The sixth annual Phatwater Kayak Challenge hits the water next weekend.

Published 11:31 pm Saturday, October 6, 2007

NATCHEZ — The sixth annual Phatwater Kayak Challenge is upon us.

The 42.5-mile paddle race begins at 8 a.m. Saturday and will test stamina and endurance of canoe and kayak enthusiasts from all over the country.

“Right now we have over 60 entries,” race coordinator Keith Benoist said. “There are still a number of people that haven’t signed up that will. We are hoping to have between 100-120 participants.”

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The race will begin six miles from Port Gibson at the Claiborne County Port Facility.

There will be classes determined by type of boat and skills participants have.

Benoist said there will be three classes for kayaks and canoes; one man, two man and two mixed, (male/female team).

“The majority of the competition will be in rec-kayaks and canoes (popular type of kayak and canoes),” Benoist said. “It consists of 60-70 percent of the field and is compiled of the amateur paddlers.”

Among this years paddlers, three time Olympian Mike Herbert, professional Reid Heil and Olympic team trainer Chris Hipgrave.

“We are looking for someone to break the four- hour mark,” Benoist said. “A $1,000 prize goes to the first solo that breaks that mark.”

Other prizes given will be custom-made trophies, a engraved Sub-V Swiss Army Knife to all first time paddlers that complete the course under five hours and there will be a drawing for an Osprey HP kayak from the Pygmy Boat Company. It is 17.5 feet long and weighs 38 pounds.

“This is a beautiful kayak,” Benoist said. “Everyone that finishes the race will be eligible for the drawing.”

The biggest concerns for this year’s race are the current river levels.

“There are not many places to launch the safety boats,” Benoist said. “The river is just too low in areas.”

Awards are set to be given out at 4 p.m. with a party afterwards at Under-the-Hill Saloon.

There is a $35 entry fee for American Canoe Association members and $45 for non ACA members. Registration will continue through Oct. 12.

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