What is it about age and treachery? Someone might want to remind teenage Peter Lutter.
Forget the rodeo, slalom, boatercross or even Hooligan race. At this year’s 61st annual FIBArk Festival on Colorado’s Arkansas River, the kudos went to Andy Corra, owner of Durango’s 4 Corners Riversports, who at the ripe age of 48, won the 26-mile downriver race as well as the crown of Wildwater National Champion.
“I owe it all to ibuprofen,” says Corra, whose six FIBArk wins ties him with Gary Lacy.
Only for Corra, there was something different. “There are 24 years between my first win and this one,” he says. He’s also a whopping 32 years older than third-place finisher Peter Lutter.
Corra won the event with a time of 2:03:22.75, despite spinning out in Cottonwood rapid. Mike Freeburn was second overall at 2:04:42.08, followed by 16-year-old Peter Lutter in third overall at 2:05:59.38.
The accolades for Corra started even earlier in the Nationals and Team Trials events, consisting of a minute-and-a-half sprint day and a 20-minute-long classic race day, both of which determine the national champion. “I thought I had a chance to be in the top three,” says Corra. “But after finishing third on the first day’s sprint race, I wasn’t so sure.”
The sprint format had two runs through a solid rapid added together, with the winner being 100 percent and the other racers expressed as a percentage of that. At the end of the day Corra was 2.84 percent off the winner – you guessed it, 16-year-old phenom Peter Lutter — and .64 percent off Mike Freeburn in second place.
Time to cowboy up.
The next day’s classic race followed the same format of percentages, with the results added to the sprint percentages for the overall winner. Corra says that moving into second seemed possible, but that overcoming a 30+ second margin to move into first seemed tough. He did that and more.
“I pushed the red zone and beat Lutter by 33 seconds, giving me a margin of victory of .17 percent,” he says. “I became National Champion by edging out a kid a third my age.”
“But it feels good to know I can still be competitive,” he adds.
Then it was on to the gruel-fest.
“After all that I was feeling pretty good about my chances in the 26-mile FIBArk race, since distance suites me better and I’ve done the race a bunch of times,” he says. “I figured it was mine to lose. I jumped in front early and just grinded away.”
Tierney O’Sullivan of Athens, Ga., was first in the women’s class and 12th overall with her time of 2:16:00.66. She also took first in the USA Wildwater Women’s Open, Sprint and Classic races in her category.
Raft Team Blaze of Salida with Mark Mattson at the helm, captured its 15th downriver win since 1984 paddling a new raft Mattson credited with “leveling the playing field.” They finished in 2:39:05.76.
He said his team lost the last two years to paddlers led by Larry Marks whose team was second this year in 2:41:47.31. Raft team led by Erik Siegling was third with 2:49:11.08.
The FIBArk boat races started June 19, 1949 when six boats entered the Arkansas River in Salida, Colo., on a 57-mile run to Canon City through the Royal Gorge. Fueled by the spring snow pack runoff, the river was called an “invitation to death” by boaters as they looked over the course. Of the 23 entrants in the inaugural race, only two experienced Swiss boaters reached the finish line.
The following year the race was shortened to 45 miles excluding the Royal Gorge and ending in Parkdale. Though ten boats entered, again only one man finished. The third year the race eliminated portages and single-boat teams and was set at its existing length of 25.7 miles from Salida to Cotopaxi. Eleven boats entered that year and ten were able to finish. The race is still the longest whitewater race in the United States.