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Sep 4, 2018 11:47 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The Great Peconic Race Is This Saturday

The Great Peconic Paddle is this Saturday, September 8.
Sep 4, 2018 12:41 PM

Ted Baldwin grew up in North Sea on Little Peconic Bay where he would dare his family and friends to have as much fun as possible, and more often than not, that meant doing something on the water. A true water lover, there wasn’t an activity Baldwin wouldn’t do on the water.

In 2010, though, Baldwin lost his life to a blood cancer, and to honor him, his brother, Billy Baldwin, and good friend Fergus Sloan, all North Sea residents, created the Great Peconic Race in 2013.

Set for its fifth annual event approaching this weekend on Saturday, September 8, the Great Peconic Race has become one of the East Coast’s premier paddle races for elite, intermediate and novice paddlers. The main event is a 19-mile paddle that circumnavigates Shelter Island, but there are shorter distance courses for non-elite paddlers. There is a nine-mile course, a three-mile untimed course and a 500-yard sprint course for youth paddlers. Each course sets off from Wade’s Beach on Shelter Island.

The paddle has benefited a number of organizations in the past. Proceeds from this year’s race will go to The Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve and its children’s water education program and to develop a paddle component for it with help from race director Fergus Sloan and co-race founder Billy Baldwin, who are both competitive paddlers.

“We’ve progressed every year and have multiple beneficiaries all in the environmental area,” Sloan explained. “This year it’s Nature Conservancy and Mashomack Preserve, so we’re really excited to work with those guys.

“Basically what we’ve created is this expedition-style event circumnavigating Shelter Island, and it’s designed for elite athletes, but we’ve incorporated four other races for the novice, so every level of skill set, basically. We’re trying to get everyone in there.”

All paddle craft are welcome for the Great Peconic Race—stand-up paddleboards, surf ski, OC1-OC6, kayaks, coastal rowers, prone boards. The only craft not allowed are dories, but with so many different craft on the water, it makes things interesting for spectators, Sloan said.

But since the only race that is visible from shore is the 500-yard youth paddle, there are a number of things going on at the beach to entertain everyone.

“Because it’s a non-spectator sport, we create this carnival or this village at Wade’s Beach to try and keep everybody entertained, with craft demos and all of our sponsors are there, raffles, full BBQ, live band, all kinds of stuff,” Sloan said. “We’re trying to get everyone involved in this hands-on approach to the environment and let everyone know what’s going on and make people more aware and make a bit of a difference.”

Safety is the top priority so the Coast Guard will be on hand assisting in what direction the paddle will go and helping keep an eye on water and weather conditions, as there will be support boats on hand as well. Since it is an open-water paddle, conditions vary and can include strong currents, wind and choppy waters. With no rain date, it’s imperative that whoever is interested in participating attend the 8 a.m. captain’s meeting, to learn what direction the course will take and to go over any other items. The first group starts at 8:30 a.m. Trophies will be awarded to the top finishers in each class and all participants receive a medal and rash guard.

For more information, or to register for the event, go to greatpeconicrace.com.

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