Live coverage of Texas Water Safari
June 8, 2012 at 1:08 a.m.
Updated June 9, 2012 at 1:09 a.m.
Scroll below for live coverage feed. To add your own updates on the race, Tweet using #txwatersafari.
Pity the person who waited for hours in vain, hoping to catch a glimpse of a fatigued paddler meandering down the river.
Apparently, organizers of the Texas Water Safari share that belief.
When the 50th competition kicks off in San Marcos Saturday morning, each boat will have a tracking device that allows for organizers - and those brave spectators - to know where each contestant is on the San Marcos or Guadalupe rivers.
It's all part of an effort to make the race more spectator friendly said Allen Spelce, president of the Texas Water Safari.
Things promptly begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Aquarena in San Marcos.
"The (SPOT trackers) are going to enable officials to track boats," Spelce said. "It will also, we hope, enable fans and spectators, whether in Wichita Falls, Kansas or another team, to watch that team and follow the race. We're thinking it's an added benefit to the race."
A record 141 boats entered the race. Two dropped out soon after the May 25 deadline. Spelce figures a few more might elect to wait a year. Regardless, the number of participants surpasses the previous record of 124 boats set nearly a decade ago.
Austin-based filmmaker Randall Dark said the race has become and important and authentic part of Texas culture. The passion, dedication and teamwork the paddlers exhibit are among the reasons Dark partnered with Jeff McAdams to shoot a documentary of the latter's inaugural race.
Titled "Seadrift vs. The Big Guy," it aspires to capture the physical and mental hurdles paddlers must overcome on their way to the finish line in Seadrift.
Dark filmed a training session of paddler Holly Orr. To his left was Orr lowering her boat into the river, to his right was an arms-length snake.
"I think it's very special and that's why I'm honored to shoot it," Dark said. "That's an amazing mark, whether you turn 50, have been married for 50 years or at an event that is 50. That's a historic mark."
To help kickoff the 50th running of the iconic river race organizers invited former New Hampshire Attorney General, and avid canoe racer, Peter Heed to be the keynote speaker at its welcome banquet Friday.
Heed is the former president of the U.S. Canoe Association and author of "Canoe Racing: Competitors Guide to Marathon and Downriver Canoe Racing." The book is considered scripture to serious canoe racers.
"It's a special race," Spelce said. "There are very few races that encompass this distance and challenge just for the satisfaction of doing it. It's more of a personal reward. That is why you see a lot of camaraderie and a lot of support. It's just a major accomplishment to finish this race."