With temperatures in the 30s and ice on the tree branches near the side of water, the scenario was set Saturday for plenty of thrills, chills and spills during the 31st annual St. George River Race.

And the popular event — essentially one of the first true signs that spring has arrived in the Midcoast — did not disappoint as there certainly were plenty of spills in the cold rushing water.

The event, sponsored by the Waldo County YMCA, starts in Searsmont and finishes in Appleton. The race is the start of the whitewater paddling season.

Due to the lack of snow this winter and subsequent spring runoff, as well as not a lot of rain in recent weeks, the water level was low, but still fast in areas of the course. Lack of water did uncover many rocks and obstacles for paddlers to navigate. Many of the participants navigated that gauntlet well, while others did not.

Waldo County YMCA Director Dale Cross, a longtime organizer of and participant in the event, said there were 113 craft and 181 participants. “Great numbers,” he said. “A few more than last year.”

The race for the fastest boat came down to a mere two seconds. In the kayak division, Ryan Linehan of Westport Island finished the course in 41 minutes and 11 seconds, while, in the same category, Ray Wirth of Belfast finished in 41:13.

The St. George race start at the Searsmont Methodist Church, located on Route 131 in the village of Searsmont. Boats were released from the start two at a time from the St. George Bridge. The race is described as three miles of dead water, followed by a mile of rapids, then two miles of dead water and curves with one Class III drop. The race has Class II and III rapids, possibly more and possibly less, depending on the water level.

The Waldo County YMCA also sponsors the 37th annual Passagassawakeag River Race on Saturday, April 3. That race follows a similar starting format, with registrations starting at 8:30 a.m. and racing to begin two boats at a time at 11 a.m. The fee for the Passagassawakeag race is $20 per person. The location of the race is rural, with the starting point at the Littlefield Farm on Savage Road in Waldo.

The first mile of the race is flatwater with many curves. The course passes under a cement bridge to another mile of flatwater, followed by a short stretch of Class II rapids. Following the rapids is two miles of flatwater to Rolerson’s Bridge, then for a mile and a half, there is Class I, II and III whitewater. The whitewater leads to a flatwater stretch that brings racers to the finish.

Awards will be given at the end of the second race on April 3.

Each race has 22 different classes, ranging from the serious racer, to the weekend paddler, to those out to have a good time.

Racers who register for both races will be entered into drawings for prizes twice, and paddlers who register for only one of the two races will be entered once. Some of the giveaways are a $25 gift certificate to Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport, racing glasses, hats and several other prizes.

Racers will also have the opportunity to win an Old Town Guide Canoe, Zaveral racing paddles or a Werner kayak paddle.

For more information about the ‘Passy’ race, go online at waldocountyymca.org or call 338-4598.

Saturday’s St. George River Race drew plenty of paddlers and spectators looking to shake off the wintertime blues. They did that amid brisk early-spring conditions. Some paddlers even got a wake up call to spring with a refreshing dip in the water.

In fact, the crowd that gathered at one of the more popular viewing spots, the bridge near Robbins Lumber Mill on Ghent Road, cheered and jeered the paddlers as they tried to navigate the rocks and whitewater. Most made it through, but a few did not.

One team that did not make it all the way down the course was a canoe paddled by Dan Ford, 21, of Hope and Calen Erskine, 21, of Rockport. The longtime friends, competing in their first whitewater race, tipped their canoe just before the bridge near Robbins Mill. The two tried desperately to continue the race but their canoe filled with water and became wedged near a large rock. That is where the canoe remained, submerged, as other paddlers tried to navigate around the craft.

“When we were coming down [the river], the front end kind of went down a little too much and started to get water in there,” Erskine said. “I guess there was just too much weight in the front. We about rolled it one [other] time and came out of it, then we were trying to stay steady and then the thing went down under and rolled.”

“We had about five minutes to get it together, but we didn’t,” Ford said about the scenario that ultimately led to the two tipping. “Right now, the canoe is wedged, but when we first tipped it we had a chance to get it back.”

Erskine, who was wearing jeans and little other wet gear, said the water was cold and that he needed to get dry off soon to prevent hypothermia.

“The race was fun,” Ford said, up until the mishap.

“It was tiring,” Erskine said.

“We will do it again, I think,” Ford said.

The individual results from the 2010 St. George River Race were:

Century Racing — 1, Paul Brown, Swanville, and  Rick O’Donald, Newburgh, 44:46.

Century Recreation — 1, Maber Cronkite, Etna, and Tom Cronkite, Etna, 44:09; 2, Dan Merrill, Stockton Springs, and Al Beeson, Bucksport, 50:28; 3, Peter Kalajian, Camden, and Phil Gerard, Thomaston, 51:21; 4, Dan Cassidy, Bangor, and Jim Allen, Bangor, 55:20; and 5, John Lightner, Belfast, and Hughes Kraft, Cape Elizabeth, 57:02.

College — 1, Matt Warner, Holden, and Dave Cassidy, Bangor, 50:59; and 2, Dan Flammini, Bangor, 54:42.

High School — 1, River Robertson, Bucksport, and Tyler Albee, East Orland, 46:21; and 2, Sam Valley, Holden, and Bennett Higgins, Holden, 55:31.

Kayak — 1, Linehan, Westport Island, 41:11; 2, Wirth, Belfast, 41:13; 3, Bryan McCarthy, Hope, 42:12; 4, Collin McGovern, Wiscasset, 44:01; 5, Justin Varney, Belfast, 44:04; 6, Andrew Scott Cooper, New Harbor 46:17; 7, Ben Fuller, Cushing, 47:02; 8, Glenn Montgomery, Belfast, 49:21; and 9, Tyler Shaefe, Belfast, 54:21.

Kayak Short — 1, Dick Hanson, Orrington, 45:45; 2, Bruce Weik, Freedom, 46:15; 3, Mark Bamford, Bucksport, 46:17; 4, Dan Kelley, Bucksport, 46:33; 5, Brad Rand, Brewer, 46:54; 6, Brian Foley, Orono, 47:02; 7, John W. Carter, Surry, 47:28; 8, Larry Merrill, Orrington, 47:49; 9, Earl Baldwin Jr., Orrington, 49:46; 10, Mark Risinger, Newburgh, 51:15; 11, Greg Pugh, Searsmont, 54:54; 12, Chad Montminy, Waldo, 56:59; and 13, Chris Piik, St. George, 59:13. Matt Pyzynski, Bangor; Thomas Farley, Rockport; and Andrew Baxter, Hope, did not finish.

Kayak Women — 1, Leslie Gregory, Swanville, 48:39. Jessica Pyzynski, Bangor, did not finish.

OC1 — 1, Robert Martin, Dedham, 46:48; and 2, Scott Chaffin, Camden, 66:56.

OC1 Recreation — 1, Mark Rosborough, Ellsworth, 49:26; 2, D.W. Smith, Lamoine, 49:55; 3, Scott Phillips, Old Town, 50:45; 4, Chad Myers, Camden, 52:13; 5, John Mare, Kensington, N.H., 52:31; 6, Bob Mitchell, Buxton, 52:43; 7, Bob Winslow, Belfast, 53:02; 8, Dan Littlefield, Waldo, 53:39; 9, Paul Arthur, Appleton, 60:01; 10, Mike Bridges, Appleton, 60:59; 11, Chris Dalton, Bangor, 66:24; 12, Tom Moriarty, Milford, 66:34; 13, Dave Allen, Lincolnville, 78:36; and 14, John Picone, Bangor, 86:41. Paul Zanziboni, Belfast, did not finish.

OC1 Women — 1, Lynne Flaccus, Alna, 56:52; and 2, Kate Ziminsky, Freeport, 59:23.

OC2 Junior/Senior ages 12 and younger — 1, Don Cross, Morrill, and Andrew Cross, Morrill, 52:22; 2, Aaron Winslow, Belmont, and Jackson Winslow, Belmont, 52:39; 3, David Stearns, Blue Hill, and Aiden Stearns, Blue Hill, 53:37; and 4, Weber Roberts, Rockland, and Caellen Roberts, Rockland, 60:42.

OC2 Junior/Senior age 13-16 — 1, Ethan Vienneau, Milford, and Jeff Owen, Orono, 45:03; 2, Christopher Deane, Canaan, and John Goulet, Bradford, 45:53; 3, Paul Robinson, Orono, and J. R. Mabee, Bangor, 46:42; 4, Mike Kelle,y Carmel, and Tyler Kelley, Carmel, 47:09; 5, Jacob Brooks, Orono, and Bucky Owen, Orono, 47:15; 6, Will Stweart, Glenburn, and Clayton Cole, Corinth, 47:25; 7, Brandon Smith, Greenbush, and Juston Wardwell, Dedham, 47:28; 8, Richard Heath, Gardiner, and Adrian Heath, Gardiner, 48:20; 9, Andrew Gilman, Weston, and David Conley, Weston, 49:32; 10, Greg Shute, Alna, and Kyle Shute, Alna, 50:36; and 11, Cam Lewis, Lincolnville, and Beau Lewis, Lincolnville, 53:58. Travis Neal, Searsmont, and Jacob Booth, Camden, did not finish.

OC2 Mixed Recreation — 1, Sarah Dingle, Carmel, and Matt Dingle, Carmel, 43:58; 2, Chip Loring, Old Town, and Ander Thebaud, Mount Desert Island, 44:10; 3, Michael Sproul, Holden, and Laurie Stearns, Brunswick, 44:58; 4, Greg Dorr, Bangor, and Bronwyn Pierson, Dedham, 46:54; 5, Caitlin Cross, Morrill, and Dale Cross, Morrill, 47:21; 6, J.D. Burke, Newburgh, and Trisha Burke, Newburgh, 49:26; 7, Erin Herbig, Belfast, and Josh Povec, Belfast, 50:13; 8, Daniel Lesser, Orono, and Leslie Winchester, Bangor, 50:48; 9, Rod Nerberg, Northport, and Alicia Snow, Northport, 51:53:00; 10, Bettina Blanchard, Portland, and Michael Bigos, Auburn, 52:45; 11, Todd Martin, Belfast, and Alexandra McLean, Belfast, 54:05; 12, Kate Broemer, Wiscasset, and Josh Taylor, Wiscasset, 55:37; 13, Leslie Hyde, St. George, and Leah Trommer, Northport, 55:37; and 14, Krystal Mudgett, Glenburn, and Dan Baumert, Levant, 57:45.

OC2 Weekend Warrior — 1, Kevin Coombs, Belfast, and Brian Wagner, Lisbon, 48:13; 2, Adam Weymouth, Belmont, and  Brandon Hurd, Brooks, 51:38; 3, Matt Prindiville, and George Aponte Clarke, Portland, 51:54; 4, Pete Mason, Searsport, and Geoff Knox, Searsport, 54:06; 5, Noah Kleiner, Union, and Tyler Dunham, Lincolnville, 59:31; 6, Nick Callanan, Portland, and Jon Gilbert, South Portland, 59:56; 7, Erin Mank, Belfast, and Ben Springer, Morrill, 98:57. Dan Ford, Hope, and Calen Erskine, Rockport, did not finish.

OC2 Medium — 1, Barry Dana, Solon, and Lori Dana, Solon, 41:14; 2, Dick Kelley, Brewer, and Brian Kelley, Brewer, 44:34; and 3, Sandra Mitchell, Buxton, and Terry Wescott, Thorndike, 49:11.

OC2 Recreation Medium — 1, Aaron Cross, Morrill, and Dan Wagner, Morrill, 42:44; 2, Gary Martin, Hampden, and Matt Morin, Orrington, 45:56; 3, Brian Battista, Parsonfield, and John Bragdon, Denmark, 47:39; 4, Jeremy McCormick, Bangor, and Logan Feeney, Bath, 47:41; 5, Justin Hardy, Brewer, and Steve Hardy, Ellsworth, 48:42; 6, Brad Coffey, Bangor, and Jeff Wahlstrom, Bangor, 48:48; 7, Graham Clark, Frankfort, and Shane Whitcomb, Swanville, 49:10; 8, Ryan Lister, Belfast, and Joshua Ramos, Quincy, Mass, 51:26; and 9, Jared Richards, Old Town, and Eric Leclair, Milford, 51:27.

OC2 Recreation Short — 1, Justin Kinney, New Gloucester, and Adam Jandreau, North Yarmouth, 53:06; 2, Peter Hastings, Bar Harbor, and Joseph Zak, Bar Harbor, 55:24; and 3, Adam Smith, Portland, and James Miller, Morrill, 57:19. Ed Clark, Stetson, and Stephen Carr, Bangor, did not finish.

OC2 Women — 1, Tammy Kelley, Lamoine, and Lori Perley,Carmel, 49:13; 2, Jenn Barton, Wiscasset, and Stacy Linehan, Westport Island, 51:57; and 3, Jen Joy, Portland, and Danielle Fazio, Portland, 69:28.

Click for more photos from the 31st annual St. George River Race.

Click for more photos from St. George River Race Gallery II.

VillageSoup Regional Editor/Sports Director Ken Waltz can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at kwaltz@villagesoup.com.