Penobscot Whitewater Nationals Regatta wins national award

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The Penobscot River Whitewater Nationals Regatta of Old Town, ME has been awarded the prestigious American Canoe Association “Sanctioned Event of the Year” Award. The July 2015 event was the ACA’s National Championships – a compilation of whitewater canoe, kayak and SUP races between Old Town and Eddington on the Penobscot River.

Each year, the ACA recognizes a select group of individuals and organizations who have illustrated exemplary leadership, service, and dedication to various aspects of paddlesport. The Sanctioned Event of the Year Award is presented to the top ACA sanctioned event as nominated bOKy the paddling public.

The award was recently presented at the ACA Annual Banquet & Awards Ceremony in Charleston, SC. Scott Phillips, Race Director and representative of Old Town Canoe, travelled with Penobscot Indian Nation Cultural Director, James Francis, to the banquet to the accept the award.

“This is a huge honor for many people and organizations,” Phillips said. “Our race committee worked for months to make this happen. Thanks to our many volunteers and to the racers for coming. We also could not have done it without our many sponsors, most notably Old Town Canoe and Penobscot Indian Nation Enterprises.”

“Winning this award is special as this was more than just a canoe race,” said Phillips. While the races were great and participation was higher than in past years, this was also a celebration of the Penobscot River. With the removal of two dams we are now able to paddle this great river and its challenging whitewater between Old Town and Eddington. Also, our host organization, the Penobscot Indian Nation, intertwined many cultural activities and ceremonies into the event. The Nation, as you know, has been paddling canoes on this river for thousands of years”

The 2015 Nationals were attended by 160 ACA members from a dozen states with 30 youth competitors. Paddlers ranged from ages 10 to 78.

“The event organizers conducted an event that highlighted the ACA’s mission of competition, recreation, community engagement, stewardship, and exploration” said Kirk Havens, a member of the ACA Board of Directors. “The participants were honored by the Penobscot Indian Nation with a welcoming and closing ceremony and many traditional cultural activities throughout the event. Engagement with First Nations, the originators of the canoe and kayak, is something the ACA is proudly supporting worldwide.”

The event organizers also made a special effort to engage youth in the competition. In fact, two of the youth competitors were identified by the local high school coach and ACA member Jeff Owen as very talented paddlers and traveled with him to compete at the US Junior Team trials.

“The stewardship component of the event was especially exciting,” said Havens. For centuries, the Penobscot River had been holding its breath behind a wall of iron, concrete, and wood. Due to the efforts of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, the dams were removed and the Penobscot River can breathe free once again. And we, as paddlers, can join it in a sigh of relief and rejoice in one more free-flowing river.”

Proceeds from the event were donated to the Penobscot River Restoration Trust and the Penobscot Indian Youth Paddling Club.

With the success of the 2015 races, the ACA has agreed to hold these same races on the Penobscot River again in 2016 and 2017. This year’s Regatta will be held July 6-10.

“We expect it to be bigger and better,” says Phillips. “2016 will be a big year for canoe and kayak racing in Maine. We will see the 50th running of the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race and another National Championship on the Penobscot. It’s going to be great!”

Anyone wishing to be involved should contact Phillips atscott@waterwaysports.com.