BETHEL — Despite rowing over a submerged rock near the first buoy Friday afternoon, oarsman Sam Lambert won the Northeast Drift Boat Championship on the Androscoggin River.
Ferrying passenger Bob Blunt of Dresden, who stood in the bow and held the required raw egg without breaking it, Lambert, a RE/MAX Riverside Realtor of Bath bested four other drift boat oarsmen. The event newcomer finished the quarter-mile course in 8 minutes and 10 seconds.
"Stroke of luck; I just rowed," Lambert said afterward at the takeout site at Davis Park beside Route 26. He and Blunt were team SamLambert@RE/MAX.net.
Lambert said he built the wooden boat after his wife gave him the kit as a wedding present. She later gave him triplets.
"When you go from zero with triplets to row full speed, you feel it," Lambert said of the challenge. He didn't have the children with him at the competition.
But for experience, Lambert said he was a former drift boat river guide on the Klamath, Trinity and Smith rivers in northwestern California.
At Friday's event, oarsmen had to start from a stopped position just offshore, row backward against the current to the first inner-tube buoy, pass around that and drift with the current while rowing sideways and steering to pass around the outside of a nearby red buoy, before navigating downriver to the next inner tube and red buoys. At some of the buoys, oarsmen had to deal with eddying currents and rocks.
After the second set of buoys, it was a straight shot downriver into a curve to pass between a tube buoy and the shore, then between a red buoy and the opposite shore, followed by a flat-out paddle to the final tube buoy around the bend and straight to the finish line at Davis Park.
At the finish line, marked by a pink ribbon, the oarsman had to bring the boat to a complete stop with anchor dropped within the "anchor zone" while not dumping their egg-bearing passenger into the river.
"Basically, the skills involved with rowing the big boats is knowing how to row backward, forward and sideways, and a little bit of balance, too," Lambert said before the race.
Afterward, he said his boat performed as it should.
"Couple tough spots — secret rocks — like the one we went over before the first buoy," he said. "We grazed it, then noticed it. It probably slowed us down a little bit, for a couple of seconds, at least."
Team Fish 'n Chicks oarswoman Kate Farnham of Bath and passenger Hope Eagleson of Hillsborough, N.H., won second place, finishing in 10 minutes, 50 seconds.
Taking third place was oarsman Scott Stone of Norway in the wooden boat he built and passenger Cathi DiCocco of Bethel as team Schiavi Homes/Northern Lights. They finished in 11 minutes flat.
The other teams were North Country Angler, a fly-fishing shop in North Conway, N.H., owned by passenger Bill Thompson, who stood in the bow for oarsman Rick Gerber of Freemont, N.H., and last year's champion team, Patagonia.
Race organizer and Drift Boat Commodore Wende Gray of the Upper Andro Anglers Alliance, which hosted the event at Jeff Parsons' Bethel Outdoor Adventures and Campground, said they handicapped Patagonia oarsman Brett Trefethen of Mount Vernon.
Unlike the other boaters, he carried three people: himself, his wife, Amy, and their 8-year-old daughter, Ella, who served as the standing passenger in the bow.
Parsons, who has a strong British accent, provided witty commentary and shouted encouragement to the competitors.