October 29, 2008

Hometown River Race

Cooper's Cup Flying Carp Canoe & Kayak Race
September 20, 2008
Cooper's Landing

Hosted by River Ladies Auxiliary
text by Steve Schnarr, photos by Dave "the River Slave" Marner & Melanie Cheney

Nobody knows how long paddler races have been going on at the Providence and Plowboy Bends of the Missouri River. I’ve heard of races in the seventies, but the participants I’ve talked to have pretty foggy memories of what went on. Some claim the races went down the Perche Creek, while others remember paddling on the Missouri. How about in prehistory? I can imagine huge dugout canoes manned by ten paddlers each barreling up and down the wild and weird big muddy river. Why not?

To quote an unnamed river rat friend, “further research is needed.”

But to jump forward in time, on September 20, 2008, for the third year in a row, a very strange phenomenon has taken place at this beautiful waypoint along the Missouri River. It’s so difficult to describe, it even has two names: The River Ladies Auxiliary’s Flying Carp and Cooper’s Cup Canoe & Kayak Races.

Doirienne & Keenan O'Brian catch a glimpse of the race namesake on the Perche Creek. photo by Dave Marner

We’ve become accustomed to long distance, downstream races on the Big Muddy. But this thing is a very short race. In fact the length of it changes every year. But there are a few really cool things about it: 1) No shuttle required. 2) You don’t need a ground crew 3) Spectators can see almost the whole thing from one spot on shore. 4) It costs five bucks to get in the race (and, hell, if you’re really pushy, you can enter even as the racers are gathering at start point).

The day has two races, but three classes. The first is a tandem canoe race with one adult and one kid (16 and under). The second race has two classes: single kayak and tandem canoe race paddling at the same time.

It begins and ends at the same place: Cooper’s Landing’s skinny, steep boat ramp. The ramp enters the river just downstream of a wing dike and is plagued with a strong eddy that changes as river levels change.
The crowded race start. photo by Melanie Cheney

Racers gather in the eddy, waiting for the blast of the starting horn from Sparky’s houseboat (if you don’t know Sparky, you should). They then pick their path across the raging current, heading slightly upstream if they can to the next buoy placed in the slower water on the other side.

They then paddle like mad upstream (the most grueling part of the race), looping around another buoy before heading back across river. This is a tricky maneuver because the river bends sharply here.

They dive into the mouth of the Little Bonne Femme Creek, circle a buoy, then get back into the channel to finish at Cooper’s ramp. Some years they have to stop at a sandbar, collect trash or a flag, and then hurry back to their boat. Each buoy or landmark gets a name: the slower water on the opposite bank is Carpbait Curve, there’s Deadman’s Dike, the Cauldron and, at the mouth of Bonne Femme Creek, is the Maiden’s Mouth. This year, the combination of high water, fast current and the wakes from motor boats created some pretty weird water in the Maiden’s Mouth, as you can see in Dave the River Slave’s awesome photo.

But this year, the river was very high. We even discussed not holding the race, but after a test run decided it was tough, but doable. We shortened the race course and, since there was not a sandbar in sight, took that part out. For the kid & adult race, we decided to start the racers up Perche Creek, so they would just need to paddle downstream and not have to fight around wingdikes or against the raging current.

With Tim Nigh giving play-by-play on shore and Jeff Barrow with radio dispatches from on the river, it makes for a hilarious spectacle all around. (“Folks, it looks like ‘Stinky and the Brain’ are making the cut across river at Deadman’s Dike headed for the Maiden’s Mouth. Look at those strokes! They’re really making headway now!”) Folks crowd onto the top decks of houseboats and all along shore to watch the paddlers battle it out.

This year we had two vessels tip over. But in testament to the good vibes of the event, these folks were just as happy as the winners (“This makes for a better story!” said one soggy participant).

Afterwards, awards go the winners in each class, as well as for the best team name. This year, the evening was capped off with the Charlie Brown Boogie-Down Dance Contest, hosted by local musical favorites Crazyfish.

Here’s a list of the winners (and honorable mention in each class). Congrats to the winners and thank you to all the good sports that tried their hand paddling up and down the Big Muddy!

Kid & Adult Tandem Canoe Race
1) Scott & Quinton Swafford, “Gazortenplatz”
2) Doreiann & Keenan O’Brien, “Favorite Noodle”
3) Sylvia Donnelly & Maggie Rotts, “Double-Trouble Boats & Bubbles”
Honorable mention –
Dave & Nick Mosby, “Heart of Hartsburg”
Bill & Nick Rotts & Daliliah Donnelly, “Flitty Flood Flubbers”
Chip & Ian Price, “Price Crispies”
Vince & Joe Blazis, “Stinky & the Brain”
Kid & Adult race winners, “Gazortenplatz” in their Kevlar canoe - Scott and Quinton Swafford

Adult Solo Kayak -
1) Kory Kaufman, “Leave Me Be I’m Not Trash”
2) John Breyfogle, “Alligator Cove”
3) Jason Bauer, “Carolina”
Honorable Mention –
Jim Bauer, “Loon”
Brenda Reida, “Just Kayaking”
Brad Bauer, “Althea”
Solo Kayak winner Kory Kaufman ("Leave Me Be I'm Not Trash!") reaches the finish line. photo by Melanie Cheney

Second place solo kayaker John Breyfogle ("Alligator Cove") approaches the finish just ahead of Tandem Canoe winners Chip Price & Scott Swafford ("The Editors"). photo by Melanie Cheney

Tandem Canoe Race –
1) Chip Price & Scott Swafford, “The Editors”
2) Travis & Roy, “Scramin’ Seamen”
3) Vince Gallo & Uncle Denny Ternamian, “Team Swell”
Honorable Mention –
Sylvia & Bill Rotts, “Carp A Delerium”
Aaron Boynton & Ken, “Tippy Canoe”
Will Buck & Rob Forman, “The Oakland Raiders”
Jim Karpowicz & Jerry Bizzle, “The Last Minute-Men”
Mark Osborn & Jim Hellmann, “Alagash”
Philip Masters & Mike Osborn, “The Fighting Mongooses”
Daniel Thorne & Gabe Ryan, “Boonslick Buccaneers” (Also winner of Best Name!)

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