By DOUG WILSON, Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Quincy is a rowing town once more.
About 70 boating enthusiasts turned out for the Quincy Five Miler on Saturday morning, in what organizers describe as the first local regatta in 63 years.
Boaters in nonmotorized watercraft rowed and paddled their way from the south end of Hogback Island down Quincy Bay and to the finish line at the South Side Boat Club — a distance of 5.4 miles. Crowds of spectators and family members waited on the shore.
Ray Thomas, the race organizer, was the first competitor across the finish line in a time of 51 minutes 57 seconds. The Quincy native now lives in Portland, Ore., and has been kayaking competitively and for relaxation and exercise for more than 20 years.
“I’ve been rowing since 1991, when my knees started to go” due to the strain of running and basketball, Thomas said.
Thomas and fellow organizer Rob Heiden of Quincy said the race was dedicated to the late Allie Lymenstull, a boating and outdoor enthusiast who died last month.
“We had hoped he would be able to make it to start us off … but he was with us in spirit,” Thomas said.
Lymenstull was a longtime member of South Side Boat Club and had been an avid rower before World War II, when Quincy produced some of the nation’s strongest rowers. Rows of trophies at the boat club had convinced Thomas that the tradition needed to be revived.
Other boating enthusiasts agreed.
Michael Batsie of Washington, Mo., finished the race in about an hour. He was cheered on by his wife and his 3-year-old daughter, Brooke, who held a sign on shore as she chanted “Go, Dad!”
Batsie had met Thomas during a 20-mile river race and decided to make the trek to Quincy. He described the race conditions as good, with mild weather and river currents.
“You’re going to do this with me someday, aren’t you?” Batsie asked his daughter.
Roger McKenzie of Quincy also finished the course in a little more than an hour. It was his first time on the river.
“A good friend loaned it to me,” McKenzie said as he stood near a kayak.
McKenzie is training for an ironman competition and has been tapering off on running. He said rowing got his heartbeat up and he plans to go kayaking again.
“We’re pretty happy with the turnout of rowers and spectators,” Heiden said, as the boat club’s parking lot filled with cars and the shore was crowded with onlookers.
“We did this one pretty much without sponsorships. It would be great if we can get sponsors next year,” Heiden said.
Thomas agrees that this year’s success should create excitement about more races.
“We hope that everyone will have enough of a good time that they’re going to want to do it again and we’d like to make it a yearly event in Quincy. You can see that people like to come here and get on the water,” Thomas said.
Love of the river was evident among motorized boaters too, during the Quincy Classic Boat and Outdoor Show. Several of the visiting boaters watched the rowers as they made their way down the bay and along the riverfront.