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Disaster narrowly averted at powerboat season opener

Chad Sutherland and Lee Wilson claimed C class bragging rights during Bermuda Power Boat Association’s 2023 season opener at Ferry Reach on Sunday (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Disaster was narrowly averted during the first event of the Bermuda Power Boat Association’s season on Sunday.

Competitors were forced to take evasive action to avoid colliding into a pleasure craft that ventured on to the racecourse as the racers neared the finish line, with actions that could have resulted in serious consequences.

“Right at the very end of the last lap there was a massive boat coming through the middle of the track and how nobody stopped that I don’t understand,” C class co-pilot Lee Wilson told The Royal Gazette.

‘“We were coming through on the last lap and there was literally a massive family boat just wide open and right in the way throwing big wake.

“The boat was right off of Stone Crusher Corner and it looked like a boat rental, but whether it was a foreigner or tourist that didn’t understand, they must have seen guys coming past them and see that a race is going on.

“I don’t know if people think it’s a good boating opportunity but that can cause a real problem.”

Wilson hopes that more safety measures will be put in place to avoid similar incidents at future events.

“They have to get a hold of the boats on the track and in my opinion there was not enough policing on the water,” he said.

“Normally they have a police or regiment boat right outside the pylons with their lights blinking not letting anybody through during the races.

“The club is working on crash boats and Janae Nesbitt, the commodore, said myself and Chad [driver and team-mate Chad Sutherland] can take the crash boat that’s down in St David’s and try to put a motor on it for them to help them out because at the end of the day they are for our safety.”

The near mishap is not an isolated case as competitors were also forced to take evasive action to avoid colliding with pleasure craft that had ignored calls from race officials to stay clear of the racecourse.

Janae Nesbitt, the BPBA commodore, has strongly urged users of pleasure craft not to venture on the racecourse during racing.

“We are once again making a plea to the boating public to be vigilant and steer clear of the racecourse during racing conditions,” she said. “We all have a part to play in keeping all safe.”

Away from the incident, Sutherland and Wilson won C class honours and also finished first overall among the six classes represented.

“Even though some boats left before us, we smoked everybody,” Wilson said. “Not one boat beat us, including S class.

“It was a good turnout of people but not too many boats, I know a lot of guys are waiting for parts. As for the general public, I thought it was a good turnout with a lot of people there.”

The remaining classes featured only one entry.

Shane Medeiros and Joshua Holder competed in the A class, Cleveland Maybury and Joshua Thompson in the new BV class, Howard Ascento and Joshua Wilson in B class, Steven Meireles and Ryan Resendes in D class and Andrew Cottingham and Henry Talbot in S class.

“Overall, it was a great day,” Nesbitt added. “We held a practice day for the junior programme and also had seven boats line up for the first race, which is an awesome turnout compared to previous years for the first scheduled race day.

“We also saw A26 [Medeiros and Holder] take the chequered flag ahead of S22 [Cottingham and Talbot] in the first race so now they sit at the top of Devil’s Isle Racing.

“We are now turning our focus to the next race day, the Wedco National Championships, scheduled for June 4 at Cross Island, Dockyard.”

The Wedco National Championships is a three-race series that was introduced last year.

The 2023 season will run until October 22 and will also include the reintroduction of the Hamilton Harbour inshore race and prestigious Rubis Around the Island Race.

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Published May 23, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated May 22, 2023 at 10:26 pm)

Disaster narrowly averted at powerboat season opener

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