Monday, October 8, 2012

North American Championship Recap

Last weekend, NOC hosted the 2012 ACA Open Canoe Slalom Nationals & North American National Championships on the Nantahala River. Open canoe paddlers from all over the country, as well as Canada flocked to the Nantahala Gorge for three days of racing on the fun and challenging Nantahala Falls Course. They competed in a variety of disciplines, encompassing various lengths of crafts, composite and plastic boats, and tandem and single classes. Many of these competitors see each other regularly on paddle trips in their hometowns. Others are old friends who see each other once yearly at only this event.

The mood was a unique mixture of serious competition--with whitewater athletes walking the course, scouting lines, and discussing runs, penalties, and strategies--and family reunion, as this tight-knit group of friends and river-family caught up on old news and shared new memories after yet another year.

Race organizer MJ Simpson found time to compete in tandem events with both of her young sons. Simpson volunteered to organize the 2012 event in part, she said, because she met her husband, David Simpson, at an Open Canoe Nationals in Carltin, MN, so she felt she owed the event a good turn. “We’re even now, OC Nationals,” Simpson joked at the awards ceremony on Saturday evening at NOC’s Pourover Pub, to the laughter and applause of her fellow-canoeists.

Open Canoe slalom is a test of speed, river-running skills, and agility, and paddlers strove to excel in all three areas over the course of the weekend. In speed, the unrivalled champion was Jordi Domenjo, a coach at Colorado’s Alexander Dawson school, and a top kayak slalom athlete from La Seu D’Urgell, Spain. Domenjo posted a top time of 129.14, seconds ahead of the second place finish by Eli Helbert of Asheville, North Carolina, who came in at 155.05 in the OC1 Open X class.

There were only a handful of clean runs posted over the course of the weekend, a rare distinction since Open Canoes are long and it takes significant skill to navigate them through the slalom course at all, not to mention the difficulty of passing through each gate without tapping (or whacking) one. Among those competitors who managed at least one clean run were Carole Westwood, Adrian Nye, Dooley Tobras, and even the C2 team of Andrew Westwood and Paul Mason, among others. Course designer David Simpson also posted a clean time on Sunday morning, much to his relief. “It would be a sad state of affairs if the course designer couldn’t clean his own course,” he said.

The location of next year’s Open Canoe Nationals has yet to be determined, but one thing is clear, this dedicated group of paddlers will make the long drive, canoe trailers in tow, ready to give it their all, once again, for that so-often-elusive clean run.

View Full Results here:

Day 1 Slalom Final

Day 2 Slalom Final

Day 3 Slalom Final

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