Paddlers raise funds for Sengie


In a classic Vineyard summer with celebrity appearances, music festivals, vernissages and magical illuminations, it’s hard to imagine an event offering more fun, goodwill and inspiration than the 31st annual Oar Festival. & Paddle which took place last Sunday morning on Sengekontacket Étang. The event attracts up to 120 kayakers, canoeists and stand-up paddlers, who compete in categories based on age, gender and experience. Each finisher wins a medal.

The event is hosted by Chick Stapleton, owner of Island Spirit Kayak in Oak Bluffs, and avid flag bearer of the Friends of Sengekontaket, an organization dedicated to the long-term well-being of the six-mile-long pond.

“The $ 50 participation fee is a donation to our FOS group,” Stapleton explained. “Every penny of this money is used to support our various projects to keep Sengenkontaket clean and healthy. It is an ongoing effort. Among other things, we fund bi-weekly beach and roadside cleanups in Sengekontaket during the summer.

On this wet and cloudy day, around 85 paddlers and dogs gathered at Little Bridge for the festival. Did we say “dogs”? Yes. Canine participation in the race is encouraged, provided they wear life jackets. Among those jacket dogs were Cannoli and Gilligan, two Jack Russells competing for their fourth time. According to their kayak paddlers, Tom and Linda Huth, “Cannoli sits in the front barking at the geese while Gilligan quietly lies down in the back. “

After a period of mixing, the jokes and talk of kayak design were interrupted by Stapleton’s loudspeaker announcing the skippers meeting. The competitors gathered and were informed that due to the rough waters on the ocean side, “today’s course will remain in the pond”. Runners would start between buoys placed even with Little Bridge, head straight to Sarson Island near Big Bridge (also known as Jaws Bridge), circle the island, and head home. Approximate distance: 2.7 miles.

After 40 minutes of suspense, the first returning competitor appeared… the eventual winner of the general classification Dana Gaines. Right behind Gaines was Liam Cosgrove. The two veterans have a friendly rivalry, and Gaines, who wasn’t sure how many times he had won, graciously observed later that “next year Cosgrove will whip me.”

Ultimately, top prizes would be awarded in eight categories, and all graduates would win their well-deserved medals. Post-race smiles and good feelings abounded. Winner and female septuagenarian Karen English was pleasantly surprised by her achievement and pointed out that it was kayaking that got her through the pandemic so far. The mother-son team of Kristen and Devin Araujo, who finished second in the wood doubles division, “rely on each other’s strategic instincts” and agree that “kayaking together is when we get along best ”.

It was a good day also for the Friends of Sengekontaket. Mike Krause, President of FOS, explained the organizations efforts. We fund two interns each summer to work with the Edgartown and Oak Bluffs shell departments, ”he said. “We are also supporting some experimental projects, like MV Shellfish Group, to develop oyster beds with naturally reproducing oysters to improve the health of the pond.

The success of the festival can be attributed to the sponsors and the many volunteers who make it possible. At the heart, however, is the exuberant and generous Stapleton, whose axiom # 1 is: “The Oar & Paddle Festival is not a race for results; it’s a race full of accomplishments. One of those Sunday accomplishments was by the youngest solo kayaker who – along with his kayaker father nearby – mistakenly followed last year’s course, taking them under Jaws Bridge, along the choppy shore of State Beach and under Little Bridge until arrival. This year’s Gumption Award went to 8-year-old Kian Stapleton.

Another axiom: “For those who enter for fun, those who paddle with friends and those who compete with personal scores, the festival is a victory for all participants. »Dog or not dog.

Another: “Have a good paddle! “


Leave A Reply