Northwest Jet Sports Watercross races into Rounds 3 & 4 this coming weekend as Lake Osoyoos Cup action hits Deep Bay Park. Competing under the American Water Sports Association this year, the Pacific Northwest tour includes the Lake Osoyoos Cup and the Apple Pie Jamboree, which took place July 20-21 in Pateros.
“We’re expecting one of our best turnouts ever at Lake Osoyoos,” promoter and race director Roger Harnack said. “We’re hoping the turnout exceeds our opening rounds on the Columbia River in Pateros.” Appearing on the OpenLine radio program last Friday, Okanogan County residents tuned in to hear about the upcoming race.
“We have classes for everyone,” Harnack said. “If you’ve never raced before, this is a great place to get into the sport.”
Indeed, Northwest Jet Sports had a solid beginner turnout at Apple Pie Jamboree, with three racing beginner ski, two first-time racers in the X2 class and four youngsters in the Junior 10-12 ranks. Another first-time racer was entered the women’s class. With seven racers on the line, Apple Pie Jamboree also boasted the largest women’s ski class in the region – which includes Oregon, Washington and Idaho – in at least a decade.
Alexz Benson of Hayden Lake, Idaho, would go on to dominate the Women’s class. And after the Jamboree was over, Trinity Klecker of Cathlament presented Benson a traveling trophy for being the Pacific Northwest’s best racer in the 2018 World Finals. Benson finished second last year and her name was etched into the trophy below Klecker’s and others who received the award in recent years. The trophy was hand-crafted by Curtis Pitman, now of Spokane.
Prior to the start of the festival, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democratic presidential hopeful, visited Pateros to see how the community is coming along after about a third of the town was destroyed by wildfire five years ago during Apple Pie Jamboree week. That 2014 fire, the Carlton Complex, remains the largest ever reported in Washington state.
This year’s Apple Pie Jamboree kicked off with a parade Friday night. Racers are allowed to enter their watercraft, but none entered. The community-wide event resumed Saturday with a bass fishing tournament launching at 4am, followed by a 5K color run at 8am. The festival also included food vendors, arts, crafts, a community breakfast, a book sale, music and fireworks.
Proceeds from the different activities benefit the small community’s youth programs. Last year, the funds paid for every child in town to take swimming lessons if they so chose. The watercross action kicked off about 11am after the presentation of the National Anthem. Okanogan County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Yarnell piloted a law enforcement ski while Apple Pie Jamboree Committee President Tracy Wilson of Pateros carried the flag, presenting the flag as the National Anthem played.
Other Apple Pie Jamboree activities, including a large 3-on-3 basketball tournament, paused as the anthem played. Doug Wolff manned the tower, and certified rescue diver Archie Dennis of Coulee Dam anchored nearby as about 40 racers hit the cool water on a weekend where daytime temps hovered in the mid-90s.
Angela Clements of Marysville and Jen Effrig of East Wenatchee handled registration, scoring and announcing as they have done in the region for years. Wayne Hilsinger of Sedro Woolley manned one of the course marshal skis while his wife, Katie, served as a spotter for Dennis. Jason Ward assisted Effirig on the mic Sunday.
Harnack manned the other rescue ski as Yarnell and Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Josh Brown patrolled the Columbia River keeping other boats at bay. Racing continued throughout the day, with only a 20-minute lunch break to allow bass boats into the docks to weigh in fish. After 26 motos, racers pulled their skis and pit area, making way for pyrotechnicians to set up the evening’s half-hour-long fireworks display.
The action continued Sunday, with only one on-water incident as a minor collision sent the hood of 550 rider Seth McNeil’s boat flying. Sunday’s course marshal’s, Harnack and Mike Reynolds, quickly got to the area, with Reynolds tending to McNeil and Harnack towing the ski back to the docks. McNeil was uninjured; he pumped the water out of his boat and fired it up, returning to the line later in a later moto.
After an additional 26 motos, the racing concluded without any injuries. “It was a great weekend of racing,” Harnack said. “We’re ready to go again.” And go again they will. The Lake Osoyoos Cup gets underway Friday, Aug. 31, with course set up and camping opening in Deep Bay Park. Racing is set for 11am to 5pm Saturday and 11am to 4pm Sunday on Lake Osoyoos, which lies half in the US and half in Canada. Several Western Canadian Watercross Association members are expected to join in the action. “It’s going to be 90 degrees and the water is great,” Harnack said. “See you in Oroville.”
Photography: Katie Pedersen and Al Camp/Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle