This one is in the books. The 2017 running of the Chattajack will go down as one of the better editions to date, and not for idyllic conditions. As could be expected, weather played a major factor on the outcome. Sunny, balmy 70-degree pre-race temperatures gave way to bone-chilling rain, wind and even some sleet. The flow of the river was high, but when factoring the conditions tended to weed out many competitors. In total, thirty-one double-bladed competitors withdrew from the race. For some, especially the more experienced, the flow despite the conditions likely enhanced their outcome, for others it proved to be more difficult to surmount. All told, several notable stories unfolded.
Elusive four-hour barrier falls--twice.
The first to blast through the threshold on the day was the tandem pair of Nate Humberston and Bruce Poacher. Incredibly, rather than use a faster, skinnier double surfski, the duo opted to paddle the new Epic tandem sea kayak; absolutely lighting the course up on the wider boat.
Finishing time: 3:53:54
In the solo category, Borgnes proved that the third time is the charm after coming in at a very close 3:59:03. As if cutting the time close didn’t create enough drama, he conceded a few gut-wrenching moments at the final sprint when the final buoy blew to his left just as he passed by. Borgnes had to come to a complete stop, back up and redirect himself around the buoy with the clock ticking. It was at this moment that I lost my voice. One more note: Borgnes completed the day on almost no water, no food and in shorts and a light top. He stated that he “felt comfortable” throughout. This man clearly has ice running through his veins. He is “the Iceman”. Eric Mims followed in second at 4:07:20 with Scott Cummins coming in with an impressive performance at 4:09:45. Side note: first and third position both paddled the relatively new Mcgregor Classic boats.
Female Surfski Battle Royale
What happens when you place two elite athletes with Navy-Seal-Like-Never-Say-Die attitudes against each other? You get a clash of the titans. Kata Dismukes and Pam Boteler fought through the elements for 32 miles, using all their focus, grit, tactics and resolve to come into the final sprint nose to nose. Kata gained an edge approaching the buoy and hit the gas down the stretch. This was the deepest threat to Kata’s longstanding reign here in the Tennessee Valley and it created an exciting climax on the day. Pure girl power is a thing of beauty to behold and these two did not disappoint. Racing at it’s finest and congratulations to both. Julieta Gismondi followed in third.
Female Kayak Record Falls--And Then It Doesn’t.
When first-time Chattajacker Salli O’Donnell approached the final sprint she was informed that she had 6 minutes on the fastest female kayak time. Her time and placing were revoked, however, when another competitor complained that she had drafted out of category, resulting in a disqualification from the race. The disqualification marks the first time any ski or kayak paddler has been disqualified from the Chattajack. The record remains for now and Kimberly Schulte was moved to the top step of the podium in her place, with Myrlene Marsa and Susan Stroope in second and third respectively.
Male Kayak Record Set
With the new SS20 models entering the race en masse as well as the high flow of the river, it comes as no surprise that the Kayak record would be in jeopardy. Relative newcomer Lee Droppelman put the hammer down on the division from “go”. Richard Carter fought tooth and nail with Droppelman to the finish, but in the end conceded 50 seconds to the new record-holder. Finishing time--4:35:39. Russell Self in at third.
Ross Sets Record On C-1
Top American Canoe Paddler Ian Ross set the record for C-1 with a time of 4:41:34. Ross's entry marks the first time an elite sprint boat was used on the Chattajack course. Although the time set is impressive, the turbulent water, wind and conditions he struggled against on the incredibly challenging C-1 emphasized the effort. The difficulty of completing 32 miles in a high kneel cannot be overstated.
Tough day on the water for all the competitors. Congratulations to all who weathered the storm.