OLD FORGE - The Richard Reynolds Express-Forge Racing voyageur canoe got off to a fast start Friday on the opening day of the Adirondack Canoe Classic.
The voyageur canoe team finished the first leg of the race from Old Forge to Blue Mountain Lake with an unofficial time of 4 hours, 51 minutes and 27 seconds. By comparison, last year they finished the first day in 5:34:42, which was the third-fastest voyageur canoe time.
"It's the fifth year of doing the war canoe in memory of my dad, and this year we put together a dream team," Reynolds Express bow paddler Holly Reynolds said.
Paddlers finish up Fifth Lake on Friday, the first day of the Adirondack Canoe Classic. The three-day, 90-mile race starts in Old Forge and finishes Sunday in Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
This team features paddlers such as Golden Gloves boxer Sean Jennings, stern man Al Shaver Jr., pro paddler Kyle Kiser and stalwart Marc Gillespie, Reynolds said.
"Marc's team is loaded this year," said Roger Henry, whose team Dog Breath was the fastest on Day 1 last year. "They should have a really fast time ... probably be faster than it has been the last few years."
For the most part, paddlers benefited from good conditions on Friday, with clear blue skies, moderate winds and high water. If there was a challenge created by the elements, it was that paddlers faced more current than normal in streams and rivers, which made negotiating turns tricky at times.
"Marion River going up toward the end was kind of tough because you had the downstream current and all those turns," Roger Henry said. "Browns Tract was a pain in the neck. Everything else was fine. We're looking forward to tomorrow on the Raquette River with a lot of water."
This year, there are more than 500 paddlers and about 250 boats in the event. Skill levels range from beginners who participate in the opening touring class to more serious racers who paddle in the competitive classes.
The event is hosted and organized by the Lake Clear-based Adirondack Watershed Alliance. The Central Adirondack Association and state Department of Environmental Conservation also act as hosts.
Day 2 of the 90-Miler starts on Long Lake as paddlers head down the Raquette River to the Crusher boat launch outside of Tupper Lake. Day 3 starts on Fish Creek with paddlers finishing on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake.
Baring strong winds, times should be faster than normal today because paddlers will be headed downstream on the Raquette River.
Gene Newman, owner of GRB Newman Designs in Canton, said he hopes conditions remain similar to Friday for the duration of the race.
"The course is ... probably the nicest its ever been," Newman said. "Some of the portages were a little slippery in spots but that's to be expected."