Chester residents join 70-mile canoe race
CHESTER — How does the idea of a canoe race 70 miles long strike you?
For Harold Wilson and Alex Bechtold of Chester, it’s a challenge — a challenge they’ve taken on several times in the past, and which they’ll take on again on Memorial Day this year.
The event is the General Clinton Canoe Regatta on the Susquehanna River between Cooperstown, N.Y. and Bainbridge, N.Y., a four-day event now in its 54th year that attracts as many as 3,000 paddlers each year. The 70-mile trek on Memorial Day is described as the longest single-day flat water race in the world, according to Wilson.
The regatta is named in honor of Gen. James Clinton, who, along with Gen. John Sullivan, led the Revolutionary War “Sullivan-Clinton Expedition” of 1779 down the Susquehanna River against loyalists and four indian tribes that he had sided with the British
“Alex and I will be the only people from Kent Island entered in the race,” Wilson said. “I am 79, have done the race seven times, and my partner is 24 and has done the endurance race three times.” This will be the second year they’ve worked together as a team on the big race, having paddled with other partners in the past.
“It’s a blast, and I can’t wait to challenge that river again,” said Bechtold, who owns the Little Creek Kung Fu Studio in Chester. “The race is grueling, and the training is totally brutal.”
Wilson said he believes he is one of the oldest competitors in the race and he calls it a “real challenge.”
The two have trained together on Kirwan Creek on Kent Island, and Wilson said that having Bechtold in the bow of the canoe during training “is like having an Evinrude up there for the ten hours I expect the race to take us.” He said that because of his occupation, Bechtold is “already in great shape.”
Wilson is a writer, having recently published his second novel entitled “A Taste of Salt.” He also hosts two programs on Delmarva Public Radio in Salisbury.
Besides the General Clinton event, Wilson and Bechtold have taken part in several other canoe regattas closer to home. Among them is the seven-mile race during the Nanticoke Riverfest held in Seaford, Del., and the nine-mile Delmarva Paddlers Retreat on the Broadkill River between Lewes and Milton, Del. They have also participated in a 13-mile canoe race on the Monocacy River in Frederick County.
Alex Bechtold, left, and Harold Wilson, right, in their canoe during an earlier General Clinton Canoe Regatta.