Water Safari captains endure along with team in boat (video)
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The Texas Water Safari, 260 miles long and billed as the world's toughest canoe race, kicked off its 51st paddling Saturday morning in San Marcos. The race is expected to last through Monday as teams make their way down the Guadalupe River to Seadrift.
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Video: VIDEO: For team captains, Texas Water Safari far from fun and games
Sandy Sherrod has been handing off food, water, ice and other drinks to Boat 82 for two days now.
There hasn't been much time for sleep.
"I probably got an hour of sleep last (Saturday) night and then another 30 minutes at Cheapside," Sherrod said. "It's hard."
Such is the life of a team captain at the Texas Water Safari.
"I've had more Diet Cokes and Red Bulls than stops along the way," said Ginnie Stauss, who is helping soloist Ian Rolls in boat 22.
Team captains are the ones who keep the boats going by supplying boat crews with water, ice, food and other forms of energy to keep them going. They're also driving to the different checkpoints and passages, assessing the health of their boat crew and offering support and advice.
"We do all of that on little sleep," said Kristin Daniel, team captain for the Cowboys in boat 807.
"You're making sure they get what they need and continue to eat and drink," added Jill Wyatt, team captain for boat 247. "You're just basically taking care of them."
In a race that travels 260 miles of Texas rivers, team captains are constantly moving, and the best way to remain effective is planning and organization.
Sherrod, who is currently in the midst of her 18th Texas Water Safari, began planning for this year's race a month ago. With the new rule allowing captains to pass along food, that planning phase involved much more.
"I made them a chart for what they want so they fill in what they want and when," Sherrod explained. "We have the stuff bagged up and in tubs so that when we get to stops I can put them in a bag for the first half and then another bag for the other half. We sort them in the ice chest so that when they come in we can just drop the stuff in the boat.
"It's gone pretty smooth because I was organized."
Daniel conducts a training seminar for new team captains in February when the Texas Water Safari holds its annual training event for novice paddlers. She agreed that being organized and planning ahead was important because on race day there isn't a lot of time.
"You don't have time to pull off and go to Wal-Mart and figure out what you missed," she said. "It's really not a good plan to have your team wait while you run back to the vehicle to get something."
The seminar in February goes over what should be included in the planning process, along with how to do a proper hand off and going over the important equipment the captains will need during the race.
One thing that has helped is that teams are allowed to have more than one captain.
"It's helped a lot," Sherrod said. "Especially on a big boat, because (the co-captain) will drop the front half and I'll drop the back half. Otherwise, they would be sitting at the stop longer."
Maybe the most important job of the team captain, besides supplying water and food, is offering support and advice.
"I can anticipate things and let him know what might happen," Stauss said. "The darkest hour is before the dawn and he was really down just before dawn. I remember thinking how I was ready to give up and when dawn came I was good to go. Ian went through that as well."
As Rolls came to the Nursery bridge just north of Victoria, Stauss's advice seemed to have helped. Rolls was smiling and keeping pace with a six-man boat crew.
It goes to show team captains are just as important to a team's success as the ones who are paddling the boats.