Grand Isle Canoe racers tear up St. John Valley River after postponement
GRAND ISLE, Maine — Paddles in hand, boaters plunged into the St. John River for the seventh annual Greater Grand Isle Flatwater Canoe and Kayak race. The race was postponed earlier this year because of inclement weather.
It was a smaller than average field this year, with just a handful of single kayaks, one double kayak team and one canoe team. With the race divided into several classes based on age, sex and boat type, no two boats were in the same class.
The 10-mile course from the Madawaska Boat Landing to the Boat Landing in Grand Isle traverses a shallow, slow-moving section of the river. While the course is long, it’s relatively smooth paddling.
Alec Thibeault and Matt Dechaine had trained for the event, running the course the day the race had originally been scheduled in June, and were the first to the boat landing in Grand Isle.
“We were hoping to scare the competition,” Thibeault said. But it turned out they needn’t have worried.
The low attendance was likely due to the rescheduling, Johnny Damboise, an organizer from the Grand Isle Homecoming Committee, said. Following a strong turnout in 2019, they’re hoping that next year, post-COVID-19 and weather-permitting, the group will be able to throw a larger race again.
For the people in attendance though, the organizers went all out, yelling encouragement through megaphones and celebrating with a cookout at the finish line.