Ever since a freak windstorm in Penticton several years ago, the Duel in the Desert outrigger canoe race has had a reputation as a beautiful race site, with potentially challenging, if not downright exhilarating conditions on Skaha lake. This year’s conditions on saturday for the 6 person canoes presented another challenge, heat and no wind. “I’ve stopped stressing about the wind for this event. It is what it is!” said Don Mulhall, one of the organizers of the event. “As soon as the boats were off the water, the wind kicked up for the awards. While we were racing it was flat calm”. The day started off with the novices and juniors on the shorter course, followed by the women, then the men’s and mixed teams. Teams were racing on a 17 km course that took them down the east side of the lake, across to Kaleden, back up the west side of Skaha Lake to a buoy near the airport where teams would turn and head straight back toward the finish line near the Penticton marina.
False Creek Racing Canoe Club of Vancouver took top honours in the mens and women’s division with times of 1 hour, 14 minutes; and 1 hour 26 minutes, respectively. Vancouver Ocean Sports took first in the novice (short course) at 39:22; and first in the mixed division at 1 hour, 19 minutes. Penticton was well represented with crews in the junior, novice, and mixed divisions. Penticton’s two junior crews finished the short course in 42:09 and 57:29 with the PRCC novice crew finishing in 44:52. There were 9 teams in the long course mixed division. Penticton crews placed 4th (1 hour, 28 minutes) and 8th (1 hour, 31 minutes). Okanagan Surf Club – a team that included paddlers from Kelowna and Penticton, came second for the second year in a row, finishing in 1 hour, 17 minutes.
Sunday’s small boat races began with the same flat conditions, as the KISU swim club dominated the junior division. “We had kids, some as young as 11 years old, racing in one and two person boats over a 5.3 km course” said Tina Hoeben, KISU coach and PRCC junior coach, “Some of these young paddlers are posting times that would put them right in with the adults.” Brian MacPhail, a KISU swimmer, stepped up to the men’s 11 km race and finished solidly in the middle of the pack at 57:58 – his first race at that distance. Other Penticton paddlers included Hoeben (1st place, masters) 1:01:32; Mulhall (3rd place, masters) 55:23; Brad Lee (2nd senior masters) 58:09. Wayne Still, paddling his first race on the long course, finished 2nd in the Kupuna division (for paddlers over 65 years of age) with a time of 1:05:42.
The location was praised by all visiting paddlers. Bob Stewart, from Canada’s National Sprint Outrigger team, commented, “This is one of the top two race locations in Canada. It’s perfect.” Stewart will be joining local paddler, Ron Pronger as part of Team Canada heading to the World Outrigger Sprint Championships in New Caledonia next week. Both paddlers raced in Penticton.
For more information, call Don Mulhall at 250 488-3100, or www.pentictonoutrigger.com or www.canadianoutrigger.com Penticton Racing Canoe Club has an intro to outrigger paddling course starting May 17.