Erik Borgnes, of Stevens Point, Wis., raises his arms in victory as he crosses the Phinish Line first during the 12th annual Phatwater Kayak Challenge Saturday afternoon. (Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)
Erik Borgnes, of Stevens Point, Wis., raises his arms in victory as he crosses the Phinish Line first during the 12th annual Phatwater Kayak Challenge Saturday afternoon. (Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)

Archived Story

Borgnes, Herbert come out on top in Phatwater Kayak Challenge

Published 12:01am Sunday, October 13, 2013

NATCHEZ — Several kayakers left the Mississippi River exhausted with their arms sore and their legs feeling like jelly after competing in the 12th annual Phatwater Kayak racing tournament.

Participants come from all over the nation to compete in three available races: The Crossing, The Halph-The-Phat and the Phatwater Kayak Challenge.

The Crossing competition was Friday and was the most exciting for participants and spectators. The 1.1-mile upstream race started from below the Natchez-Vidalia Bridge in Vidalia, and finished at the Phatwater Phinish Line at Natchez Under-The-Hill.

The Crossing is about speed and agility as the participants race neck-and-neck for the Phinish Line.

The winner of The Crossing was former Olympian sprint canoer Mike Herbert from Arkansas.

“I really enjoyed that, it’s kind of my forte,” Herbert said. “That was what I did in the Olympics.”

Saturday featured the Halph-The-Phat race and the Phatwater Kayak Challenge which racers must choose which race to compete in as they started within each other.

Former Olympian Mike Herbert passes by Magnolia Bluffs Casino as he nears the Phinish Line in second place in the Phatwater Kayak Challenge. (Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)
Former Olympian Mike Herbert passes by Magnolia Bluffs Casino as he nears the Phinish Line in second place in the Phatwater Kayak Challenge. (Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)

The Phatwater started at 8:30 a.m., later than scheduled because of dense fog, from Port Gibson and was 42.5 miles long to the Phinish Line at Natchez Under-The-Hill.

The average canoer crossed the Phinish Line at 5 hours, but first place winner Eric Borgnes came in at the 4:11.32 mark, and not far behind was Herbert with a time of 4:20.48.

Borgnes, from Wisconsin, has competed in the Phatwater race for four years. He has won fourth, third and second place in his current races, but was never able to get over the hump until this year.

“I train all year long so I was well trained up for the distance,” Borgnes said. “I was in fourth place after the first half hour and I kept a steady pace most of the way and that worked for me.”

Borgnes said his tactics were staying patient and vigilant of his opponents’ actions throughout the race.

“I stayed behind a few guys in front of me and hoped they made a mistake, and when they did I made a move on them,” he said.

Though the current was choppy and made things difficult, Borgnes said he felt relieved to come out on top and looks forward to next year.

“I was very happy to finally get the win and I hope to come back next year,” he said.

Herbert said the Phatwater was challenging, but he had fun the entire way.

“It was a lot of fun and it’s always a challenge to do this 42.5 mile race,” Herbert said. “It takes quite a bit of stamina.”

Herbert said it was a close race until they reached Waterproof and that’s when canoers started to establish their positions.

“We battled up until about Waterproof, then Borgnes took the lead there and he gapped me and he held it,” he said.

The Half-The-Phat race started at Waterproof and is an 18-mile race. Participants started 10 minutes after the Phatwater participants passed through Waterproof and David Dupree won the Half-The-Phat competition with a time of 4:53.11.

Event coordinator Keith Benoist competed in the Halph-The-Phat and would’ve finished first if he was actually competing.

“We did not get an official time because we weren’t racing, we were just out there to be on the course,” Benoist said. “I came in at about an hour and 40 minutes.”

Benoist said he was expecting a larger turnout on the water, but was pleased with what he had.