If it’s Wednesday evening in late spring or summer, there’s a pretty good chance that there will be canoes and kayaks on the Mohawk River by Aqueduct Park.
They are boats competing in the Schenectady Wintersports Club's weekly time trials, an event for paddlers around the Capital Region.
“This is how they’re going to find out if they’re getting better,” said Don Patneaude, the starter/timer for the trials. “They might try a different boat or a different partner and that’s what they call time trials.”
This past Wednesday night’s time trials were the fifth of the season, which started in May and continue through September. Each time trial consists of a four-mile trip from the dock at Aqueduct Park, around a landmark known as Indian Island, back past the dock, under the Rexford Bridge, and looping back around to finish at the dock.
Last week there were a season-high 11 boats in the water, significantly more than the average of six. However, these numbers are down from when the Schenectady Wintersports Club began their time trials 21 years ago.
“Years ago, I don’t know how many people we had, middle-twenties,” said Patneaude. “We had people here from 10 different counties.”
The fastest time last week was posted by the only kayaker, Dave Wiltey. Wiltey, who has raced in the Olympic time trials, finished with a time of 29:57.
“These time trials are perfect because what happens is you end up training alone all the time and then on Wednesday nights you can get competition,” said Wiltey. “It’s more of a social thing. It’s nice because most of us have our own special places we train and then come together on Wednesday nights and virtually everybody here will race someplace this weekend as well. Every weekend they race somewhere else.”
The first canoe to finish Wednesday was the team of Alec Davis, who first started the time trails at Aqueduct Park, and Roger Henry. They finished in 30:11. Davis and Henry were not only the first canoe pair to finish Wednesday, but were the oldest pair to compete as well. Davis and Henry are both in their 70s.
“It’s a good opportunity mid-week to do a speed workout,” said Davis. “That’s what we’ve used them for.”
Gary McClain and Ted Lutz finished fourth in 32:19. McLain is using the time trials as preparation for the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon, a 120-mile race through the rivers of Michigan. He will be racing in the Rookie Men’s Class with Phil Millspaugh. The race starts at 9 p.m. July 28 in Graylin, Mich., and will go through the night, finishing in Oscoda, Mich.
“We’ve done the 70-miler several times, this year we got third. It’s just the next step,” said McClain. “It’s one of those bucket-list things you got to want to do it. In the canoeing world, that’s probably like Everest to go 120 miles in one night. This year, it’s not about trying to win it or something like that, it’s about trying to finish and be competitive.”
The Schenectady Wintersports Club canoe-kayak time trials are held every Wednesday, rain or shine, starting at 6:30 p.m., through September. For more information, visit www.swcweb.org/mCanoeKayakRaces.html.