Over the years the PNWORCA season ending championship race course has changed. From a tame out and back at Sail Sandpoint through the north end of Lake Washington to navigating the confused waters around the 520 floating bridge in a loop to the new course unveiled days before this years race. With the forecast looking good for a downwinder, the selection was to start near Seward Park, navigating both floating bridges of I-90 and 520 and finishing at Sail Sandpoint. A solid course of 10 miles yet one that was testament to a series ending championship race.
Alas the forecast was correct in the wind direction yet was optimistic on the strength of that wind. While not creating great surfing conditions, the winds did kick up some bumps allowing savvy paddlers an advantage in an otherwise flat course. The real decision of the course was whether to navigate the east or west spans of each bridge as these are the only two options to navigate beyond each bridge. With a slight SW wind direction, opting for the east spans would have paddlers quartering against an ama side wind, not for the faint of heart in chilly weather.
At the start the largest pack opted to navigate the eastern spans while a smaller group headed for the western spans. Within 200m of each bridge the bumps kicked up in the bath tub effect helping to ease the flat grind. With a fairly tame race start in overcast conditions, at the halfway point of the race the skies unleashed a torrent of rain that not only made for bad visibility it also forced down the air temperature significantly giving yet another test to paddlers.
As has been consistent throughout the series, Shane Martin pulled out to an early lead, solidifying his dominance in the series by leading through to the finish. Mulu and Shaffenberg were not but 45 seconds off the pace of Martin, with the V3 crew of Mamiya, Mayeda and Strimling rounding out the top three finishers. The next wave of paddlers to come through were close, six paddlers within two minutes of each other. With Alan Lipp chasing down Dean Jordaan at the finish, Vance nearly nipped Lipp at the line with a sneak attack in his rudderless canoe. Also proving a tight finish were the top two SUP paddlers, Dustin Sousley and Matt Parker. These two were within a board length of each other for quite some time, finishing just under 3 seconds apart.
Of the top 20 finishers, all but two crews had chosen the east span course, proving that it was the faster choice, and upon GPS comparisons, slightly shorter as well. With the race over, paddlers quickly rushed to get into some dry and hopefully warm clothes before scarfing down a full spread of food.
As the race is the last in the series, the small boat races are over for the season. That certainly doesn’t mean time to only paddle the big boats, rather time to prepare for some excellent warm weather and warmer water races of the summer where we all hope for high winds and excellent surf to play in. Big mahalo to Ernie Wong and his crew for helping to put on this race and to all the paddlers for trekking out in the picture perfect weather.