Just a few minutes after 7 a.m. Wednesday, a three-man boat broke through the fog on the Missouri River — the first boat to come through Jefferson City during the 15th annual Missouri American MR340 race.
Well ahead of all other boats, the team known as "Make Mine a Triple" in their boat "The Kraken" did not stop at Wilson's Serenity Point at the Noren Missouri River Access. The crew kept going, staying on the south side of the river near the Union Pacific Railroad tracks as they paddled under the Missouri River bridge.
Chris Thurman, head of the ground crew for "Make Mine a Triple," said the boat, led by Joseph Mann, of Kansas City, has had some mechanical issues. Instead of using regular paddles or oars, the boaters power The Kraken with their legs, like a tandem bicycle.
"We broke a pedal and we had to fix a chain, but if it stays like that, we ought to be doing pretty good," Thurman said.
A total of 350 boats started out from Kansas City on Tuesday morning. The competitors have 88 hours to finish the race, which ends in St. Charles.
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The current is about 3 mph, and the biggest hazards to paddlers would be motorboats, mostly fishermen, and the occasional towboat pushing barges, race officials said. In-river obstacles would include wing dikes, buoys and bridge pilings.
Race Director Scott Mansker said the Wednesday morning fog at Glasgow and Jefferson City kept some racers from getting an early start, but overall, the fast river and cool temperatures are helping boaters to keep ahead of the normal pace for the MR340. The record for completing the race is 33 hours.
Only two-thirds of teams were able to finish last year.
This is the seventh year Thurman has been doing the ground crew work for Mann. He has also participated in the race himself.
"It's the camaraderie that brings people back to this race," Thurman said. "The people you meet are great. Once you do this race, this river does something to you. It actually changes you, and it draws you back."
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The last day for this year's race is Friday.
One boat from Central Missouri in this year's race is "Just Wingin It," with a team of David Combs, of Columbia, and Ross Burlbaw, of Jefferson City.
This is Burlbaw's first time doing the MR340 and Combs' second.
"We got pretty tired at the end of Tuesday, but after we got a good night's sleep, we were ready to go again on Wednesday," Combs said.
Other than the fog on the river making it difficult to see, Combs said they were having little trouble.
"We're doing this because we just enjoy being outside," Combs said. "Getting out on the river for the week is an enjoyable pastime for us."
"The fun dynamic I like to see is how the towns along the way come out to support the racers," Mansker said. "In Lexington and Waverly, we had Boy Scouts selling food, and in Miami, they had breakfast for all the paddlers coming through. The people in these towns reach out to paddlers who come from all across the country. There's many friendships that have developed over the years."
For more information about the MR340 and to follow the progress of the racers, visit rivermiles.com/mr340.