OCEAN CITY – Boat enthusiasts and spectators gathered this past weekend for another exciting year of good weather, fast boats, and intense racing as the OPA Offshore Power Boat Races came to town.
The races occurred on Sunday afternoon, with crowds gathering all along the beach to watch the boats race around the course from 4th street to 42nd street. Unfortunately for the boat Wicked, Sunday’s race was a memorable one for the wrong reason.
While racing, Wicked, a New Jersey boat raced by Jay Muller, had its right hull break away resulting in a hole in the side of the boat.
According to Rob Asner, boat race promoter and racer, the Wicked turned off the engines and floated to shore with really no other option.
“It was either sink or come in,” Asner said of the broken catamaran, explaining that a sunken ship in the ocean would not only be bad for the racer, but bad for the ocean and the environment as well.
“It was a controlled, slow landing,” Asner said.
Ocean City Beach Patrol Caption Butch Arbin agreed that the landing was controlled but maintained there is always a concern for the safety of swimmers.
“We treat everything in the ocean exactly the same,” he said, “whether it’s a boat, a shark, a piece of plywood, or a crashed airplane.”
Arbin said the patrol’s main concern was clearing people out of the way so the boat could land safely.
“There was no imminent public danger,” he said. “Still, our number one concern is public safety.”
The boat remained beached for several hours as crews worked to clear the area and bring in the needed equipment. Further problems were encountered when the first crane became immobile, requiring a bigger crane to be brought in to remove not only the boat but the first crane as well. Nonetheless, the boat was removed from the beach Sunday night, and according to Asner is currently on its way to Florida to face costly repairs.
“It’s a big expense for them, but its all part of the fun,” Asner said, predicting that Wicked should be racing again in about six weeks.
As for the rest of the race, everything went as planned.
“I think everything went smoothly, we had big crowds at the marina and it was a success all around,” Asner said.
Brian Tinkler runs the marina at Sunset Marina and agreed it was a great weekend for everyone involved.
“It was a great event that is defiantly something to build on,” he said. “I think it will become one of the more popular weekends for the town.”
Asner said that although the racers are the main focus, the real heroes of the race are those who made the whole event possible.
Geico was the big sponsor this year, making the race a reality for Ocean City and racing their own boat, Miss Geico, on Sunday.
Sunset Marina donated the marina, staff and hospitality to all of the racers for the entire weekend.
Asner is hopeful the races will return at the same time and place next year after the completion of another successful year of offshore powerboat racing in Ocean City.
“It really was a success and everyone had a good time,” he said.