WEST TOWNSEND -- The temperatures are starting to warm up outside, and the days are getting longer. spring is here, and what better way to beckon the season than a kayak/canoe race on the famed Squannacook River.
This year marks the 30th year the Townsend Lions Club has sponsored the race. All proceeds from the event will be donated to local charities and will fund scholarships for graduating high school seniors.
Racers make the pilgrimage to West Townsend from all across New England to try their luck on the rigorous 6.1-mile course.
The course commences at Harbor Pond and winds down past West Townsend center. While meandering through the course, racers will find various natural obstacles and wildlife habitats.
Kayaks were not always allowed in the race, but due to public pressure, the Townsend Lions obliged.
"A few years back, maybe 10, we were asked to include kayaks," said Lions' Club social media coordinator Laura Harrington. "It is a two-man canoe and/or kayak race."
Entrants are asked to check the Townsend Lions website and fill out their registration as early as possible in order to secure a low start number.
All racers will be treated to a breakfast at the Lions' Club on the morning of the race, April 13, at 7 a.m. The first group of kayakers and canoes will depart the VFW pond dock at 10 a.m. with the higher numbers to follow.
All racers will be welcomed back to the VFW to reload on carbohydrates, with a complimentary pasta lunch beginning at 1:30 p.m. Trophies will be handed out at that time. The top two finishers in each division will receive awards.
Amateur radio spotters from the Montachusett Amateur Radio Club will be stationed along the course to provide accurate computerized timing of each canoe and kayak.
The competition is broken down into eight classes, including a juniors, a womens, a mens and a mixed division and all have age limitations. The junior class is for girls and boys from 14 to 16 years old, the womens and mens division is 17 and older and master canoers are 51 and older.
Good sportsmanship is encouraged and expected by all participants. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited during the race, and all kayaks/canoes are required to follow the course; those who fail to do so will be disqualified.
Each racer must provide their own kayak or canoe -- all information regarding the size limitations can be found on the registration form. U.S. Coast Guard approved life vests must be worn at all times during the race. Those who fail to adhere to this or any of the rules will face immediate disqualification.
"This year is the 30th annual race, and for us it is a milestone," said Harrington. "It is a good race, and we get a lot of repeat entrants."
Follow Ed Niser on Twitter at @EdNiser.