It’s rare when a jet ski race has over 100,000 spectators on-hand, but that’s exactly how many people watched 14 Pro-Am Runabout and 18 Pro Ski racers at this year’s Bradenton Area Riverwalk Regatta. Joining the citywide event featuring a 5K marathon and a live concert from Jefferson Starship on their 40th Anniversary Tour was the Action-Kawasaki Florida Winter Championships/Mayor’s Cup Presented by Watercraft Superstore, uniting heart-pulsing IJSBA Hydrocross racing with F-2 boat racing, a freestyle and Flyboard demonstration, Sea-Doo test rides, and a children’s fishing tournament.
Supporting the Florida Winter Championships was Bradenton’s own Action Kawasaki, the Watercraft Superstore crew, Manatee County, City of Palmetto, Bradenton, FWC, and the USCG. The pits were filled with very anxious racers doing last minute adjustments getting ready for the big show. Each moto began with rolling starts, and the track was crazy tight resulting in lots of bumping and rubbing going on. The motos were action-packed with plenty of top-notch racing not to mention some unexpected carnage.
As Mikey Young described the Pro-Am Runabout race, and the subsequent win by Troy Snyder, “I believe that people who read the Bradenton Herald leading up to the event knew what to expect, as this local [and] former Manatee Hurricanes high school football standout and HydroDrag World Champion, was deemed ‘the Hometown Hero.'”
Monster Energy/Kawasaki racer and current AquaX USA champ Eric Francis had a “tough extraction,” sending him cartwheeling 150-feet through the air at 80mph. The Watercraft Journal caught up with Francis who said, “I have no idea what to say other than it was the worse get off I have ever had. The ski caught air and the ride plate snapped, causing it to hook right.”
“Fortunately,” as Young explains, “the only things Eric lost was an earring and the race!” Michael George’s Yamaha FZR was completely destroyed when his lanyard came off, causing him to travel into the path of the oncoming Team 71 Yamaha ridden by Chris Saxon. Again, nobody was seriously injured and Chris managed to still came in second behind Yamaha Racing’s Snyder, and followed by Georgia’s, Mike Bellamy.
Looking at what could’ve been, there must have been a guardian angel or two in the crowd looking over all the racers that day as things could have turned out very differently.
Young continued, “The Pro Am Ski class [did] not disappoint as it…was actually kind of a tie between Trinity Racing’s Johnny Smith and Cody McCallum. Smith would hold on for the first moto and have trouble while McCallum’s teammate, Broc Harris took advantage of his experience on a tight track and [took] the win. The second moto was a different chapter for Smith, who suffered a mechanical problem, [leaving] the door open for Harris and Veteran racer, John Stevens…to advance and take [the] second overall spot, in front of Kirk Britto.
In addition to all the closed course racing, a Freestyle demonstration was hosted for the crowd. Chris Langlais, who claimed second place, told The Watercraft Journal, “It was spectacular! [I] had a lot of fun being able to perform a freestyle show with Johnny Havell and Michael Ratti for that many people. I had a dad (with like six kids ranging [in] age of 3-to-15 years old) tell me his kids kept bugging him to leave until they saw me come out from under the bridge, flipping my way to center stage only to perform some of the most sickest stunts they did not think was possible on a ski. He and all the kids shook my hand one-by-one and said thanks for [the] performance. That’s what drives me to do what I do.”
Ultimately, the day was best summed up by Troy Snyder who told The Watercraft Journal, “[It was] the best-viewed race of the year! [This is] what the sport needs to move forward in a positive light!”
All images courtesy of Kurt NgSaye. Originals can be viewed and purchased HERE.
Bradenton Area Riverwalk Regatta Action-Kawasaki Florida Winter Championships/Mayor’s Cup Presented by Watercraft Superstore
February 6, 2015 Results
Pro Am Ski: 1. Broc Harris, 2. John Stevens, 3. Kirk Britto; Pro Am Runabout: 1. Troy Snyder, 2. Chris Saxon, 3. Michael Bellamy; Pro Freestyle: 1. John Havell, 2. Chris Langlais, 3. Michael Ratti