The Great Falls Race
14 - 15 Aug 2020
The festival's most dramatic and dazzling event is the Great Falls Race. This downriver race is a quick, adrenaline-packed descent of 60 vertical feet through the Potomac's spectacular Class V+ Great Falls. Watch top kayakers from around the nation dash down the falls and compete for the Great Falls Race trophy. Background: The Great Falls Race was one of the original extreme whitewater competitions, and nearly 30 years later, it will still be one of the most challenging. The premiere event of the Potomac Festival is a sub-60 second sprint down through the powerful cataracts dropping nearly 60 vertical feet. Only experts may compete, but the entire paddling community is welcome to watch and volunteer. Race Types: CLASSIC - Downriver race. The Great Falls Race demands a paddler to be steady yet dynamic and can reward or punish a racer for choosing an aggressive line. A section of the Falls will be chosen for the race based on our Water Levels Chart and common consensus. Competitors will be allowed 1 race run in their fast boat of choice, and the top 10 times will qualify for the Finals. The fastest Finals run wins the Cup! SLALOM - The local kayaking community has long blended slalom moves in Class V whitewater. So, based on our 2015 success, the Potomac Festival will once again have a judged slalom event in addition to the classic downriver race. The slalom course will be 2-5 gates, buoys, mandatory channels, and rock touches. Race staff will set the course during the week of the event, dictated by water levels to showcase the best moves on the river and reward the most adaptable technical paddlers in 8-9 foot creek boats. Categories: Classic Classic - Women's Kayak (K1) (all boat lengths) Classic - Men's Kayak (K1) (all boat lengths) Classic - Canoe (C1) (Women & Men, all boat lengths) Handpaddle (Women & Men, all boat lengths) Duo (Women & Men, all boat lengths) Slalom Slalom - Women (K1/C1, all boat lengths) Slalom - Men (K1/C1, all boat lengths)
Race Registration: All participants in the GFR are required to pre-register. Registration will be conducted on-line, outside of the National Parks, and prior to race day. There will be no race-day registration, and no fees collected within the National Parks. Racer Meeting & Safety Briefing: On the morning of race, the GFR staff will hold a safety staff meeting and racer meeting near the Great Falls Tavern on the Maryland side. At the volunteer meeting, the staff will go over the race course, the start and finish lines, the positioning of safety boats and throw ropes, how to stop the race in case of a problem, and how to contact help in case of emergency. In the racer meeting, the start and finish lines, the rules of the race, any up-to-date safety considerations will be covered. Racer Skills Assessments: The GFR staff are responsible for determining whether appropriate skill level is present for each racer. As specified on the website, all racers must be able to attest to their experience paddling Class V whitewater, provide a detailed paddling history, and be familiar with the lines on Great Falls. Racers will be screened by the race staff on their capability to adequately paddle and race Great Falls. Each participant’s involvement in the race is subject to the race director’s approval. If there is any doubt about a racer competing in a safe manner, that racer will not be allowed to enter. The exact course depends on the water level, but will take place on one of the following:
The Classic start for this complex course is on the Virginia shore (river right) just upstream of the large square slab rock. Racers will ferry left above U-Hole, (the Virginia Lines) and the tip of Flake Island and navigate Grace Under Pressure - the furthest river right entrance drop into the middle channel of the Falls. Racers then navigate the maze of ledges leading to The Fingers. The Fingers is five-channel, 20 foot drop, with some of the channels being trickier than others, so choosing a good line is critical. The finish line will be a rock in a eddy river left of The Fingers near Horseshoe on the Maryland side. Slalom here would involve an up left below Grace, a mandatory series of moves in the ledges and a drop Angel Hair (Pinky Finger), a very narrow waterfall. If that weren't enough, expect the finish line to be an upstream ferry above a boulder (similar to the 2014 race).