Communications for the Consumers Energy AuSable Canoe Marathon have been provided by volunteer amateur radio operators since 1993, when cell phones were rare and coverage spotty. Today cell phones are commonplace, but coverage along the river valley is still sporadic and frequently non-existent. Because of this, reliable communications must be provided by radio.
Initially, the amateur radio operators were from the Amateur Radio Association of Hanson Hills, of Grayling, MI. After several years they were joined by amateurs from Iosco ARES/RACES, along with other hams along the AuSable River Valley and the surrounding communities. This year’s Marathon officials and local news media will depend on over 30 hams at the 14 timing locations, Marathon headquarters, and the Finish Line headquarters.
Usually two amateur radio operators are located at each timing location. One operator is with the official timers and uses a handheld two meter radio to communicate with the another operator stationed in a mobile unit at the adjacent highway location. Timing and position information for each canoe is relayed from the timing point to the mobile unit and then to race headquarters in Grayling. At race headquarters the received data is entered into a computer where elapsed and split times are calculated and immediately updated to this website. Times are also compared to previous course records and provided to the media for commercial broadcast.
Besides providing communications for the Marathon, the Amateur Radio Association of Hanson Hills provides communications for additional races leading up to the Marathon including the Sprint races which determine the Marathon participants’ starting positions.