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Old 01-26-2014   #1
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 4
Advice for Organizing a Race

I am looking for advice and suggestions on organizing a down river race. Specifically I am looking for advice from people who have played a part in organizing a race before.

Any knowledge on the following topics would be beneficial:




or any other aspects people found difficult in the preparation stages.

Thanks Tom!

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Old 01-26-2014   #2
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,929
No downriver race management experience but I helped design and manage medium to expedition sized adventure races for several years. As well a friend of minor has designed and hosted several multi-sport wilderness races to date.

To answer each question from that perspective which seems relevant:

1) Liability:
Nuanced but the general theme is the more organized and official the event the larger the potential liability. The amount of your personal assets should also enter the equation (the larger in quantity the more I would be concerned). If you are running an invite only unofficial event with few people and no cash or swag prizes then I would be less concerned (still never know in this litigious society). Many organizations use this model and it has become quite common of a means of recreating and competing. The glory of this is the credit of accomplishment as prize packages make the event more official. If you are going all out and advertising, charging application/admission fees and offering prize packages then insurance is mandatory (often by permitting agency) and I would recommend forming an LLC to cover your bases. Assuming you are running a professional event with properly accredited personnel and policy even a minor mishap can still put you into the range of legal negligence. Seeking paid third party legal advise seems inherent to this level of event management. The less you plan and professionalize official events the more enter the realm of gross legal negligence which is a traumatizing experience for everyone involved.
2. Permissions and permit:
Once again nuanced. States and federal agencies all have different requirements. As noted above, if its an official event you are likely going to need an event permit that may even require a public input period. Permitting agencies are each different based on their mandate so it all depends on what stretch of river you want to utilize. Costs can vary from a one time generic fee to a user fee based on real or estimated participant size. You will also need to consider permitting staging and other event locations as they may require dealing with completely different agencies and processes.
3. Don't know much about advertising these events as that was never part of my job.

4. Other:
Both official and unofficial races will require support staff, either paid or volunteer. Small events can often be done in a reciprocal or via "in-kind" donations with few people. Larger events can easily escalate to needing 10-100 people. Managing these human resources is a job itself. Prepping them, especially safety training, is key. Designing objective race criteria, especially judging, well ahead of time will reduce heartache during the event. Providing participants with these criteria well ahead of time helps this as well as their own strategizing. Detailed emergency planning goes a long way and can not be overemphasized. Brainstorm anything and everything.
You gotta love the sport but more importantly the people to run medium to large events. Plan on minor to major financial losses for quite a while at this level. Races rarely make money or even break even. This seems proportionally true to the length (time and distance) of the race. Don't plan on getting much sleep or rest during the event at all. Enjoy the ride. I managed and designed part of Primal Quest Utah and it was a wild 12 months, though the 2 weeks surrounding race time felt like a year unto themselves. Very different beast than a one day downriver race but similar lessons and inherent issues.

Best of luck and hope you pull it off.


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Old 01-26-2014   #3
Grand Junction, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 4
Thanks Phillip for your reply. It is very helpful to read your experiences first hand.

I am curious if you know what level of insurance your event had? ie. Did your event get insurance through the permitting agency as you suggested?

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Old 01-26-2014   #4
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,929
Originally Posted by Toomm View Post
Thanks Phillip for your reply. It is very helpful to read your experiences first hand.

I am curious if you know what level of insurance your event had? ie. Did your event get insurance through the permitting agency as you suggested?

Sorry for any confusion. Permitting agencies often require your to have liability insurance above a specified minimum from a third party insurance company. Not sure what ours was for the big expedition but I am assuming it was huge considering the quality and quantity of accidents the event experienced (common for the larger expedition adventure races). I know the amount required and liability for such a major race is often enough to push them out of the states. There is a reason most are overseas now. You won't experience the level of risk management we had, like an ESPN helicopter that safely crash landed after its tail rotor clipped the scree on the Castleton ridgeline or a racer who was life-flighted and was a heat induced coma for multiple days. We had ten days of racing with just about every adventure sport imaginable. Different beast completely as ours was a major event on a world circuit with a $500k prize for the winners alone.

I am assuming yours will be a one day affair and would not be as significant. That said, it will likely be a large portion of your budget. Though your registration fee should absorb it. Everyone's insurance in the outdoor industry sky rocketed post-9/11 though I hear the premiums have stabilized.

Your costs will be individual based on a variety of parameters from minimum age of participants (over 18 mandatory helps reduce cost), mandatory equipment, objective hazards (though they will likely just group in a category similar to a commercial rafting company), type of human resource strategy (independent contractor versus employee versus volunteer), number of participants, type and # of drivers, etc. But I would expect your coverage to be easily $100k or above. Not sure what that translates to for actual out of pocket premiums.

Any quality insurance agency is going to want to see a detailed risk management plan which takes time and expert advice. They will want to know everything from certifications within your crew to estimated emergency response times for participant injuries. My guess is if you are running a professional, official race you will want to designate an experienced staff member to this job alone. They may be able to bring a previously used template with them that reduces the amount of legwork you have to do. This person should then be your johnny on the spot emergency response coordinator during the event. One always hopes its a boring day for them but things happen.

The other option is discipline specific insurance that can be quite thorough and affordable. Many professional associations will insure events if you are a member. Not sure what would be best for your situation but if you look here its a relatively low cost based on # of participants. In this case its $4 plus a few fees.

US Canoe

Hopefully others will chime in with specific advice as mine is fairly generic. Know that I am a fairly conservative person/professional when it comes to risk management but case studies show that to be a prudent approach. Others mileage may vary.

The race can be done but it will be a labor of love. Let us know how it goes.

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Old 01-27-2014   #5
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Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 4,207
I would suggest you send emails to some key individuals around the region if you don't get enough responses here. Check with Ian regarding permits and insurance for Baileyfest, talk to Earl regarding Paddlefest. You should also check with the organizers of Fibark, the Lyons Outdoor Games, Gorefest, and the Poudre Narrows Race...that should give you a good idea what the general standards are for a whitewater race.
GARNA’s mission is to foster stewardship of the resources of the greater Arkansas River region through education, volunteerism and experiences.
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