Two-day Tupper-Saranac Challenge returns

A pair of longtime canoe races are returning to action this weekend after a one-year hiatus.

The Tupper Lake 9-Miler will take place on Saturday and the Saranac Flatwater Challenge in Saranac will take place Sunday. The weekend of races is being called the Tupper-Saranac Challenge.

“We scheduled them so they’d be back-to-back and visitors to the area could stay and have two days of racing,” said Lake Clear paddler Chas Billingsley, who is race director for the Saranac Flatwater Challenge.

The races are expected to attract some top paddlers along with some people who are participating as recreational paddlers.

Tupper Lake 9-Miler race director Roger Gocking said among those paddlers expected at the race is kayaker Jim Mallory, who is from the Rochester area and took first in the 2012 running of the race. Kayaker Todd Furstoss of Rochester, who took first in the ‘Round the Mountain race in May, will also be competing.

Hugh Pritchard, a 2002 Olympic biathlete, and Peter Kahn, a former 9-Miler winner, are two of the top paddlers from Vermont expected to race. Kahn came in second in the 2012 9-Miler.

“Hugh and Peter have battled with one another on many occasions,” Gocking said.

Joe Shaw of Essex, a former General Clinton champion in the C-1, is also expected to compete.

There are numerous local paddlers who compete in statewide and national competitions who will likely be at the race this weekend.

“You’re looking for two kinds of people,” Gocking said. “You’re looking for the recreational, ordinary paddlers who may become interested enough in what’s going on to become part of the regular paddling scene and then you want the better paddlers to be there so there’s competition among them which gives a racing atmosphere.”

Billingsley said the races are good for beginners because the distances are relatively short.

“Logistically, they’re easy for people to attend because they’re out and back,” he said. “You don’t have too many cars shuttling, things like that. You go out and return to the start.”

Billingsley also pointed out that both events are raising money for charity.

“The money from these races goes to a very worthy cause,” he said. “All the funds go to the (Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital) Foundation and that money is used locally in the North Country for a lot of good programs.”

The 9-Miler starts and ends on the town of Tupper Lake’s property on Simon Pond that is rented by the Tupper Lake Rod and Gun Club. The event will feature a 5-mile recreation race and a more competitive 7.5-mile race. The longer race will go out on Simon Pond and up the Raquette River to the Oxbow, where participants will turn around.

The Saranac event will start and end at Picketts Corners off of state Route 3 on the Saranac River. There will be three races: a 5-miler, 9-miler and a 12.5-miler.

Gocking also noted that he expects some SUP paddlers to show up for one or both of the races.

“What’s unique about this race,” he said. “We’re trying to get the SUP paddlers in our racing scene.”

Gocking said there will modest prizes donated by local businesses both days and a barbecue after Saturday’s race. He said many of the sponsors, including Adirondack Lakes and Trails, have been very supportive.

The entry fee for each race is $20 or $35 for both. The races start at 11 a.m. both days, with registration from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. More information is available at www.nymcra.org.