When it comes to the weather forecast for Saturday in New York city, Raymond Fusco has only one response: “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.” Last year, Fusco’s tireless efforts to organize the New York City Mayor’s Cup Kayak Championships, a 28-mile marathon race around Manhattan Island, were overshadowed by the gale-force winds and lumpy seas that were survived by only 30 hardy competitors. Similar conditions caused the 2008 race to be cancelled altogether. But for 2010, Fusco bumped the traditional October race date up to August 14 with the hope of better weather. It seems to have paid off. Saturday’s forecast is “80 degrees and sunny,” says Fusco, “with calm winds.”

Despite the disappointing results of 2008 and 2009, Fusco says registrations are up for this year’s event. World-class surf ski and outrigger canoe competitors are coming from South Africa, Australia, Japan and almost 20 other nations, as well as 25 states. In the event’s headlining race, the elite surf ski class, defending champ Sean Rice will be challenged by his South African countryman Dawid Mocke and Aussie Jeremy Cotter-”arguably the best two surf ski paddlers in the world,” says Fusco. “They’ve had some beautiful, epic battles [in previous races].”

The Mayor’s Cup races date back to the 1920s and earlier, when the first New York paddling clubs organized annual canoe-sailing regattas on the waters surrounding Manhattan. While Fusco says today’s epic races are a far cry from the original fair-weather incarnations-a case in point being Hell’s Gate, the gnarly, confused currents of the converging East and Harlem rivers-he’s inspired by previous boaters’ efforts to make some of the busiest waterways in the world paddlecraft-friendly. Currently, the city is engaged in a 10-year planning exercise to make “thoughtful and purposeful use” of New York’s 578 miles of waterfront. “Boathouses are cropping up all over,” says Fusco. “Access to the water is a critical thing in what we’re doing [with the Mayor's Cup races].” - Conor Mihell

Stay tuned to Canoekayak.com for race results and interviews.