West Virginia’s Raft Race Team; Sweets of the EastJuly 18, 2018
Thousands of people come to West Virginia for world class whitewater rafting every year. The New River and Gauley River offer a variety of sections to suit any type of paddler, new and old. As the sport of river running has grown in the mountain state over the last 50 years, it has also been evolving around the world. This fall southern West Virginia will play host to the National Rafting Championship and there is a home team to root for, the Sweets of the East!
What is raft racing?
Raft Racing consists of four events; Time Trial (aka Sprint), Head to Head, Slalom and Downriver. There are four different age groups for all four events; Under 19, Under 23, Open (24 -39 yrs) and Masters (40 yrs and up). Each year the number of paddlers on a team changes from an R4 (4 person team) to an R6 (6 person team).
When is the national event and where?
The National Rafting Championships are coming to southern West Virginia! The US Rafting Association (USRA) recently announced the New and Gauley Rivers will host this prestigious whitewater event September 4-8, 2018. This event is the qualifier for the World Rafting Championship to be held in Australia in May 2019.
- Tuesday September 4th: Team practice at Fayette Station, New River (driving directions)
- Wednesday September 5th: Head to Head Race at Fayette Station, New River
- Wednesday September 5th: Sprint Race at Fayette Station, New River
- Thursday September 6th: Slalom Race at Upper Gauley River put in (driving directions)
- Friday September 7th: Team practice on Gauley River downriver
- Saturday September 8th: Down River Race on Upper Gauley River
“Our local team of event organizers, whitewater professionals, and volunteer staff are eager to welcome whitewater athletes from all over the country to our ‘Almost Heaven’ home! We’re committed to creating a high caliber racing event that challenges your mind and body, and warms your soul. We know you’ll find our rivers challenging, our views breathtaking, and our people simply amazing. Welcome competitors!” Event Organizer, Mike Cassidy.
How is the competition structured?
Rafting competitions consist of 4 disciplines – Sprint, Head-to-Head (H2H), Slalom and Downriver. The points earned in each discipline are added to determine the Overall winner and final positions. Each team has 6 members with the option to have a reserve.
The Sprint is a hard, fast, short burst of speed for the teams. It is ideally over a fairly short distance and is about 2 to 3 minutes of hard paddling for 10% ofthe overall points. It is always done first, cannot be on a Class 5 rapid and teams are set off one by one, hence racing the clock and not each other.
The Head-2-Head is without doubt the most visually exciting discipline as it is pitting two teams together in a fast paced sprint for the finish line. It is ideally over a shortish distance but must be through a rapid, normally taking teams about 2 to 3 minutes to run the course. The two teams are set off together with the team having the best time in the Sprint being given lane choice. Although the race organisers always try to have the lanes as even as possible this is not easy as a river is so dynamic and changing river levels can also create problems. Ideal locations for a H2H have more than one line through the course allowing teams to overtake. It counts for 20% of the total points and is an elimination race in which pairs of teams race down a section of powerful rapids. The winner of each heat proceeds to the next round and eventually just 2 teams will remain for the Final.
The Slalom is the most technically challenging event and counts for 30% percent of the total points. This event demands a high level of technique and teamwork to negotiate the rafts through 12 downriver and upriver gates in powerful rapids. Touching, failing to pass or intentionally moving a gate results in a penalty. Each team runs the course twice and their best time is used to determine the results.
The Downriver is the star event and is worth 40% of the total score. The race is close to an hour of racing along of a section of continuous and powerful rapids. Technical ability and endurance are essential elements to ensuring a good position in this event which is crucial for the teams that aspire to win the Championship. The points earned by the teams in the previous events determine their position in the starting line-up in groups up to 5 rafts.
Total points from each race determines the overall winner;
- Sprint/Time Trail 100 points
- Head to Head 200 points
- Slalom 300 points
- Downriver 400 points
Who is on the team?
This dedicated group of ladies have worked, played, and trained hard together this year to proudly represent the home team. The Sweets of the East team started in 2015 and has rotated team members over the years to accommodate R4 and R6 competitions.
2018 Sweets of the East team members from left to right; Sarah Merritt, Margaret Cadmus, Katee Knight, Jo-Beth Stamm, Abbie Clasgens, Melanie Seiler and not pictured alternate Christian Mullins.
Previous accomplishments of the Sweets of the East team
USRA National Rafting Championships
1st place Sprint race 2017
2nd place Slalom race 2017
3rd place overall 2017 R4
4th place overall 2016 R6
3rd place overall 2016 R4
Animal Race, Upper Gauley River, WV
1st place 2017
1st place 2016
1st place 2015
Sweets of the East Sponsors
- Mason Dixon Tower and Technology
- Cathedral Cafe
- Shred Ready
- Oak Hill Garbage Disposal
- Water Stone Outdoors
To become a team or event sponsor please contact Mike Cassidy.