English duo finishes 1-2 in kayak race | SteamboatToday.com

English duo finishes 1-2 in kayak race

Friday's event was part of this weekend's Yampa River Festival activities

England's Phil Mitchell fights through the torrent Friday during the Fish Creek Race, part of the weekend's Yampa River Festival activities. Mitchell finished second.
Austin Colbert

2016 Fish Creek kayak race results

  1. Joe Morley, 1:41.12
  2. Phil Mitchell, 1:43.59
  3. Marty Smith, 1:48.12
  4. Ryan Panger, 1:49.40
  5. Jen Chrines, 1:49.53
  6. Taylor Barker, 1:50.03
  7. Adam Mayo, 1:50.38
  8. Dan Piano, 1:51.36
  9. Jordan Troiani, 1:51.72
  10. Chris Fleming, 1:52.63
  11. Dan Stadtler, 1:54.38
  12. Eli Norman, 1:57.53
  13. Matt Helm, 1:59.69

— Undoubtedly, Steamboat Springs locals have a bit of an advantage over visitors when it comes to knowing the ins and outs of navigating Fish Creek in a kayak. But, when you’re a world champion kayak racer, skill can certainly overcome a lack of familiarity.

“It’s the kind of river that would take you a long time to learn,” Joe Morley said of Fish Creek. “There is so much going on in there. Just kind of have to play it by ear a little bit and read it on the way down.”

Morley, 26, won Friday’s Fish Creek kayak race, which is part of this weekend’s 36th annual Yampa River Festival. A native of Leeds, England, Morley is no stranger to winning kayak races. He was a longtime member of the official British kayak team and has more than once been labeled a world champion.

“It’s more a hobby for me than it is for Joe. It’s more of a profession for him,” said runner-up finisher Phil Mitchell, 22, Morley’s travel partner and fellow Brit. “He was a little better than me in the slalom scene when he was younger, so it’s fair enough that he beat me today.”

Morley won the race with a time of one minute, 41.12 seconds. Mitchell was second in 1:43.59, and Steamboat local Marty Smith was third in 1:48.12. Smith met Morley in New Zealand, and it was this connection that brought the U.K. boys to the Yampa Valley.

“We were over in Washington, and he said we should come over to the festival,” Morley said. “I’ve been here once before, a couple of years ago, but I didn’t compete in the festival. So, I thought it would be cool to come back.”

Morley and Mitchell also are traveling with Jen Chrines, also of the U.K., and the only female to compete in Friday’s race. She took fifth in 1:49.53.

While this is Morley’s second visit to Steamboat, it is Mitchell’s first time being in the United States. They’ve been exploring the country, competing in kayak races along the way, with Steamboat being a stop on their journey.

Colorado’s waters are a little different from what they have back home, but even a raging Fish Creek wasn’t enough to keep them from posting top times.

“America has definitely got a lot more in the way of paddling,” Mitchell said. “It was pretty unknown for us, to be honest. There is definitely a little bit of a local’s advantage. It’s hard. It’s a tough course. It’s way harder than we thought it would be. But, it’s good fun.”

The trio plans to stick around and compete Saturday, the main day of the Yampa River Festival. The fun begins at 11 a.m. with the raft rodeo at Charlie’s Hole, before the downriver races begin at noon. Most of the action takes place at Charlie’s Hole, behind Bud Werner Memorial Library, from 3:30 p.m. until the awards at 7 p.m.

The official River Festival after party will take place at Sake2U beginning at 8 p.m.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

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