Alex and Tom Anderson took the early lead and kept it, finishing well ahead of the competition in the “Mighty Manitou to Booming Barwick Canoe Race” on Sunday afternoon.
Paddling a “freighter, not a racer,” the brothers quickly pulled ahead of the 18 other teams registered in the event, held in conjunction with Chapple’s centennial celebrations.
Several teams tried to challenge their lead but the race for top honours ended quickly as the pair opened about a 30-foot gap on the second-place canoe about a third of the way down the river.
By the time the Andersons crossed the finish line, that lead had bulged to a few hundred feet.
“We said we were going to stay close to the leader,” Tom Anderson said of their strategy after the race. “[But] we broke away with the lead and kept it.”
“We just wished for calm weather,” Alex Anderson remarked, his hands blackened from the gloves he wore. “We had 50 pounds of water in our canoe.”
Contestants took off from just below the Manitou Rapids around 3:30 p.m. and went all the way to Barwick, where they had to circle an island and then paddle upstream for the last few hundred yards.
Although the contestants were going with the current for most of the race, they were paddling into a wind which made for some choppy conditions on the river.
Lawrence Alexander and Dean Morken managed to stave off a late challenge from Peter Fuhrer and Josh Krikke for second place but just barely—with their canoe crossing the line just a few feet ahead of the latter pair.
“We kept looking back and they were too close to ease up,” Alexander said.
They attributed part of their success to taking a slightly longer route after coming around the island, catching a back-eddy near the shore and getting out of the current.
“That helped a lot,” Morken said, noting it was a gruelling race.
“If we weren’t in second place here, I would have given up,” he laughed.
Fuhrer and Krikke put forth an amazing last-ditch effort, moving from fifth spot to being tied for second while coming around the island. Their only mistake was pointing their canoe back into the channel on the final stretch.
“The current got us in the end,” Fuhrer admitted.
Al Oltsher and Marlin Mose took fourth spot, with Gary Wagner and Jamie Byman rounding out the top five.
Besides the first-place trophy, donated by Barwick Village Restaurant, the Andersons took home a purse of about $57. Alexander and Morken got $38 along with trophies, and about $29 went to Krikke and Fuhrer along with trophies.
The “Tail’s End” trophy, donated by Barwick Service, went to Dan Loney and June Wheatley, who finished last.
Race organizers Marlin Carr, Phil Huziak, and Cara Dunning were very pleased with the event’s turnout, both in terms of participants and spectators.
“We were counting on 12 canoes when we started out, and got it and more,” Carr said.
Support from the community also was beyond belief, he added, with spotter boats donated by Percy Champagne, Wayne Nugent, and Tompkins Hardware, and tons of volunteer support.
Carr wanted to especially thank George Oltsher, who did a lot of the work for the race, including coming up with its name.
In fact, things went so well plans already are in motion to make it an annual event in Barwick as part of its Canada Day festivities.
“I think it’s good for the area,” Carr said.