Annabel Anderson and Titouan Puyo were victorious on Sunday at the 2017 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge after a tough day of course racing to finish out one of the biggest weekends of racing this year. Double Downwind winners Bernd Roediger and Fiona Wylde took the top overall titles for the weekend based on their combined times from all of the weekend’s events.
The wind looked light earlier in the day but then filled in by the time racers started hitting the water around mid-day. That made for a tough course race with brutal upwind legs followed by fun downwind runners that never seemed to last long enough. the men had to qualify for the final too, racing on the same intense course twice on the final day.
To no one’s surprise, Anderson reveled in the challenging conditions and returned to her winning ways on Sunday after a second lace yesterday, putting on an absolutely dominant performance after taking the lead early and never letting up.
“That was actually kind of fun,” Anderson said. “I felt like a got my mojo back. And once you get that rhythm it gets easier.”
Kiwi Penelope Strickland took second today ahead of her recent training partner and multiple Paddle Challenge champion Candice Appleby. Strickland’s performance this weekend, coupled with her record-breaking performance at M2O a month ago, mark her as a threat in any type of race.
Wylde had a tough race, unfortunately, collapsing on the finish line in a possible low-blood sugar situation (the Hood River local lives with Type 1 diabetes) in eighth place. Our thoughts are with her and her family.
Another favorite in wild waters, two-time Carolina Cup champion Titouan Puyo took first in the men’s course race final with his smooth stroke and lightning-fast downwind prowess.
“I’m dead,” Puyo laughed after the race. “The wind was blowing hard and I just tried to take off.”
He did just that, but his win was not without challengers. Young Australian Lincoln Dews, a perennial dark horse but one of the quickest paddlers around, pushed the New Caledonian right to the finish line, only losing out in the final wind waves lapping the shore. France’s Arthur Arutkin quietly snuck through the pack as the race progressed and was able to hang onto fourth right before Travis Grant.
In one of the most exciting moments of the race, Grant made a big move halfway through the race, utilizing the “Hot Lap”--a shortcut that all the racers had the option to use on one of their laps. He broke away ahead of Puyo and Dews with a pack that included Toby Cracknell and Arutkin. It looked like the move might pay off as the crew took off in the bumps but Puyo and Dews had saved their Hot Lap for last and when the time came, they still maintained a healthy lead that they kept to the finish.
Puyo’s performance put him in third place overall for the weekend while Grant came in second.
Check out the full elite Sunday and overall results below and check back tomorrow for more photos and coverage from the 2017 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge.