MIDDLETOWN - Richard Kleinschmidt drops the anchor in order to hold his raft, the Lin Lee, in a good spot at the start of The Connecticut River Raft Race. His raft finished in 2nd place in the cruising class.

River Raft Race Remains Afloat

By Melissa Pionzio, Courant staff writer

PORTLAND - It's been more than 20 years since Richard Kleinschmidt and a bunch of his buddies first launched his homemade raft down the Connecticut River as part of the annual Connecticut River Raft Race.

Named for his wife, Lin-Lee, Kleinschmidt's raft is a medium-sized, barge-like craft that moves steadily through the water with the help of a paddle wheel, a sail and oars maneuvered by members of his 12-man crew.

"It started small, and it got bigger. We fix things every year, and maybe add things to it," said Kleinschmidt, of Newington, who has been working steadily during the past few weeks to get the raft ready for the water. On Saturday, Kleinschmidt will be among dozens of rafting enthusiasts to participate in the 33rd annual event when he climbs aboard the Lin Lee again. Although he can't be sure of winning, Kleinschmidt says his craft is sturdy enough to finish the 4-mile course.

"I got one of the most stable rafts there," he said. "We have to get checked out by everybody under the sun, and they know my raft is stable because they have been checking it out for years."

The Connecticut River Raft Race Inc. is a nonprofit organization that donates money from the event to children's charities in the Portland/Middletown area. Since the event began in 1975, the route has varied, from Deep River Landing to Goat Island; Hurd State Park to Haddam Meadows; or from the Arrigoni Bridge to Dart Island State Park. But to accommodate more spectators, race coordinators changed the course last year to begin at the southern end of Gildersleeve Island across from Petzold's Marina in Portland and end at Portland's Riverside Marina. This year's race, which begins at 10 a.m., will feature the same route.

"The opportunity to have somebody come and watch the race and see what it's all about is better on a land-based ending," said this year's president, Bob Niland.

There are several categories, the fastest and most competitive being the America class, which includes crafts that generally complete the course in less than 40 minutes. Other categories are the cruising class, the sweeper class, the single kayak, multiple kayak, singe canoe and multiple canoe. Trophies are awarded to the captains of the fastest crafts.

The sweeper class is the only class that allows motors, but the racers are not allowed to pass anyone. "They are at the tail end of the race to offer support if somebody gets tired," Niland said.

About 15 rafts have been entered this year, including a large craft sponsored by Middletown's North End Action Team. It was built and will be manned by a crew of Middletown youths.

"The rafts are as wild as your imagination can come up with ... anything that floats," Niland said.

Copyright 2007, The Hartford Courant

MLA citation: Pionzio, Melissa. "River Raft Race Remains Afloat" The Hartford Courant 01 Aug. 2007, Print.

MLA in-text citation: (Pionzio)