So Spring 2010 rolled around and I had, what I thought at the time, was a very fast boat and I had been paddling a lot to get in shape. Full of overconfidence and cockiness, I went back to the Nelson Downriver Race on the Tye River the first Saturday In May, 2010 to cruise down the river at blazing speed and take top honors. Right?
Oh, ignorance is indeed bliss.
As luck would have it, rain was sparse that Spring and the river level was very low so the race organizers moved the race to a lower section of the Tye River, starting about two miles above the confluence with the James River and then the race would continue down the James to Wingina, VA. What I did not realize yet at that time was that this meant this was going to be largely a flatwater race.
I paddled as hard as I could and was disappointed with a second-place finish in my category of K1, Male Downriver. Although I was less than two minutes behind the first place paddler in my division, I was not happy and even more humbled by the times of the top, overall paddlers.
Me pushing hard for a respectable, but disappointing finish.
I was more than 6 minutes slower than the top paddlers and my tiny little brain had a hard time processing this.
Once again I looked at boat design and construction at the finish line and noted that while my boat was one of the longest ones in the race, it was made of plastic and was heavier than some of the top finishers. The winning boat was a couple feet shorter but made of fiberglass and another was shorter, a Pyranha Speeder, and made of plastic, but of a sleeker, more racing-oriented design. Yep, that was my buddy Konrad in that Speeder and he took second place overall, 4 minutes behind the overall winner. I also noticed that both of them were using something called a wing paddle. I did not know what that was other than the fact that these paddles “scooped” water.
Konrad in his Speeder with wing paddle.
Tom with his wing paddle and odd boat made out of fiberglass and of weird design.
My brain worked on this as I prepared for the real race that I wanted to win the following weekend, The Rivanna River Race in my hometown of Charlottesville, VA.
This was also the first year I started putting cameras on my boat so I can happily share this Tye River/Nelson Downriver Race experience with you all these years later.