By Chris Norbury
The Cheat Canyon Downriver race this year will be an International Canoe Federation Ranking race. There are only 9 ICF ranking races in the world in 2019, in addition to 4 World Cup races and a World Championships. The designation as an ICF ranking race allows individuals to enter, without the need to be selected by their respective nations, and so is the highest level of competition at which an individual can enter yourself without qualifying. The race on the Cheat Canyon will be one of two in the US, with the other being a sprint on the Nantahala river held as part of the US Open competition in March.
These two races are the first senior level International downriver ranking races in the US since the early 2000’s, but they are not the last! Next year, the World Championships and World Cup competitions are coming to the Appalachian Mountains. The World Championships will be held in late April on the Nantahala River, followed a week later by the four race World Cup series on the Cheat River, with two races on the Narrows, and two on the Canyon. The World Cup has not been held in the US since 2003, and not outside of Europe since an event in Tasmania, Australia, in 2009. It has been much longer since the Wildwater World Championships have been held outside of Europe, with the previous event being just down the road on the Savage river as far back as 1989. It is hoped that the 2019 ICF ranking races will raise awareness about the 2020 events. The Nantahala ICF ranking race attracted competitors from as far away as Australia and South Africa, and domestically from San Diego although the proximity to the European Championships likely precludes many competitors making the trip from the powerhouse wildwater nations in Europe this year.
Cheat Canyon Down River Race Mass Start, Photo Credit: Gabe DeWitt
What does this mean for your entry in the Cheat River Downriver race? There will be ICF judges on site to ensure that everyone follows ICF rules, but recent changes to those rules mean that there will be very few, if any, people impacted by the need to adhere to ICF rules. All competitors are free to race as normal, with the Cheat Canyon Downriver race results to be compiled as in past years. To be included in the ICF ranking from the downriver race you need to be competing in K1M, K1W, C1W, C1M, C2M or C2W classes, but you can race in other classes (K2, etc) to be included in the normal Cheat Canyon results. These are the only classes for the ICF race, so K1W competitors in 9ft boats will race those K1W in wildwater boats. The characteristic mass start for the Canyon race will remain the same, with the only limitations being on classes, and on boat length. If your boat is longer than 14’9″ for a kayak, 14’1″ for a C1 and 16’4″ for a C2 then it can also race, but will not be included in the ICF rankings. We already know of some current and past US team paddlers who are coming up from the South East for the race, so please join this spring and look forward to racing of the highest caliber on the Cheat River in 2020.