Yorktown Sea Cadets take first place in Great Portage Race

  • Sunday, October 6, 2013

Amy Haslip and Spencer Williams of Columbia’s Palmetto Division begin a long canoe portage uphill with a race to the finish line. PHOTOS PROVIDED


The Great Portage Race 2013 took place on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Dreher Island Park, Lake Murray, with competition between three Navy Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC) divisions in South Carolina; Columbia’s Palmetto Division, Mount Pleasant’s Yorktown Division and Beaufort’s Port Royal Battalion. These cadets represented their divisions in the adventurous water competition.

This was Yorktown Division’s second Great Portage Race. Team Yorktown was headed by LT Dennis Doerr who was able to field three canoe teams. After the race the unit camped that night in the primitive camp grounds on Dreher Island, trained the following day and returned home to Charleston late Sunday afternoon.

Sixteen cadets competed in the canoe race, two in each canoe, traversing six arrival and departure checkpoints beginning at the Primitive camping area and around the southern end of the park. After launching, the cadets were required to locate each checkpoint using a map and portage the canoe in order to take knowledge tests at four of the checkpoints. They were asked questions relative to previous training they had received, such as identify cloud formations, navy specialty ratings, flags and pennants and common nautical knots. Points would be added up at the end of the race, combining the overall race times and testing results. Extra bonus points would be given for additional correct answers in the knowledge tests.

The co-ed competition was divided into two age categories, Navy League Cadets ages 11-14 and Navy Sea Cadets ages 15-18. The Sea Cadet Corp is a youth group organization that encourages, trains and aids youth to develop sea-going skills and to teach patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred values. http://www.seacadets.org/public/

Some of the cadets had participated in the Great Portage Race last year and were more skilled and experienced, however, the race starting and ending checkpoints were reversed this year. As the wind picked up along the water, all cadets would put their abilities and strengths to work in the canoe race to get to the finish line. Even after completing the race, there was a challenging uphill portage to the finish line at the hill top, a seemingly long trip to carry a canoe. At every turn, other uniformed Sea Cadets were assisting the Navy League and NSSC volunteers with logistical and supportive details.

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary members from three flotilla units based in Charleston, Lake Marion and Lake Murray supported this event, on the water and on land. Auxiliary members also loaned five VFH radios to race officials in order to monitor the various land checkpoints and stay in constant contact with event happenings. Two boats and one Personal Water Craft (PWC), under orders from U.S. Coast Guard Station Charleston, provided a safety zone for the paddlers between the shoreline and the many faster power boats in the area. Coxswains Festus Burchfield, Jay Dahlgren and Ann Graham were supported by crew members Bob Weskerna, Al Crothers, Don Carty, John Owen and William Hayes. They kept a particularly close watch on the younger Sea Cadets with less experience, reporting their position and movement to the race officials. The PWC operational facility was able to maneuver into shallow waters that restricted the larger boats and was a welcome addition this year to the Auxiliary safety patrol. Auxiliarist photographers Barbara Burchfield and Sue Carty covered the race from start to finish for both the Auxiliary and Navy League.

Thomas J. Brown, race committee chairman, planned the logistics and communicated with team leaders via monthly teleconference to ensure the race coordination and success. The Navy League is primary sponsor of The Great Portage Race along with SCE&G, Belser & Belser Law Firm, South Carolina State Parks, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and Columbia Regional Sports Council.

James Offutt, National President, Navy League of the United States, Bryant Kohut, Race Coordinator, and Thomas Brown presented awards in a formal ceremony at the park following the race.

First Place awards for the fastest time to finish the course were presented to Philip Gee and Frank Drose from the Yorktown Division. Second Place award went to the team with the second best time to finish, Josh Smith and Conrad Long from the Palmetto Division. Third Place award, for third best time to finish, went to Amy Haslip and Spencer Williams representing the Palmetto Division

For more information about these organizations, visit www.navyleague.com, www.uscgaux.org, and www.seacadets.org/public.

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