By: Jen Maxwell, World Kayak Ambassador – Ocoee Region
Eight years ago, two kayakers wanted to paddle, yet had to make it an early day. As they charged their way down the Ocoee River they had an epiphany….we need to host a race! A no joke…put-in to take-out full sprint race down the five miles of the class III Middle Ocoee River in Ocoee, TN. So they did…it was to be on the third Saturday in October and would be hosted by the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club. Permit wrangling occurred and finally it was there…it was happening…now to see how many people would show up to register that day. That first year around 30 people raced the river. Since then, it has grown by leaps and bounds.
I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the TVCC Ocoee River Race since its inception. Around 2012, I took over as the Ocoee River Race coordinator and in 2013 World Kayak became a major sponsor of the event. Over the years, we moved the race to the 2nd Saturday in October so it would not conflict with the Lord of the Fork Race, and here it will stay placed strongly within the Southeast Racing scene.
The TVCC Ocoee River Race, this year, had a record breaking 120 entries with 152 start times. We set up the race so that anyone with the skill to paddle the river can race. We offer elite and non-elite classes, which allow for anyone to compete, and non-sponsored boaters to have their own class and a great competition. This year we had 18 participants in the elite long boat class and 8 in the elite short boat class. But the non-elite class brought it this year with 32 men’s long boat entries and 6 women’s long boat entries; then 38 men’s short boat entries and 11 women’s entries for short boat. The open boat contingent was strong this year with 7 open canoes and 4 C1 entries. Bellyak made a strong showing with 6 entries and we had 3 racers on SUP boards! We also had 6 raft teams compete. Finally…the tandem class; this boasted 9 teams with a wide range of paddlers from tandem adult teams to multiple father child groups. We had our youngest racer ever this year, Miss Rory Adkins at 5-years-old! This year was a huge success!
According to Chris Hipgrave this year’s winner with a time of 30 minutes 17 seconds, “The annual Ocoee Race has quickly become one of my favorite whitewater races. With excellent organization, great participation, 5 miles of fun whitewater, plenty of opportunities to train with friends leading up to the event, and knowing that your entry fee is helping a great cause, it’s easy to see why. 2016 was no exception. The Tennessee Valley Canoe Club (TVCC) did an impeccable job of managing the 152 starts on the countries busiest river, balancing the commercial launches with the pent up anxiety of racers eager to get going.”
The Ocoee Cup is a perpetual trophy donated by Ace Kayaking School and serves to document the fastest time on the river each year! A full list of results can be found at tvccpaddler.com.
The Ocoee River Race has rightfully earned its place within the race scene and will continue to grow year after year! I would like to say a huge thank you to World Kayak for your continued sponsorship of this amazing event!
You’ve heard us talk about how many racers…how fast they went…and how wonderful it was, now let’s talk about why! The TVCC Ocoee River Race is TVCC’s biggest fundraiser, and Saturday night you all did an amazing thing. We raised $1524, so with the match of $1000 voted on by the board, we will be donating $2554 to Team River Runner-Chattanooga!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
See you on the river, Jen