Bob Vincent may have just recently made Huntsville his home, but he’s a familiar face on Muskoka paddling routes.
At age 77, he’s a legend on the water, both here and afar. Vincent has reportedly raced almost every long-distance canoe race in North America. From winning the 740 km Yukon River Quest in 2001, to raft races on the Amazon, log-racing in the Panama Canal, and out-rigger canoe racing between islands in Hawaii, Vincent’s done it all.
“Bob’s been a fixture at every race I’ve been to. You can easily pick him out by his distinctive red and white polka dot hat,” said Chris Near, local paddling coach and well-known canoe racer. “Bob is truly a legend in the sport of long-distance paddling. [He’s] over 30 years my senior [and]can still kick my butt because of his technical paddling skills, ability to read the water, and race strategy.”
Vincent is being inducted as a paddler into the General Clinton Canoe Regatta Hall of Fame during the 58th annual event, and ninth annual induction ceremony, on May 23 in Bainbridge, New York. According to the race organizers, paddlers are selected based on “victories, number of finishes, contributions to marathon canoeing, and contributions to the General Clinton.”
The 70-mile General Clinton Regatta runs along the Susquehanna River from Cooperstown to Bainbridge. “I’ve raced the General Clinton 32 times, with several different partners, winning my class seven times,” Vincent proudly stated with respect to his achievements in the C-2 class event since 1985.
When asked how he got into canoe racing, Vincent said he started paddling at age 24, and raced several big races in the ’70s before he began coaching in the ’80s. During that time, he lived in Thamesford, Ont., where he helped start the London Canoe Club. He began racing with his long-time paddling partner, Gwyn Hayman, in the ’90s. Their latest race took them to Belize for the La Ruta Myer Canoe race, which is 172-miles long over four days. Vincent finished second in the Masters division.
Local paddlers know Vincent from paddling clinics he’s previously taught in Muskoka, and for his five first-place finishes in the various Muskoka River X races.
Megan Stephenson, a former participant of Vincent’s paddling clinics, said, “Bob Vincent is one of those icons whom I have been fortunate to meet, to be coached by, and to paddle with. He has been a big supporter of our local Muskoka River X series since 2013 and has encouraged a whole new group of marathon paddlers in this area.”
Chris Near has also benefitted from Coach Bob’s expertise. “Bob has been an inspiration to me ever since I met him. He’s responsible for both teaching and inspiring many paddlers and coaches in Ontario,” said Near. “Bob has a distinctive style of coaching. He keeps things simple, lets you know when you’re doing something right, but also when you’re doing something wrong.”
Vincent and his paddling partner, Gwyn Hayman, have recently moved to Huntsville from Dorchester, Ont. When asked why they’d chosen Muskoka as their new home, Vincent said, “We moved to Huntsville because of clean water and a good place to paddle. It has a great variety of water to paddle on. The winters are colder with snow, so we can ski. Arrowhead Park is a great place for us to go and play.”
“Muskoka is extremely lucky to have Bob and his partner Gwyn living here, as I know they’ll share their passion for paddling with others,” said Near.
In fact, the two coaches plan on running marathon-paddling clinics locally this spring. “The clinics will focus on stroke practice, boat control, upstream and downstream paddling, stroke efficiency in the canoe, and reading the water,” said Vincent.
Clinics will run Tuesday nights at 5:30 p.m. beginning June 2 and starting from Hutcheson Beach Park. Coaches will be Chris Near, Gwyn Hayman, and Bob Vincent. The sessions are open to people who have some experience on the water and are interested in learning marathon paddling. In addition to Tuesdays in June, Vincent and Near will be looking for other opportunities to get people paddling.
For more information about the clinics, email info.hmpclub@
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