Great Falls Race 2014


Teaser for the Fall Line video        |      A short video of running the Falls

        Photos of VA lines by Eric Kaufman   |   Photos of the Fishladder by Amaury Laporte

Greetings 2014 Great Falls Race Participants and Potomac River Festival Attendees!

Welcome to the 2014 Great Falls Race! The race is a collaborative effort between,  Liquid Adventures Kayak School, Active Nature,  the National Park Service, and a group of dedicated volunteers.   Proceeds will go to the benefit the American Whitewater Association.

Please, it is essential that all competitors pre-register @ by Thursday night so we can create a complete start list for the race. We are prohibited from exchanging money in the National Park, so a competitor trying to register on race day will be out of luck. All competitors must plan to attend Mandatory Competitors meeting @ 9:30 in the parking lot. The 26th Great Falls race will begin at 11 AM Saturday July 5, 2014.

All competitors must attest to their ability to paddle class 5 whitewater safely and MUST have paddled the falls successfully prior to the event. The organizers reserve the right to deny registration or a start time to anyone not skilled or experienced enough to compete in such a dangerous, visible event. We are under intense scrutiny due to recent events and its important that everyone in the river is safe and operating within their comfort and capability.

It is also VERY important that all racers and Volunteer Safety Personal arrive at The Maryland side Park before 9:00am For check in, waivers, and The MANDATORY 9:30 AM SHARP safety Meeting. The classes and start list will be seeded in an order TBD based on past results. We are allowing for over an hour of practice time after the meeting, before the race while the Safety Crew sets up. Everyone is advised to bring extra water with them to The Flake. Any prior GF race attendee will tell you it’s a long day in the Sun. Sunscreen recommended. (But keep it off your paddle!)

Safety and Etiquette:

Everyone who is paddling out to The Flake (island in middle of falls) should have experience paddling above and around the falls, and be familiar with the limited eddies available to take out above the rapid. Race day is highly visible and any carnage or rescue in, or near, Great Falls brings unwanted scrutiny to the event. There is one class 3 rapid with a nasty pour over 50 yards upstream of Grace Under Pressure. The safest option is to stay far river right and eddy out above U-hole. (Virginia side) Once on the Flake it is important that you stash your boat in a secure location off the hiking trail where it will not fall in the water or impede the movement of competitors up to the start. Particularly, the steep, exposed area around the Pinky Finger and the Hot Tub Eddy put in at the top of the island near Grace needs to be kept clear of boats. For a Maryland side race, eddy out well upstream of pummel on the left on Olmstead Island. All persons on the river, especially on The Flake are asked to keep their helmet and PFD on throughout the entire event regardless of their involvement. Please keep an eye on your friends and fellow paddlers during the practice session. There will be experienced paddlers setting safety during peak training hours Thursday evening and Friday afternoon.

Safety Crew:

All experienced Kayakers are invited to Join the Safety Crew is whatever capacity they feel comfortable. We would like several experienced falls boaters to paddle to the start line with the timers. Ideally, We want a couple of super-experienced falls boaters floating in the water in the middle of the falls below the 1st drop. We will have a few other competent boaters standing in several spots along the banks, or on specific islands holding ropes near danger spots. We also need a couple class 3 paddlers in boats below the falls to chase any swimmers or stray equipment. Any person properly dressed in a lifejacket and helmet can also be useful as 'crowd control' and extra safety along the shore upstream and around the overlooks, particularly for a MD/VA side or Fish ladder event. Anyone wanting to help with Safety Should contact Race Director Ashley McEwan: The Safety Coordinators are Geoff Calhoun, Andrew McEwan and Ashley Nee is the Race Safety Director. Safety Volunteers eat, drink, and camp for free all weekend.

NEW Race Formats:

The race format is different this year; instead of racing long boat and short boat classes on the same course, there will be 2 events on 2 slightly different racecourses:

1. The classic downriver sprint that is open to all boats, but will be divided into Overall (unrestricted long boats) category and the subcategory of boats 9 feet and under (short boat). Racers must choose one boat for this event and get one time. The top 10 paddlers’ times overall will qualify to race again in the finals, plus anyone within .1 second of 10th place. Any ladies, hand paddlers or canoeists that make the cut may compete in the final. The trophy goes to the paddler with the overall fastest time in the final regardless of class or craft. We will announce the top 3 short boats regardless of whether they make the final.

2. This year we intend to add a 2nd event on a marked ‘Giant Slalom’ course. To compete in this event you must have a boat 9 feet long or shorter, and you must have finished the classic downriver sprint without rescue. The course will start at the same location as the downriver, the mandatory lines will be marked with gates, banners on rocks, or buoys. There will be a 50 second penalty assessed for a missed gate. There will only be one run since we’ll have to calculate penalties. The course will be announced at the safety meeting and practice is encouraged before the race starts.

Race Schedule:

The Preliminary or Qualifying round of the downriver race will start at 11:00 AM. There is a new format in 2014. At present, the plan is for the defending champion and other top racers in long boats to start first will be followed by C1s, The Women's Division, Hand paddlers, and the rest of the short boat class. Every racer must be ready to start at their assigned time and MUST wait at the finish line for added safety until 3 more racers finish safely. After every racer has gone once, there will be a break. The timers will convene, the race director will announce the paddlers with the top 10 overall times whom advance to race again in the finals. For everyone else, the times from the qualifying round are his or her final results. Any competitors not competing in the finals are invited to join the safety and or media crew for added safety presence along the bank or in the water.

The Final Round should Start sometime around noon. Paddlers start in reverse order of qualification. The top overall qualifier goes last in the final. The Final results will not be made public. After the final of the classic downriver sprint, the paddlers competing in the Giant Slalom will have a meeting to clarify the course rules. All paddlers not competing in the slalom are invited to help as gate judges or join the safety crew in locations TBA by safety director/head gate judge Ashley Nee. The results of the slalom will not be made public until the party, but racers will be informed of their penalty score at the finish. If anyone has a grievance and wishes to contest their time they must bring it to the attention of the race director immediately.

The Party!!!!!!

Everyone is invited to Drink, eat, party, and camp at the Active Nature Ranch @ 15205 Montevideo Rd, Poolesville, MD 20837 on Saturday. Camping, and admission to the party are free for Competitors and the Official Safety team, but any guests will have to chip in towards the cause. It will be the best Potomac Fest Party EVER, Claims Host Jason Beakes.

Please, please be considerate of The Beakes’ and their neighbor’s hospitality and respect their wishes that NO GLASS be brought onto anyone’s property. Horses graze on this land.

Thank you, Please pre register, Tell your friends, and we'll see you out and about at the giant stout on Saturday!
Tom McEwan - Race Director


Experience the thrill!  July 5, 2014

Class V Whitewater.... Great Falls of the Potomac..... 30 of the baddest boaters… one trophy