drop through the hole with another boater again and got spun out at the bottom. This gave me a sweet glimpse of the carnage behind. Back to racing. The long boats were long gone out in front, and there were three short boats a short distance in front of me. I was watching them push each other and jockey for position, but I was a bit too far away to get in on the action. The rest of the race we pulled farther away from all the other competitors, and we finished in our positions from the start.
I was fourth of the short boats and finished fourth of the short boats overall too. What a great way to kick-start the season. Here’s some photos from Patrick Rogers. Check out Patrick Rogers’ website for more of the photos. There is also information available from this website. http://wellsriverrumble.blogspot.com