When Scott Phillips and his fellow race organizers worked to stage the Penobscot River Whitewater Nationals Regatta, they were hoping the races wouldn’t end up being a one-time event.
Before the four-day championships wrapped up on Sunday, Phillips learned that attendees were duly impressed: During a Saturday meeting of the American Canoe Assocation’s competition committee, members voted to return to Old Town and stage the next two editions of the championships on the Penobscot River.
“The organizing committee has been so competent,” said Keith Havens of Deer Lodge, Tenn., the chairman of the committee, who also competed in the event. “The sponsorships, the community support, and of course the venue [were impressive]. This is just a beautiful river.”
Some paddlers expected the decision to favor a return to Old Town, citing a recent precedent: The Nantahala River in North Carolina served as host for the nationals for three straight years beginning in 2012.
Before that, however, the national competition had been held at a different venue each year, including rivers in Massachusetts (2011), Colorado (2010) and Maine (2009).
Havens said holding the event in the same spot for a three-year period makes sense, both for organizers and competitors.
“People learn about the venues, the restaurants and the hotels,” Havens said. “And they realize they can make it down the river and plan on coming next year and doing better and bringing friends.”
Phillips, who served as race director, said there was a short debate before the vote was taken.
“The majority of the paddlers, and the people that can vote [on a proposal] liked what went on here,” Phillips said. “They liked the course, they liked the organization, and what was going on in town.”
One adjustment will be made, Phillips promised: Instead of a late-July event, next year’s nationals will take place about a month earlier in order to take advantage of predictably higher water conditions.
“I would say right now we’ve been paddling at 3.25, 3.50 [feet of water on a gauge in Eddington], and I would suspect it will probably be somewhere between four and five feet [next year],” Phillips said. “That makes it much more challenging, faster. It’s a different river [at that level]. You can run different lines through a lot of the drops.”