Monday, June 11, 2007

Jon and Stacy are on the river

A few people have asked me for updates on Jon and Stacy's progress in this year's Texas Water Safari. The race started on Saturday morning at 9 am. I just heard from their land captain a couple of minutes ago that they reached the Cuero checkpoint at 12:50 this afternoon. If you'd like to see a nice map of all the checkpoints, click here. Don't count on seeing their times on that website though. At this point they are near the back, and they results are only posted for the first 40 boats or so at the later checkpoints. They slept a lot last night, so their land crew thinks they will pass a bunch of others who need to sleep tonight.

Here are some pictures from the start of this year's race:

Heading for the water.

Starting gun.

Ducking under a bridge at the first low-water crossing.

Here's a good picture of the guys on Day 1 that I stole off another website:

Courtesy of Bob Brooks.

I thought some of you might find the Wikipedia entry on the Water Safari interesting:

Texas Water Safari
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Texas Water Safari, billed as the "World's Toughest Boat Race", is a trek down waterways from San Marcos, Texas to Seadrift, Texas. The primary requirement is a boat powered only by human muscle. The event was first held in 1963, and is run annually.
In 1962 Frank Brown and Bill "Big Willie" George decided to navigate from San Marcos to Corpus Christi, Texas without a motor. They wanted to share this month-long journey with others, so in 1963 they held the first Texas Water Safari.

The race is scheduled to begin on the second Saturday of June of each year, unless extremely inclement weather prevents it from being held safely. The Safari has been postponed in only two years (twice in 2004, making a total of three postponements). The total distance traveled is 262 miles. Racers must take all food and equipment needed with them, receiving only water and ice along the way.

The Safari course includes natural rivers like the San Marcos, with rapids and dams. Most boats destroyed on the course are lost in the upper river. The San Marcos River converges with the Guadalupe River and becomes wider and slower. The main dangers in the middle river are sweepers, downed trees, logjams and dams. Near the end of the course there are lakes and swamps, and it ends with a crossing of the San Antonio Bay.

There are many popular and private checkpoints along the course. Experienced support crews may jealously guard their secret checkpoints. There are 12 official checkpoints, including the finish line. Their locations are published and they are staffed with race officials. The Team Captain of each team must be present and sign off the team's time as the team leaves (teams are allowed one missed checkpoint).

Official Checkpoints:
Staples Dam
Luling 90
Zedler Mill-Luling Dam
Palmetto Park
Gonzales 183
Cuero 766 (Cheapside)
Cuero 236
Victoria City Park

Participants belong to one of a number of classes. The Unlimited class is one of the best known to spectators, and is restricted only to watercraft powered only by human muscle. Attempts have been made to win in craft of unconventional form, but the records show that the best results are achieved by a well-trained team in one of the multiman canoes (the records for largest team and fastest finish time are held by nine- and six-person canoes respectively). Other classes include Tandem Unlimited (similar to unlimited, but only two entrants per boat), Solo Unlimited (one entrant), and other types defined by standard or convention.

Participants tell of frequent hallucinations in the lower river (because most boats take almost forty hours to finish, and many racers do not stop to sleep, delusions are often unavoidable). Other challenges include aggressive alligator gar, alligators, sharks (while crossing the bay), poisonous water moccasin snakes, fire ants, and mosquitoes. Participants' boats are frequently damaged along the upper river, given the technical nature of this portion of the race course. Attempts to repair boats in the field are met with varying amounts of success.

The Safari is attended, in part, by a core group of followers consisting of former competitors, family and friends. Names and stories quickly become common-knowledge and there is a rich body of lore available to anyone who takes the time to seek it out.

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