"Around the island by oarIf you paddle it, you can race it in the island's annual circumnavigation."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 7:49 PM
"One of the island's least-known athletic events celebrates a birthday Sept.15, as the Around Bainbridge Island Rowing and Paddling Marathon turns 20. It starts at 9:30 a.m. that day at Fay Bainbridge State Park, and finishes at the same location. The race is open to any human-powered watercraft, says island resident Jim Raney, who's often been the race director in previous years for the 23.2 nautical-mile course. This year he's concentrating on lining up volunteers.He explains that kayaks - either singles or doubles - usually comprise about half the entrants, which may number up to 20. Others are open water rowing shells or rowboats. Canoes are rare.We'll even make up a special class if we don't already have one, he adds.One of 16 events sponsored throughout the year by the non-profit Sound Rowers Open Water Rowing and Paddling Club, the race costs $7 for club members and $10 for non-members traveling solo, $10 and $15 for two-person and multi-oared vessels.Entrants receive a T-shirt donated by Deschamps Realty.Typical winning times are four hours or more, with the course closed after six hours. It's not for everyone, Raney says. But the people that do it have a good time.Age is no hindrance - 1999 winner Rainer Storb of Seattle, age 64, edged 68-year-old Bill McAndrew of Edmonds by less than two minutes.For those interested in participating but not wishing to do the entire distance, a half marathon begins at the Fort Ward boat launch at 11:30. While full marathoners can go either clockwise or counter-clockwise, geography usually dictates the direction for those who start at Fort Ward. Raney says that the distance around the island's southern tip and up the east side to Fay Bainbridge is 10 miles, while going via Point White and Agate Passage is 13.Raney hopes to find about 12 race-day volunteers to stand at half a dozen strategic points around the island with cell phones and monitor progress of the entrants.We'd like two at each point to keep each other company, he says.In addition, he hopes to recruit several boats to provide on-water surveillance and offers gas money as an incentive. He's also offering T-shirts for volunteers.Raney himself won't be competing in this year's event. I can't sit still that long, he says.But you'll find him on the water next Saturday in Sound Rowing's signature event, the Great Cross Sound Race.Held for the first time in 1979, it originally went from West Seattle and finished in Eagle Harbor before changing to its current round-trip format in 1988. Like its longer sibling, it's open to any human-powered watercraft and entries are still being accepted. The race starts at 9 a.m. at Alki, crosses Puget Sound to Blakely Rock and Decatur Reef off Restoration Point, before returning to the starting point. Winners usually cover the eight miles in under an hour. Even the final finishers among the well over 100 boats that take part require no more than two and a half hours.The entry fee is $20 for singles, $30 for doubles or multi-oars, and all participants receive a T-shirt.Raney has a 21-foot rowboat of his own design - epoxy/fiberglass over cedar - which is set up for one to four rowers. While his daughter is currently his only projected crew member for the race, he does have room for one or two more rowers and would welcome phone calls from experienced oarspeople who'd like to join him. "