Brothers take top honours in Great Labrador Canoe Race
© Submitted photo
Joseph Townley and his brother, Andreas Philips (middle), paddled a hard 67-kilometres down the Churchill River, to take first place in the Expedition category of the Great Labrador Canoe Race held Aug. 24. Taking part in the presentation were (far left) Robin Cooper, GLCR Committee; and Perry Trimper, GLCR Committee.
The North West River duo of Joseph Townley and his brother, Andreas Philips, claimed top spot in a grueling 67-kilometre canoe race down the Churchill River.
The two finished the race with an official time of five hours and 13 minutes.
The Great Labrador Canoe Race took place on Aug. 24, with a total of 38 teams vying for bragging rights in two separate races — the 67-kilometre “Expedition” and the 10-kilmetere “Classic.”
There were six divisions — male, female, and mixed, with an under 45 and over 45 year old age category for each, with participants ranging in age from the early teens to mid -70’s.
This was Townley’s second year claiming first place in the Expedition race, as he won last year with his other brother, Anautak.
“There was no real strategy to our win; we just did what we were always taught about canoeing growing up — to keep pace and stay hydrated,” said Townley of his win.
“A lot of it is the mental ability to stay focused as well. With that long a race, it can be hard to keep your mind about you.”
Townley said he also had an “ulterior motive” for winning again this year.
“The two year’s previous (to my first win in 2012), a team from the island portion of the province won the Expedition — we wanted to keep the title in Labrador,” he laughed.
Townley said he and his brother never practiced a whole lot for the race, but did go on the river five or six times to get the feel for it.
“This was Andreas’s first time in this race, so we started at Muskrat Falls when we practiced, so I could show him how to mentally prepare for the challenge,” explained Townley.
He added he will be back to defend his title next year and hopes more people will join the longer adventure.
“There were 14 teams in the Expedition, so I would really like to see more take part next year,” he said.
Herman Perry and Paul Snow claimed the Classic race title.
Over $12,000 in cash and prizes was presented to various teams for their accomplishments, including a $3,500 canoe which was drawn for the same day, which was won by David Graham and Kristy Beere.
‘Dominated the race’
Perry Trimper is one of the founders and organizers of the Great Labrador Canoe Race, which is now in it’s fourth year.
He said Townley’s and Philips’s win was nothing short of amazing.
“They had an amazing time,” he said. “When you do the math, they did the 67 kilometers in five hours and 13 minutes, which works out to a paddling speed of about 14 kilometers per hour.
“It was a real race — the boys took over in the lower half of the race and really dominated.”
The Expedition race started at Edward’s Island, and partway through — when the Expedition racers came underneath the causeway — the Classic racers began their 10 kilometre event, with all participants ending the race at Birch Island.
“The weather was perfect, the conditions were great, there were a couple of hundred people at the finish line between the participants and the spectators — it was an amazing day,” said Trimper.
“We also finished everything on time, so we really feel we have a great schedule after four years of organizing this race.”
Trimper noted participants have to provide their own “traditional” style canoes, which range in length from 17-18 feet, but have to have a minimum width of 34 inches.
“People have come to find out that the shorter canoes are not as good speed-wise as the bigger ones,” said Trimper. “We also want to ensure that participants have adequate room for the supplies they will need.”
Trimper noted a large volunteer base, along with others, really helped put on a successful event.
“We had Ground Search and Rescue volunteers out with three safety boats on the river, which came in handy when one team flipped,” he recalled. “With the help of the GSR volunteers, the team got right-side up and were off again!”
Trimper said Universal Helicopters also provided a helicopter at the mandatory rest point at Scout Island, in case of emergency and Labrador Grenfell Health provided two medics for the day.
“The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay was also an immense help, with Deputy Mayor Stanley Oliver as our announcer for the day and Frank Brown and his staff taking care of many details for the comfort of everyone who took part, from the racers to the spectators,” said Trimper.
He added this year was also the first year that an end-of-race barbeque was held at the Amaruk Golf Club, which was a huge hit.
“We had a huge turnout and actually ran out of steaks!” said Trimper.
Above all else, Trimper said the organizers of the Great Labrador Canoe Race have always — and will always — maintain three ideals:
“First, we want people to enjoy the water in safe manner; second, we want to encourage people to get our and get active; and third, we want to showcase the historical importance of the canoe in Labrador, and how the region was defined using canoes.”