Rabaska racing returns to AuSable River Canoe Marathon
For the second consecutive year, the racing of voyager canoes with multiple-person teams will take place in conjunction with the AuSable River Canoe Marathon on July 29-30. Voyager canoes, known in Quebec as Rabaskas, are “freighter canoes” – 25 feet long and four feet wide – and were originally utilized in the upper Great Lakes region by traders and settlers as early as the 1600s.
For more than 30 years, Rabaska racing has been a fixture on the St. Maurice River in Quebec, the setting for La Classique Internationale de canots de la Mauricie – “The Classic” – the third stage of the Triple Crown of Canoe Racing. In the early 1990s, Rabaska racing was integrated into the festivities of La Classique, which is staged over the three-day Labor Day weekend in September, and it has been a fan favorite ever since.
Nowadays, Rabaska canoes have evolved to be more adapted to racing. They are made of light carbon fiber and their shape above water level has changed to become more aerodynamic.
“Despite their big size, Rabaska canoes can move as fast as the C-2 pro canoes in deep water. This sport is accessible to all kinds of people and can be practiced with a minimum of training,” AuSable River Canoe Marathon officials said.
For the second consecutive year, Rabaska racing will be part of the Marathon. And, for the first time, a Michigan team will be part of the race. In 2016, four competitors from Michigan – Calvin A. Hoogerhyde, Justin Griffith, Susan Williams, and Peggy English – had the chance to be a part of the La Classique Rabaska race with Quebec teams.
“They loved their experience so much that Calvin, of Roscommon, decided to buy a Rabaska from Quebec to assemble a team and grow the sport in Michigan,” AuSable River Canoe Marathon officials said.
Rabaska competitors from Quebec will again be traveling to Michigan with their canoes this year.
“Started as a ‘demonstration project’ in 2016, the spectacle of Rabaska racing easily convinced the fans, sponsors, and the Marathon committee that it was great add-on to the Marathon’s 69-year tradition. Three Rabaska teams were part of the inaugural race and the organizers are expecting more teams this year,” AuSable River Canoe Marathon officials said. “Rabaska racing during the AuSable Marathon is a very important first step to grow the sport in Michigan.”
Martin Gervais, president of the Quebec Rabaska Racing Association, said: “We are very thrilled about racing at the Marathon again this year. We had a great first experience last year. Everybody loved it and they are very anxious to come back to Michigan.”
“The Quebec Rabaska Racing Association is working hard to grow our sport in Quebec and we are willing to help grow the sport in Michigan as well. The first step is done and now we must keep on moving forward. We are going to support Michigan paddlers who want to assemble their own teams in the future. Participation in Rabaska racing is a great way to learn competitive paddling and the sport of canoe racing will only benefit from the growth of Rabaska in Michigan,” Gervais said.
Consumers Energy has also been supportive of the addition of Rabaska racing to the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, making its facilities available to the public for these events.
New for 2017, “The Rabaska Experience” – Saturday, July 29, from 8-9:30 a.m. at the Mio Dam Spillway – offers the opportunity for the public to get in and paddle a Rabaska with experienced paddlers. (A $5 donation to Oscoda County Park Campground is requested.) This will be followed at 10 a.m. by the start at Mio Dam of Stage 1 of the 2017 Rabaska Race. There are race viewing locations at Camp Ten Bridge and Oscoda County Park. This stage will last about 2 1/2 hours.
Stage 2 of the 2017 Rabaska Race will start at 6 a.m. on Sunday, July 30, at Consumers Energy’s Five Channels Dam (south of Glennie on M-65). Following the start, in the Five Channels dam pond, the big canoes will paddle one long buoy-turn loop in the pond before portaging the dam and heading downstream to Oscoda. Fans will also have viewing opportunities at Consumer Energy’s Cooke Dam (approximately 7:30 a.m.) and Foote Dam (approximately 8:45 a.m.) and at the Oscoda finish line, where the Rabaskas are expected to arrive at approximately 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
For more information about the AuSable River Canoe Marathon and the Rabaska race, visit the AuSable Marathon’s website at www.ausablecanoemarathon.org, or go to the Marathon’s Facebook page.