By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
For the first time in decades, boating enthusiasts are being called to race the Mississippi River in canoes, kayaks, rowboats and stand-up paddleboards.
The Quincy Five Miler on Sept. 15 will allow boaters in unmotorized watercraft to challenge one another on a 5.4-mile course from the south end of Hogback Island south into Quincy Bay and on to the finish line at the South Side Boat Club.
Quincy native and race organizer Ray Thomas said the city used to be known for its strong rowing programs, which subsided after World War II.
"I don't what it is about this town, but it produced some of the strongest rowers in the world," he said. "But nobody really knows about it anymore."
Thomas said he decided to organize a race after seeing the old trophies on display inside the South Side Boat Club.
"I realized that Quincy had more trophies for its size than any city I had ever seen," he said.
Thomas also spoke with longtime South Side Boat Club member and second-generation rower Allie Lymenstull about the history of rowing in the area.
"We asked Allie if he would be the inspiration for us to bring a rowing and paddling race back here, because we've got such perfect water for it," he said.
Holly Cain, executive director of the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she hopes the event will become an annual attraction.
"It is something that is unique," she said. "Not every river city has a natural bay that works so well for these types of events that you're not on the main channel. This race happens to be on the main channel some and in the bay, but it is neat to have that option of kayaking in the bay, where its just so quiet and not much of a current."
The race director will be Kevin Dempsey, the instructor for the biweekly Kayak Quincy tours.
Cain said Kayak Quincy tours have been busy so far this year. Usually many dates in June are scuttled because of river levels, but that has not been the case this year.
The race also coincides with the annual Quincy Classic Boat and Outboard Show. A post-race social paddle will be on Quincy Bay, followed by a banquet and dance with live music at the South Side Boat Club.
Registration for the race is $25 by mail, email or in person on the day of the event. Prizes will be awarded to winners in each of seven divisions, and all participants will receive a T-shirt. Registration form and information on the race can be found at quincy5miler.com.