Spike’s Challenge C-1 canoe race to be held on Saturday
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Spike’s Challenge weekend of canoe racing will include a C-1 event – a race from Grayling to Burton’s Landing in one-person canoes – on Saturday evening.
Numbers were down last year for the event. After having 63 competitors in 2015 – third most in the event’s history – the 2016 Spike’s Challenge had 45 paddlers.
In 2014, 64 paddlers – a tie for the race’s all-time record in participation – competed in the C-1 race. The 2013 C-1 event had 54 competitors. In 2012, 64 paddlers – a record field – raced in the event. In 2011, 54 people competed.
Event organizers are expecting numbers to be down a little bit again this year for the Spike’s Challenge C-1 race.
“We are not expecting as many teams this year. The numbers have been down at all the races this year,” said Cheryl Lucey, one of the organizers for the Spike’s Challenge.
What is the appeal of the C-1 race? Competitors and organizers cite the distance, the competition, and the course as reasons for the race’s popularity.
“I think the C-1 appeal is for paddlers to prove themselves to others and it is a short downstream race while most of the other C-1 races are a down and back course. Also since we added the women’s prize payout that keeps growing,” Lucey said.
The C-1 event’s field can be a diverse group. It usually features several AuSable River Canoe Marathon competitors plus a variety of other paddlers.
“It may be the premier C-1 race in Michigan each year,” said Eric Batway, who’s raced the Spike’s Challenge C-1, Spike’s Challenge C-2, and the AuSable River Canoe Marathon multiple times. “Many of the top racers from Canada and USA are in town for the Marathon the following week.”
For the start, paddlers line up on both sides of the river in groups and leave in different heats. Starting positions are determined by random draw.
“The start is tough as each heat begins with canoes on opposite banks and they all converge on the center of the river after your heat starts. Getting out clean and in front is a huge premium as you can avoid the bumper cars clashing in the river behind you,” Batway said. “In your mind though you might be at a disadvantage if the person you want to beat is in a different heat.”
“It is all out racing to Burton’s so you have a chance regardless of what heat you are in if you can keep the pace pegged high all the way. But, if you happen to find yourself drafting a faster person in your own heat, that always helps, too,” Batway said.
The 2017 Spike’s Challenge C-1 race will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 22. The race begins at Joe Wakeley’s house, which is next to Borchers AuSable Canoeing. The race ends at Burton’s Landing.
Most competitors reach the finish line in 40 to 70 minutes.
Spike’s Challenge weekend also includes a C-2 (two-person canoe) race. The Spike’s Challenge C-2 sprints for starting position are scheduled for 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 22. The sprints start and end at the city park near the pedestrian bridge. The C-2 race starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 23, at the Old AuSable Fly Shop in Grayling. It ends at McMasters Bridge.