Hello Race Fans,
OK, so we said rain or shine there would be a race, but we never said anything about fog. Thirty-four teams fill the the refurbished Mantoloking Cove marina looking for a checkered flag. It proved to be the perfect dry and wet pits. Even though the day was overcast with drizzle, we knew it would clear late in the day, we just needed a clear weather window somewhere between noon and 2pm as our Coast Guard Permit ran out at 3pm. From the start of the day, everything went in slow motion, but by 11:30 all the boats were in the water and heading toward the inlet. No one was in a rush, we wanted to delay as much as possible in order for the weather to clear. It wasn’t bad, but reports were coming in from the racecourse that wasn’t good. Fog.
By the time we got through the railroad bridge on our way to the ocean, the drizzle stopped, the wind was lite and the sun was trying to burn through the low clouds, perfect racing weather. The problem started where the bay met the ocean. A wall of fog gained and lost density as we sat in the inlet killing time and waiting for the choppers to look at the course.
This was a highly publicized race. It was in the local papers and banners were flown down the beach the past two weekends promoting the AMF – Jersey Boyz Offshore Grand Prix, hosted by Jenkinsons. The promotion clearly worked as thousands of people packed the wet walls on both sides of the inlet and even more on the beach, all wearing jackets instead of bathing suits. Point Pleasant is one of those race sites where it’s easy to say that 100,000 people attended a boat race, when in fact 99% of them would have been there anyway. Today showed the real numbers, even under the worst of conditions and waiting two hours beyond the announced schedule. These were hardcore race fans, and we couldn’t let them down.
The Coast Guard and State Police where leaving it up to us, to make the call, go or no go. It didn’t look too bad sitting in the inlet, visibility varied from ½ to ¼ mile. We decided to take them out and do a parade lap in order to let everyone see what it was like. The race teams had worked so hard and traveled so many miles to get to this point, we needed to give it a try.
Three pace boats broke up the race boats into groups of roughly ten. All the boats came out the inlet and went in front of Jenkinsons with American flags flying while the National Anthem was played on the public address system along the beach. Martin Sanborn was on air at www.talkoffshore.com and orange smoke smoldered from Pace Boat One. It looked like the start of a race, but confidence was slipping. We took off down the beach with ten of the hottest boats in the country on our hip. Two turbine powered boats from AMF Offshore Racing, two OSS Cat legal entries, and three P1 cats, plus three super fast Vees.
The run south was fine, visibility was at least a half-mile and all boats negotiated the bottom two turns just fine. Then we started to run north on the outside leg and the fog surrounded us like a circle of gray curtains and brought visibility to 100 yards in all directions.
Have you ever been in the ocean, in dense fog? It all looks the same; there is no reference point in any direction. Not good with ten boats running alongside of you at 60 miles per hour. Luckily our brand spanking new Cigarette Top Gun pace boat had a GPS plotter and showed that we were going in the right direction. The med team above us in Angel One couldn’t see us and we couldn’t see the next turn until we were 200 yards away. It was at that moment the race was officially cancelled. It would have been negligent on our part to run a race in those conditions. A few boats did some flybys along the beach in an effort to give the fans a show and then it was time to go home.
This would normally be the end of the story, but not when you’re dealing with John Haggin and AMF Offshore Racing – our sponsor for this race.
What happens to the purse in this case? Normally, it doesn't get paid, but John doesn't understand normal thinking. The first thought was to roll it over to other races and increase their purses, but that’s not what Haggin wanted to do. He insisted on paying out the purse to every boat that attempted to run the race.
We went back to where the day started at the Mantoloking Pub and after everyone was fed and watered, checks started flying. Every team walked away with an equal share of the twenty five thousand dollar purse. Now, the problem of trophies, we had a wall full of them waiting to be handed out. The first thought was to have the drivers of each boat have a foot race in the parking lot. It was too wet and at that point, they’d been at the bar too long. So we opted for drawing cards, high card wins. It was almost as exciting as a race watching ten guys drawing cards, to see who gets first second and third place trophies. It was a hoot, or maybe it was because everyone was feeling little pain by that point, either way it’s safe to say that everyone walked away from Point Pleasant with a Big Smile courtesy of AMF and John Haggin’s generosity.
All teams received 150 points for attending this race.
There’s so many people that put in countless hours to put this race together in just three short weeks, but most important to the successful operation of this race are the water volunteers, the divers, medics, sweep and turn boat captains that went out in less than idea condition in order to do their job, all for a T-shirt. If you were on the water today, I salute you and thank you for helping to keep our racers safe. Without you, we can’t do what we all love to do. Hopefully you enjoyed yourself and will come back for the next one, in hopefully better conditions, so you can get another T-shirt. Speaking of “the next one”, since you’ve read this far, we’ll pass along a rumor that was heard tonight at the awards party. There’s an ugly rumor going around that we may actually try to do this again in August. At this point it’s just a rumor and you didn’t hear it from me.
The next race on the OPA schedule is Mentor Ohio – July 8th and 9th. Be there!
See ya at the Races,