An estimated 200 kayakers were left high and dry at the start of the kayak leg of the 2011 Ski to Sea, when race organizers, the US Coast Guard, and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Department made the decision to cancel the kayak leg due to heavy winds and rough seas.
Winds were out of the south and were gusting to near 30 mph, creating waves some paddlers claimed were “3 to 4 feet” and “breaking over my head.”
Estimates put the number of swimmers — that is, paddlers who capsized and ended up out of their boats — at 30 to 35.
Some capsized paddlers were in the water for as long as 15 minutes before help arrived. In Bellingham Bay’s 50F degree water, a paddler wearing inadequate clothing can become dangerously hypothermic in that time frame. The potential for tragedy was very real.
Nonetheless, and understandably so, there were some angry, disgruntled, disappointed racers — and some of them let their thoughts be widely known.
This post appeared on the Ski to Sea Facebook Fan Page:
“…The organizer of the race made a huge mistake by not being prepared for the last 200 teams to start. I think it was pretty sh***y to blame the water condition, that was a huge cop-out, take accountability for your mistakes.”
This sort of comment was rare, though not unexpected. Prepping for a race as big as the Ski to Sea is a bid deal. It’s hugely emotional, and having your race experience cut short before you even start just plain hurts. Period.
It’s for these exact reasons that I wanted to talk to the race committee members who were involved in making the decision to cancel the remainder of the leg: Mac Carter and Larry Bussinger, both chairs of the kayak leg, along with Mac’s wife Penny.
In the podcast, they explain in full detail the events that unfolded on race day, right up to the point of deciding to cancel the rest of the leg.
And… we talk about what could be done differently the next time this happens.
Listen in, and leave your thoughts or questions here on the blog or at the voicemail hotline: 360-389-2489.