Race participant Bill Siersdorfer and team captain Gerald Kennedy at the finish line of 260 mile race.
The Texas Water Safari is an annual 260 mile human powered boat race on the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers from the central Texas town of San Marcos to the coastal village of Seadrift, TX. It is billed as “The World’s Toughest Boat Race”.
The course includes rapids, blistering heat, portages, log jams, and open coastal water. Everything you need for the race must be brought with you. This includes food, clothing, spare parts, and required safety equipment. Water may be picked up along the way. Every boat must have a “team captain” who provides ground support, getting the boat in and out of check points, and who is the only one allowed to give water to the contestants.
Bill navigating a log jam in the Texas Water Safari.
The main race (260 miles) is held annually on the 2nd Saturday in June. There is a 40 mile preliminary “qualification” race held in May.
The first race was organized in 1963. Only two boats out of 58 starters finished that first race. At that time, sail power was allowed, and the winning boat was a two man oar and sail powered canoe with a time of 110:35.
Since then the rules have been revised so that only boats powered by human muscle are allowed. But the rules do not specify which muscles must be used or what direction the contestants must face. Therefore, a forward-facing rowing system like the FrontRower is considered legal. This year was Bill’s first time in the race, and it is the first time that anyone has used a FrontRower rowing system.
Bill rowing in the full body mode (using arms and legs for power) in the Texas Water Safari.
To be competitive, teams must be prepared to travel day and night, nonstop. Teams who occasionally stop for sleep must reach mandatory checkpoint cutoff times and cross the finish line by the 100 hour deadline. Many participants enter the race with no intention of winning, but with the goal of joining the elite group of finishers and earning the coveted Texas Water Safari finisher’s patch.
Portage during the Texas Water Safari.
Bill raced in the Men’s Solo classification. Other classifications include tandem and up to six person teams. Using his FrontRower powered 16-1/2 foot Wenonah Prism canoe, Bill completed the race in 85 hours and 2 minutes, finishing 70 out of 139 starters.
Here’s Bill’s email message recounting the race:
Hope all is well with you.
Just wanted to let you know I finished the Texas Water Safari and so did the FrontRower.
I single bladed the first 80 miles and rowed the final 180. The race was tough, definitely the toughest physical challenge I have done. Results not final, but I finished in about 85 hours, +/- 70th boat out of 139 starters, 93 which made it to the finish. Sadly, there was a fatality this year, the first in the 50 year history of the event, and another racer in ICU who should pull through. The unfortunate tragedy cast a shadow on the last day of what otherwise was an extraordinary epic adventure.
All of the boats entered this year were fairly standard water safari type craft, either canoes or kayaks, except for mine and a stand up paddelboarder. The FrontRower recieved a lot of attention and was photographed quite a bit. A professional photographer, Eric Schlegel, took many pictures of the boat as well at different places along the course. After the race he said he had some great shots of the boat being rowed thorugh some of the rapids on the lower section. I am looking forward to getting the pics and will forward them on to you, along with a write-up on the preparation for the race, the race and performance of the FrontRower. A link to Erics site is below.
I learned a lot on how to row through whitewater, narrow cuts, shallow water etc. and will share my thoughts on that as well as on a few minor mods I made to the FrontRower to make it easier to set up and install on the boat. I used the FrontRower seat to single blade, with the FrontRower packed beneath my stern flotation bag. When it came time to install the FrontRower, I assembled it in about 10 minutes, with no tools. I want to check the splits when they are released, but I beleive I gained 30 places after I switched to rowing. I had no sore muscles (although a very sore butt!!) after the race. I alternated between legs only, arms only, and legs and arms rowing with about a 30/20/50 split resepctively. For spares I took along 2 oars, 2 return springs and 20′ of StaSet rope and never needed any of them.
Gerald Kennedy, a fellow racer and boat builder, was my team captain and ground support, and without his encouragement and advice I probably would not have finished.
So now I guess you can say the FrontRower is “Texas Water Safari Tough” and proven!
All for now,