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La Classique internationale de canots de la Mauricie

A man and a woman sit in a canoe, both rowing hard.

Men aren’t the only ones who brave the Saint-Maurice.

Still in our canoe, it’s time to pick up the pace a bit. Let’s go for a little sprint in the company of the brave athletes who’ve been racing on the river since 1934. That year, which marked the 300th anniversary of the founding of Trois-Rivières, a 200 km race was inaugurated between La Tuque and the mouth of the Saint-Maurice.

Since that time, the river has inspired courageous and somewhat reckless canoeists to challenge themselves by taking part in a competition that is unique in Canada.

Grab Your Paddles!

Competitors have to use all their skill to make it through rapids and around falls that require long portages. They don’t shy away from any of the challenges the river throws up. They’re not frightened by sudden gusts of wind that could capsize their canoe or the dangerous rapids of the Forges du Saint-Maurice. Their love of the sport and the cheers of the spectators push the canoeists to give it their all.

On the banks, spectators get as close to the water as possible to see the passing canoeists, who seem so tiny in the middle of the wide river and high cliffs.

Record crowds attend the 27th edition of the Classique internationale de canots de la Mauricie in1960

In the early years, the men who raced down the Saint-Maurice were often ones who worked at sites further north. In their heavy wooden canoes, they had to ignore the pain in their muscles and paddle with all their strength. Two such amateur canoeists were Jos “Bin” Lachance and Victor Gélinas, who won the very first edition of the race in 1934.

Teams of canoeists, including Le Nouvelliste’s team, line up their wooden canoes on the starting line.

In 1936, Le Nouvelliste started racing with the K-8-ishish boys

The Lords of the River

Over time, well-trained athletes came to dominate the starting line. Some canoe teams received financial support from sponsors, such as Le Nouvelliste and Anne Stillman McCormick, a wealthy American, who also donated the winner’s trophy in 1936.

Two men are rowing boldly in a canoe. Pleasure crafts are watching them in the background. Another canoe follows closely behind.

Serge Corbin, 1992

As the years went by, new competitions were added to promote other types of boats, such as kayaks and rabaskas. Legendary competitors also spiced up the race, such as Serge Corbin, the “King of the River,” who won it 26 times between 1974 and 2007.

In addition to the athletic achievements of canoeists, the Classique is also a place where unexpected friendships are made.

Several people are gathered around a table: two white men, two Indigenous men and a young white boy.

Click on this image to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the race.

A Long-Standing Tradition

Nowadays, with faster, lightweight canoes, men and women from Québec, elsewhere in Canada and the United States can travel down the river in three days, stopping at St‑Roch-de-Mékinac and Shawinigan.

Tens of thousands of spectators attend this event every year, which is a true celebration of the Saint-Maurice River and its vast watershed.