Photos by Scott Martin and words by Matt Young
The King of New York Race Series has always had a bit of rivalry between the U.S. and Canada, but never was the title at risk of going north of the border until this year. After standout performances at the Eagle and Raquette races, Quebecois paddler Billy "Big Deal" Thibault arrived at Saturday’s series-capping Moose Race as the favorite to take home the King of New York crown.
Among those gunning for the Quebecois were Jared Seiler of Gladwyne, Penn., and past champions Justin Beckwith and Geoff Calhoun.
"I feel like it's America against me," said Thibault, half joking.
An airhorn signaled the start of the race, and paddlers sprinted to their boats in the Moose Race's "Le Mans" style start. The canny veteran Beckwith jumped to an early lead in his Wavehopper, followed by a pack of nearly 30 racers dropping Ager’s Falls en masse. Beckwith held a narrow lead for most of the race, but Seiler, paddling a sea kayak, was hot on his heels. As the two paddlers approached Crystal, the final and most difficult Class V rapid of the course, Beckwith made a critical error in taking a slower right line, giving Seiler an opening to speed by him on the left.
Seiler held his narrow lead to the finish line, claiming the Moose Race title and the King of New York crown. Calhoun was third, Thibault a well-fought and smiling fourth on the day. The result dropped him to second in the in the KONY series. The vaunted crown will stay Stateside at least one more year.
The rest of the paddlers crossed the finish line out of breath and sporting a few battle scars, but also smiles and high fives. With the race behind them, the crowd drove on to Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company in Old Forge for the awards ceremony. There, the undisputed patriarch of Adirondack Paddling, Chris Koll, kept the rowdy crowd entertained with his traditional emcee antics. As results were announced, racers were invited up for the traditional swig from a communal bottle as Koll made jokes at their expense.
To encourage participation, every 2013 King of New York racer was entered into a drawing for a Dagger Green Boat. Thibault was the lucky winner to walk away with a new race boat–a coincidental consolation prize. The Immersion Research "Are you Gonna Eat That" award was given to Chris Kyle for his harrowing swim and self-rescue during the Black Race. "Girl King Of New York", Daphnee Tuzlak, was awarded a fleece changing robe for her large margin of victory over the closest female competitor.
Finally, the crowd migrated to the bars of Old Forge for the bar crawl that marks the unofficial end of New York's whitewater release season. At Slicker's Adirondack Tavern, paddlers danced late into the night and kayakers roamed the streets of the accommodating Adirondack village. Those that awoke the following morning with the motivation to paddle were rewarded with sunny skies and increased water levels for a final run down the Moose before dissipating to their winter retreats. In his first official directive, King Seiler commanded that his minions follow him for a brisk morning dip in the lake. Some even obliged. Long live the King of New York!
As the 2013 racing season nears its end, stay tuned to Canoekayak.com for wrap ups of the final races