Following the cancellation of last weekend’s East End Surf Challenge watercraft race due to poor rider turnout, the future of the annual event has been thrown into doubt.
The Surf Challenge was scheduled to take place Monday, Jan. 27, National Heroes Day, but was canceled at the last minute because only two competitors showed up.
Promotor Shane Edwards announced to the assembled spectators just before noon that the race was canceled. However, other events organized around the race, including concerts, fish tea and fried fish stalls, went ahead.
“I was very upset of the race not happening but was very impressed with the amount of expatriate people that were there,” said Mr. Edwards. “The vendors were happy, we had the fish tea cook-off, a demo ski racing and performances from local artists.”
Regarding the future of the Surf Challenge, Mr. Edwards said he plans to look elsewhere for riders to take part.
“If I should put on another race, I will look for international racers and for the international federation to sanction the race and not the local Jet Ski racing organization.”
Vincent Ramgeet, president of the Cayman Islands Watercraft Association, explained that the association did not have enough riders to take part and the teams did not have their watercraft ready in time for the race. “There is not a lot of financial support coming from the community, and the riders are having to fund it themselves. It is a very expensive sport,” he said.
On the day of the event, Mr. Edwards said, he was informed that five riders would be attending, but only two showed up.
“Most of the kids were not in the position to enter, most of them would have liked to, but it was just too expensive. Some teams are saying that sponsorships are just not there anymore because of the struggling economy,” Mr. Ramgeet said.
When it comes to participating next year, Mr. Ramgeet said the association will put it out to the teams: “It’s up to them whether they want to participate or not,” he said.
Gary Whittaker Sr., father of local rider Gary “GJ” Whittaker Jr., who was one of the two riders who turned up, said the race is expensive.
“Cost can run up to $500 in fuel with other high maintenance costs in repairs. I made the special effort because my son loves the sport,” he said.
“The teams were trying to get the crafts ready but it just did not happen,” Mr. Ramgeet said, adding that some riders had been willing to do demonstration runs for the spectators, but the promoter said no and chose to cancel the event entirely.
“I did not refuse them doing a race demo on the day,” said Mr. Edwards. “What I asked them to do was get a representative to inform the people that the Jet Ski race was not happening and they refused. I informed the people, and the watercraft association did not like the way I did it and they decided to leave.”
According to Mr. Edwards, there was a demo on the water Whittaker Jr. and another member of team “Nuttin to Lose.”
Going forward, Mr. Edwards said, he does not have the confidence he once had in the local watercraft association.
“If we want to grow the sport, I do not think that any racer that has a Jet Ski with the association, which means interest in racing, should sit out at an event like this.”
Mr. Edwards also said he was displeased with government pulling back its sponsorship of the event, after going to the expense of promoting the event with government logos, flyers and advertisements.