Last weekend the 31 mile Chattajack endurance race took place in Tennessee with over 500 paddlers on the start line. Larry Cain, canoe olympic gold medalist took the win for the fourth time in a row in front for the third time straight of Bart de Zwart. In third place to make a full Starboard podium was John Batson also on a 14’0″ Sprint race board.
Here is a recap of this grueling race by Bart de Zwart:
I decided last minute to go to the Chattajack. I had sign up 5 months ago but due to some obligations I only bought a ticket 10 days ago. It was going to be a quick in and out one. Arrive Friday, Race Saturday and leave Sunday morning. Sounds easy but if you fly from Maui it is a lot of plane time compared to racing time. By the time I had to leave, I saw two forecasts, the Maui forecast, perfect conditions with a giant swell and glassy conditions and the Chattanooga forecast with 5-11 (41-52) degrees C (41-52 F), rain and wind. So I left with mixed feelings.
When I arrived in Chattanooga (with still sunny and nice weather) and met all the familiar racers, I got in the mood.
With 575 signed up racers this is one of the biggest stand up paddler races in the world and ironically it is also one of the harder, 50 km (31 miles). I was going to use my Starboard Sprint 14’ x 23″
I woke up at 5 am on race day to prepare my race fuel and drive to the finish to leave the car there. By the time we got to start it was raining and cold and the wind started to pick up. On the plus side the river had some flow of about 1 km/hr.
The last 2 years when i came to this race I got 2nd behind Larry Cain. This year I decided to give him a run for his money, but thats always easier said than done. The former olympic gold medalist has a strong powerful stroke and he can keep it up for a long time. Strangely this is one of my shorter races this year. I spoke to Larry Cain, the day before and we decided to work together if we ended up being close after the start.
The start was a little messy because of the current pushing us towards the start and the wind turning us around. The start came when almost nobody was prepared but I came away first and pushed hard the first few hundred meters until Larry joined me with John Batson who had been training with Larry’s monster training program and clearly was very fit.
We started to work together right from the beginning taking turns and pushing in the front every 10 minutes.
Soon we were well clear of the pack and came into a good rhythm. Super last minute before the start I saw more rain coming and the wind in our face, I decided to put on my super thin wind breaker. I am clearly not a real Dutch anymore and used to the cold. During the next 5 hours I never regretted that decision. Later I found out more than one third had pulled out during the race, mostly due to cold and hypothermia. Although the river winds down in all directions, Murphy’s law gave us head wind most of the time. Not enough to really slow us down but enough to create and extra struggle.
By half way we couldn’t see any other paddler but one unlimited behind us. All three of us were on Starboard Sprints.
By now I was confident Larry and I would stay together until the finish, John sometimes slipped away a few board lengths but always managed to stick with us. Larry and I both tested the water with some accelerations but it looked like it would come down to the finish.We all realized, we were stronger together than everybody for himself. So we stuck together. At some point we had some strong head wind again, chilling to the bone. I was glad with my 2 layers and wind breaker.
I had already had two Chattajacks with Larry so I knew he has a very strong sprint from his C1 Olympic days and the fact he still trains hard. But I found one weakness, side chop or buoy turns. In the whole 50 km race there was only one 45 degree turn, at the finish with a 70 meter sprint after that. Doing our 10 min turns up front left me in the third place in the train about a mile form the finish, not ideal. Larry started to accelerate to overtake John. I stayed with him but couldn’t overtake. When we got to the buoy Larry had about one board length on me but as I expected, had a harder time getting around it. Cutting to the the inside I managed to get even with him at the beginning of the sprint. I gave it everything but so did Larry, apparently with a little more power. He came over the line 1St. Again a 2nd place for me at this race. Followed by John right behind us.
I managed to stay warm the whole race but when we got off the water it was nasty cold. I jumped in my warm clothes and a down jacket and went back to the finish to watch the rest come in. The great thing about hard, long and tough weather races are it gives you a real sense of accomplishment when you do make it. I saw a lot of cold but happy faces in the next hours. and lets be fair, we did the course in a new record time of 4hr 51min but some took as long as 8hrs. Now, those are the real warriors of this race this time.
Men, An All Starboard men podium.
1. Larry Cain Starboard Sprint 14′
2. Bart de Zwart Starboard Sprint 14’
3. John Batson Starboard Sprint 14’
1. Seychelle Hattingh