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Many changes in water for 69th annual canoe marathon

GRAYLING – Racers and fans alike are being greeted with changes for the 69th Annual AuSable River International Canoe Marathon July 30-31.
A number of announcements were made at the marathon kickoff last week in Grayling where more than 100 attended. Changes including sponsorships, a new web site and race attractions are just a few of the variances, said race media relations director and sponsor, Steve Southard.
One of the big changes, said Southard, is Consumers Energy’ involvement. In 2016 Consumer’ was one of two presenting sponsors, this year they are the sole presenting sponsor.
‘They are supporting the race in an even bigger way then they have in the past,’ Southard said.
Southard said Consumers Energy representative Rick Castle has been working with the race team on the effort. He said the energy company has a vested interest in the river’ hydro dams and the race involves six such dams. Southard added there will be changes in what the race fans see at the dams.
The second presenting sponsor in the 2015 race was the Army National Guard. This year they are a partner of the race. They are partnering with the race to provide and oversee GPS navigation of the racers. Southard said GPS debuted in the 2015 race. It allows fans to see where their favorite teams are.
Fans will also be able to track the racers via the Web site, which Southard said is ‘very modern and pleasant to look at.’
‘That combination works out great,’ Southard said.
In addition, 17 radio stations will be broadcasting the race. The flagship station, WUPS will go live with the race at 6 p.m. July 30 and stay with it until 1 p.m. July 31. Listeners state-wide will have access to the race’ progress, said Southard.
After years of talks, voyager canoes from Quebec are expected to take part in the race. Southard said at least two will be present, maybe more. The large canoes, first used to transport people and materials, have up to 13 team members, with nine paddling at a time. They can rotate team members at the dams during the race. The boats will go all the way to the finish line.
Another change for fans is the sprint on the days prior to the race to determine starting positions. This year the sprint is July 27 to 29, with a major change. Spectators at the sprint have normally only been at the beginning and end of the starting point of the sprint race headed downstream and around the buoy and back upstream. This year, said Southard, the sprint is heading upstream and there will be a stage and bleachers around the buoy area.
‘The buoy turnaround is one of the most exciting parts of the sprint,’ Southard said, noting due to the bleachers and change in the sprint direction, fans will for the first time be able to see it.
‘These changes don’t have just a big impact on the race, but the whole river valley,’ Southard said.
To learn more about the Ausable River International Canoe Marathon visit www.ausablecanoemarathon.org or their Facebook page at www.facebook/ausablecanoemarathon.org.
Anyone interested in being a part of the race’ advertising is encouraged to e-mail contact@ausablecanoemarathon or call 989-348-4425 and leave a message.

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