Rolling (Over) On The River

DSC_0505.jpgOklahoma City’s Canadian River. The weather is supposed to be sunny and mild, but it is cloudy, windy, and cold. OU is hosting the ACSE regional conference, where industry professionals gather to discuss the latest technologies, advance the profession, and see how many engineering students want to measure water temperature the hard way. The S&T Concrete Canoe Team gathers each year to see how creatively they build very heavy boat. While there are inspections, displays, engineering papers and presentations, it’s the sprints and endurance races that bring out the spectators.
The Miners built Ice Breaker, whose name, a parody of Washington crossing the Delaware, was nearly prophetic. The morning was chilly for the women’s races but then the wind began to blow. And really blow. White caps on a small river in a big city? You bet!
The endurance races, combining slalom and distance paddling, started out in somewhat organized fashion, and it quickly became obvious which teams had yet to christen their boat or learn to paddle, and which boats suffered serious damage en route to Norman.
The womens’ races featured a three-paddler crew from Manhattan, KS which exchanged one paddle for a bailing bucket, because their “Red Baron” had a growing hole in the bottom. S&T’s men and women did well in the early race, but it was powerful OU that dominated. The wind began to play havoc with the boats that launched late in the morning, and by lunch time things got real interesting.
These craft are not seen on “The Deadliest Catch”, and don’t tolerate waves crashing over the bow. Or stern. Or midship. The sprint races were measured two ways: how fast could you go downriver and back, and would your boat fill with water before you made it back there ? Waves played havoc with many boats, and spectators had plenty of time to guess when certain teams would abandon ship.
The Miner men took 2nd in the sprint, right behind OU and S&T’s best race in years. They followed that with a dazzling coed crew that also won 2nd, and who topped it off by giddily sinking right after they crossed the finish line. At that point judges and teams alike agreed that racing is fun, but river-front wind tunnels are not, and called off the finals. ASCE officials haven’t released the final standings but the Miners are pleased with their strong showing.
It’s clear that Eddie Noonan and Arch Creasy did a great job of training the team, because S&T’s paddlers were much more synchronized, tough and disciplined. The crew realizes how close they came to the podium and are already focused on improving their system for next year. Who knows, maybe they’ll draft an old Boy Scout as a coach?
Lastly, what would the event be without an Arkansas submersible? Their boat didn’t start out that way, but perhaps as an homage to HOGTANIC of yore, they reverently slipped the surly bonds of the water’s surface.