At its core, Jet Around Cayman is an endurance race and the 2012 competitors found that out the hard way.
The top riders fought through blinding rain, choppy seas and numerous crashes around Grand Cayman. While 21 racers registered, 13 competed and only eight crossed the finish line as many participants broke down.
Among the competitors was Kaleb Ebanks, 17, of team Wes-Tec. The West Bayer was second overall in 1 hour, 35 minutes and 15 seconds. He states the race was far from easy.
“This is my second Jet Around after doing it in 2010 and coming first in the rookie class,” Ebanks said. “It was rough. From East End to Seven Mile Beach was hell. I couldn’t do no more than 35 miles per hour. It wasn’t easy.
“The East End squalls made me tired. I fell off by the East End channel because I was tired. I took it easy around the Island but I still fell off by the channel. I got back to my craft before it got to the reef. I was on the reef and all that was going through my head was get it off the reef.”
Ebanks, who recently graduated from Cayman Prep, would claim the Amateur class title and the US$1,500 prize. Team-mate Scott Hydes was fourth overall in 1.40.53, placing third in the Expert Open class and taking home US$500.
Outdoing both men would be Javier Medina, 21, of Nuttin 2 Lose racing. The West Bay native was third overall in 1.38.11. He competed in the Amateur category and was second in the Expert Open segment, earning US$1,500.
Medina, who was in pain at the finish due to a shoulder injury, states it was physically exhausting.
“From Seven Mile Beach to North Side the race was nice,” Medina said. “Once we hit East End, it was harder. The waves were incredible. I didn’t know I was capable of racing in that weather. I fell off by East End, by The Wreck of the Ten Sail. I swam back to the craft and continued to race.
“I kept my place and I knew I’d fall off. I built up strength to return to the craft. I felt good, for falling off when I was second overall and maintaining third place. By far, it was the roughest Jet Around I ever did but overall I felt good.”
The overall winner would be Medina’s team-mate, East End native Gary ‘GJ’ Whittaker. The Newlands resident finished in 1.31.32 on a heavily modified Kawasaki Ultra 300 that costs about US$25,000 and makes 350-375 horsepower. Whittaker, 21, earned US$5,000 by winning the Pro Open and Expert Open categories.
The son of Gary Whittaker and Bernice West had previously stated that the race was tough, especially by the Pedro area. The veteran racer states he dedicated the victory to his father, a CUC employee.
“I had a good time racing and anyone that finished the race was a champion to me,” Whittaker said. “I thank my dad for this. I gave him nothing for Father’s Day so this one’s for him.”
The actual decision to race was an interesting one. At first, organisers Kenny Rankin and Vincent Ramgeet debated calling off the competition until the next public holiday, on 2 July, due to the inclement weather. However, most riders elected to race.
One of the riders who came out for Jet Around was Jordan ‘JJ’ McLean. The East End native and national sports hero was initially thought to have dropped out over concerns about rough seas in his district. McLean states he in fact gave it a go, succumbing to mechanical problems.
“It was due to technical issues I couldn’t complete the race,” McLean said. “It had nothing to do with how rough the seas were. I grew up in East End and it had nothing to do with how rough those seas were.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Nuttin 2 Lose. Congratulations to GJ and them on a good team effort and race.”
In spite of their experiences, neither Ebanks nor Medina had doubts about competing next year. Medina is most eager to replicate his team’s success, which included Benjamin Cupid earning US$1,000 for being the top rookie in a time of 1.43.13.
“This is my third year in a row with Jet Around. I was on a Ultra 300 with a fully built motor making 300hp. I am a proud member of the Nuttin 2 Lose race team and there was tremendous pride coming out here. We got riders that are good and we did what we had to do.”
An interesting side note to the success of Medina’s race team was the absence of Tony’s Toys Racing. That crew fielded the 2011 winner in Roshad Goff, who was also a no-show this year. Steady competitors on the Cayman Islands Watercraft Association circuit, it is not clear why Goff and his team were absent.
Nevertheless, Ebanks is looking forward to being a threat to all comers in 2013.
“I rode a Yamaha FX-Sho making 260hp with a few mods to the motor. Next year I hope to do better in a higher class, do my best and come out hard like this year.”