Every year during the first weekend in June, the Friends of the Yampa in Steamboat Springs, Colorado hosts a river festival. During this, there is a downriver raft race. Last year, in 2016, we went up there with almost all our staff, and entered two boats into this race. With hard work, and some solid guiding by Justin, we managed to clinch a time good enough to score first place.
This year, we decided we needed to go back for more. We put a crew together, but the day before the race we had one of the biggest trips in AW history. So, come Saturday morning, everyone was so tired they didn't have it in them to race. The only two that were feeling up to it were myself and one of our trainers, Johnny. We used an idea that the group came up with the previous night to try to allow a group of two to be competitive in the race.
Basically, we attached two stern mount oarframes to one of our 13' boats facing each other. This would allow one guide to pull, while the other pushed and steered the boat. With registration closing at 12:30, we left Kremmling at 11:48 for a one hour drive to Steamboat. We arrived at the festival a little after 1:00PM, and were told at the registration tent that registration had closed, and we would have to try to drive up to the put-in at Fletchers pond, and ask if we would be able to get on there.
We parked at the put-in, and hurried up to talk to the race coordinator, Ken, who remembered us from last year, and told us we would definitely be able to race. We paid our entry fees ($20! Friends of the Yampa Rock!!), and went about putting air in the boat. We drew numbers out of a hat to determine the race's start order. We got #6, and selected our team name- "The Bowless Boyz"- a pun on our boat not having a real bow and stern (front and back).
As the race had a sprint start, we lined up 6th in a long line of 17 boats that were participating, and waited for our turn to launch. The referee started us, and we sprinted carrying our boat 200 feet towards the Yampa River. We shoved the boat into the water, and got in, finding ourselves already in the bushes because we gave the boat too big of a shove starting off. We got to our seats, found the current, and began pulling the boat down river. During the briefing for the race, we were told multiple times to make sure we went to the right when the river forked,as there was a bridge that was not passable at the current water level. We were moving at a full sprint, making sure to veer right at all of the islands, when I heard Johnny tell me there was a bridge coming up. I looked over my shoulder to see a bridge that didn't look quite tall enough for our boat to make it under. We looked each other in the eyes, and decided we were going to try for it anyways.
We pulled under the bridge, and the oars had maybe an inch of spare room above them, but we made it! We continued downriver, starting to feel the effects on our muscles of nearly 20 minutes of full steam rowing. Then I hear Johnny tell me he can see the finish line. We put as much muscle as we could into the oars, and pulled in strong to Charlie's Hole- sending the boat almost vertical as we slammed into it!
After the race, we heard them announce the results- First place went to our main competition, with us finishing about 40 seconds behind them. We went over to congratulate the winners, and pick up our second place trophy(nothing), and headed back to Kremmling!
We will be back next year to try again for first place!