Connecticut River benefit showcases a beautiful urban resource

Agawam, MA June 18, 2009. Despite heavy overnight rains, sunny weather greeted dozens paddlers at the registration tables for the 9th Annual Curtis Universal Connecticut River Challenge flat water races in Agawam on Saturday, June 13th. The field of fifty-one canoeists and kayakers included Philip Cole, aged 90, who ultimately finished his 8-mile, single canoe paddle in the Veteran Grand Masters category in under an hour and a half. Cole’s official time was 1.27.90.

The race whistle blew at 11:00 a.m. sharp and the first contestants eagerly churned into the currents, jockeying for early position “This was a perfect day for some friendly competition on the Connecticut,” said Race Committee member Rick Hartmann, who completed his four-mile, single kayak heat in just over fifty-four minutes. Heavy rains over night had raised the Connecticut, which ran at a good clip past the start line at the Springfield Yacht and Canoe Club. “These races are a great way for paddlers to experience this lovely section of river within view of the Springfield skyline and help the Connecticut River Watershed Council at the same time,” Hartmann said. Racers were also treated to a short run up through the shaded mouth of the Westfield River as part of the day’s race circuits.

All net race proceeds had been pledged by race sponsor Curtis Universal to benefit the Watershed Council, a nonprofit organization that has been dedicated to protecting the Connecticut River and its tributaries since 1952. At the end of the race day awards were presented in twelve categories, as paddlers finished munching their post-race picnics. The Challenge’s top finishers included Peter Heed and Ryan Lyesiuk, finishing their 12-mile canoe heat in a time of 1.57.59; Christina Wilson and Susan Morris taking first prize in the women’s 12-mile race with a time of 2.04.20; and Del and Vicki Cummings taking top honors in the “mixed” 12-mile canoe paddle with a time of exactly two hours.

“We had a lovely spring day on the water and everyone enjoyed getting out on our beautiful river,” said CRWC Executive Director Chelsea Gwyther, who along with her 10-year-old daughter Emma followed the racers on a safety boat. Among the Challenge’s kayak racers, Kurt Kuehnel beat out Joe Shaw by a hundredth of a second to win in the men’s long kayak category with a time of 1.52.07. In the women’s long kayak, Valerie Fisk was the winner with a time of 2.38.05; while Sally Roberts took the ribbon in the women’s sea kayak category with a time of 3.00.39.

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For press information contact: Chelsea Gwyther at the Connecticut River Watershed Council at: (413) 772-2020, ext 202, or cgwyther@ctriver.org; or Shirley Porter, Curtis Universal at: 413-737-0281, or email Rick Hartmann at: rhartmann@curtisuniversal.com. Photos are available