Every morning Paula Christie wakes up, makes coffee, and watches the Weather Channel. Today is no different, but Christie, the assistant director of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, will pay extra attention to Saturday’s conditions, which she hopes will be clear skies for her organization’s annual river race.
“It’s a family event; generations have been doing it,” she said. “The race is weather-dependent, but it’ll happen rain or shine.”
With help from volunteers and sponsors, the 23d annual Great River Race on the North River will begin at 10 a.m. in Norwell and end near the Hanover-Pembroke line some 7.5 miles upstream.
Organizers consider the tide patterns and when it is safest for participants of all levels to be in the tidal river when they pick a date for the event each year. “We were concerned for the fast people, but we’re compromising for the slowest,” Christie said. Although serious racers can handle rougher waters, relative beginners need calmer conditions. This year’s July 20 date is one of the earliest in the event’s history.
Christie, who has helped coordinate the race for 16 years, said that based on the numbers from previous years, there could be from 50 to 100 kayaks, canoes, and rowboats — fewer participants in bad weather and more in good — competing this year. The participants range in age from teenagers to adults in their 70s, and they will come from Greater Boston, New Hampshire, and as far away as North Carolina.
About 25 volunteers will help out at the starting line at the Union Street Bridge, the finishing line at the Washington Street Bridge, and in the water.
Organizers have instituted safety measures such as enforcing mandatory life jackets for all participants, enlisting help from former Scituate Fire Department captain Ralph Butler in case of emergency situations, and staggering starting times for racers. Racers pass through a narrow path under the Union Street Bridge at the start of the race, so releasing a limited number of racers every few minutes minimizes the chance of someone getting hurt.
For beginners, racing in a group released after the faster rowers allows them to be with participants at a similar level of experience. “Some people are timid to do the route on their own, but there’s safety in numbers,” Christie said.
Registration for the event is from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. at the Union Street Bridge in Norwell. The cost to participate is $35 for insurance and a T-shirt. Spectators can watch and cheer on participants from the bridges at the start and finish. An awards ceremony will follow at McGreal’s Tavern in Norwell.