When the start horn blared for the annual Texas Water Safari, 176 boats began to paddle down the San Marcos river toward Seadrift, 260 miles away.
This year saw the most teams ever registered, but before oars hit the water at 9 a.m., 10 boats had already dropped out.
Aaaaand they’re off! 260 miles from here in San Marcos to Seadrift pic.twitter.com/JIfMEkX8HY— Morgan O'Hanlon (@mcohanlon) June 8, 2019
Spelce said a high dropout rate is common on the first day.
“Some people wreck their boats,” Spelce said. “Some people just figure out, ‘I’m not ready for this.’”
But the race continues for several Crossroads teams.
Victoria sisters Martha Adame and Leticia Ruiz finished the race on their third attempt last year. With a new, lighter carbon-fiber boat named “Determination,” they returned this year with a goal to decrease their time of 98 hours to the mid-70s.
We’ll be following a couple teams from the Crossroads today. Here are sisters Martha Adame and Leticia Ruiz getting in the water for their fourth race pic.twitter.com/mHLwB9bKdN— Morgan O'Hanlon (@mcohanlon) June 8, 2019
While the sisters were getting ready, Michael Vandeveer and Brandon Stafford, of Cuero, were gearing up for a bit of friendly family competition. Shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, they were anxious to get ahead of the crowds to beat Stafford’s father, William Stafford, to the water. At 7 p.m, the younger Stafford and Vandeveer’s boat were 12th overall and fourth in their class. Stafford’s father was ranked 73rd place overall and second in his class.
Contributing to high spirits Saturday morning was fast-moving, clear water on the San Marcos river. Adam Adame, Adame’s husband and team coach, said the river’s record-low water levels last year, in conjunction with debris left over from Hurricane Harvey, made for a difficult race.
“Last year was one of the most difficult years,” Adam Adame said.
Though his wife and her sister have been practicing, Adame said what could happen on the river this weekend is anyone’s guess.
“The river changes with every rain,” he said. “Even if they did a section two weeks ago, it could be totally different the next time they do it.”
Martha Adame said potential new challenges are added on top of regular ones, like the Broken Dam Rapid at mile 56, where she said she nearly lost her pants to rapid water last year, and hallucination alley, where fatigue leads to delusion among racers.
“You just see things and hear things that aren’t there,” Martha Adame said. “Last year I could hear (Leticia) having a conversation with my daughters, who weren’t there.”
10 miles in: racers face the first of several portages, where they must leave the boat and walk. In some areas of the race, portages can be up to a mile long. pic.twitter.com/mLiJ39eImw— Morgan O'Hanlon (@mcohanlon) June 8, 2019
She said the race’s hardest stretch is waiting for them in Seadrift, where wind creates choppy waves. During a practice last week, Adame said she and her sister had to have her husband come pick them up after conditions were so rough they had to get out of their boat and walk it through the shallow bay.
If the teams from the Crossroads make it to Seadrift, they’ll join the ranks of those who can call themselves Texas Water Safari finishers.