With the 2019 Can-Am Belle River Race in the books, The Watercraft Journal sat down with race promoter Amy Green to talk about the spirit behind Can-Am, and about the fun from this year’s race.
The Watercraft Journal: Let’s start with some background info. How long has Can-Am been around, and how long have you been leading the charge?
Amy Green: CanAm has been around 9 years and I’ve been leading it since the beginning. However, Ray (Proulx) is the one who brought racing back to Eastern Ontario after 10 years of no events by lobbying the APBA to include Belle River as part of the National Tour in 2009. Although I’m the director of Can-Am Watercross, Ray is in charge of operations and I couldn’t do it without him. He’s my operating partner.
WCJ: What races besides Belle River did Can-Am run this year?
AG: None. This is the first year that we’ve only done one event.
WCJ: I bet that was tough, to cut back on the races and your involvement.
AG: We just didn’t want to trounce on any other events, so we had to pass on other dates offered this year. Our goal is to grow the sport and provide racers opportunities to race. We actively work to prevent conflicting dates with any other events in the area, and have passed on opportunities if the venue’s dates are in conflict.
We don’t want to make racers choose: no one wins and the sport suffer when that happens. We are not typical event promoters; we are sponsors who host events. Can-Am is a not-for-profit. Ray and I have sponsored more than 30 events in the last 10 years (at) more than $200,000.
WCJ: That is a lot of time, a lot of sweat, and a lot of funds, to put into the sport. Why the dedication?
AG: We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to race for so many years and so thankful for all the friendships and experiences, we wanted to give back to the sport so that others could have that same opportunity.
WCJ: Are most of your events based in Canada? Or the US? And are both you and Ray Canadian citizens, or is this truly a Canadian and American partnership?
AG: I was living in California when we started, but the need was in Southern Ontario and “Region 6” MI/OH/IN/IL, so that is where we focused and where our races have been. Ray is Canadian, and grew up in Belle River. I have been commuting from Cali/Nevada for nine years. I am American. I met Ray in Belle River in 2009, when I was racing the US Tour and he had coordinated it.
WCJ: OK, let’s take a look specifically at the Belle River race. It seems to be a very popular race with competitors in the nearby region, but also draws racers from other regions. About how many racers do you have at this race each year?
AG: We also had racers from Australia and Serbia! We’ve had about 70 racers in recent years. Racers love the venue. They love being able to camp right where they race. The festival (The Belle River SunSplash Festival, held at the same time as the watercross race, in the park adjacent to the race site) brings lots of spectators and things for the racers and their families to do after the races.
They like being able to walk to restaurants and shops, and the hospitality of the town people. The town people have developed favorite racers they look forward to seeing each year. The local boaters anchor around the perimeter of the race course and make it an all day watch party.
WCJ: The Belle River race seems to draw a good number of junior racers, correct?
AG: We’ve had between 13-20 juniors each year since 2009. We also always have lots of beginners and novices. This year we had so many novices, we ran qualifiers. Many of our racers have advanced to racing around the US, AquaX and the World Finals (Havasu) … just what we like to see. Our goal is to inspire new racers, give them a great experience, and welcome them to the racing community.
WCJ: There seemed to be some question, earlier this year, whether Belle River would even happen; Mother Nature seemed set to intervene?
AG: Yes, the water level is so high in that area that a state of emergency was declared recently. Moving pit parking to the grass area proved to work well, and the high water level was no problem at all for the event, and the pier makes great viewing for spectators.
WCJ: Looking back over the past several years, what were some of the race classes where you expected some tough head-to-head competition this year?
AG: The Dolecki brothers battling in the Pro-Am Stock Runabout class was exciting to watch. They are both great racers, skilled at setting up their Sea-Doos, and they just railed. The splits were perfect, so it was awesome watching them switch back and forth lap after lap trying to make one or the other work just a bit faster.
There is a core group of guys in the 1000SS class that have been battling for more than 25 years. THey are all super fast, and any one of them can win on any given day. Rick Maj, Russ Ververka, Jayme Cheney, and Todd Czarcinski. They didn’t disappoint this year.
WCJ: There is definitely a “family” feel in the pits. Not just that it is family-friendly, bu these racers all know each other. There seems to be plenty of the expected “trash talk”, but it all seems good-natured, with underlying friendships and respect.
AG: Yes, many friendships that started more than 30 years ago. And, it’s cool to see the OG’s welcome new racers and make them feel like lifelong family , too. Many long-time Can-Am racers have their kids racing now. There are lots of two-generation race families.
WCJ: What is your favorite “moment” from this year’s race?
AG: One of my favorite moments of the event was seeing Kris Hall, multi-time World Champion Polaris racer, make a spur of the moment decision to come back out of retirement (for only the 2nd time in 20 years) and race Ryan DiPasqual’s Pro785 with the guys in 1000SS. Kris Hall was a former teammate of mine, as I raced for Polaris too in the late 90s.
WCJ: One last question, and I’ll let you off the hook. Is 2020 on the books yet?
AG: Yes, 2002 is on the schedule for the 2nd weekend in July again. And, joining the Can-Am crew this year, Errol Lange has US venues in the works again for next year!
WCJ: That is great news! Anything you would like to add before we let you go?
AG: I would like to give special thanks to Belle River BIA, the Town of Lakeshore, React Tool & Mold, Tilbury Yamaha, Keystone Groundworks, Windsor Essex Pelee Tourism, and Unique Tool & Gauge. For results of the 2019 Belle River races, visit HERE