2017 Long Beach to Catalina & Back IJSBA Offshore National Championship
My experience as a first time offshore racer!
First off, this race is awesome! It was a great experience just as I thought it would be. I had a great time and am so greatful to Jon Rall, Aaron Cress, and Kawasaki USA for providing a fully equipped Kawasaki 310R for me to race which is the only reason I was able to compete in this contest. Aaron had the ski completely dialed in and it ran flawlessly for the entire race. I can’t thank him enough for all the work he did setting up the ski for me ahead of time.
According to other racers, the ocean conditions were pretty brutal compared to some previous years. I have some bumps and bruises on my body and also on Aaron’s bulletproof gps mount from my helmet to prove it! I sometimes felt like a flag flapping in the wind just hanging on to the bars as tight as I could as I was being bucked up and down on the seat and sometimes lifting completely out of the footwells from some of the bigger high speed jumps and landings. I had a few close calls where I was nearly thrown off of the ski as I pushed the limits for the conditions.
This was my first time so I have no real past experience to say how the conditions compared to the typical LB2CAT race. The weather was great and visibility was good from my perspective. I would say I was 80% prepared for this race even though I thought i was 100% prepared. Preparation is truly the only way to do well in this race.
My ski was perfect and more than awesome in power, speed and handling for the entire race. The ski and myself took a beating for 52 miles but held up well. There were many times when I launched it 20+ feet from one swell to the next and those landings ca sometimes be not so gentle at 60mph. The Kawasaki 310R is an all around incredible ski, especially for this race.
My body and mind were pretty dialed. I really didn’t have any nerves. I felt good. I’m in pretty good shape and i could have easily done another 10 miles, even in choppy conditions. The part that wasn’t dialed is that i’m not used to riding sit down watercraft on the open ocean at high speeds in choppy conditions mixed with rolling swells. It took me a good ten miles of weight transfer, stance and throttle control adjustment to get this figured out and i got beat up for a while i figured it out. Speed is your friend in this race. It was pretty choppy with rolling swells for most of the 52 mile race. Once i figured it out, I was able to get into more of a groove and keep more steady and faster speeds. I felt like i was in great position to try and creep up on a few riders that I could see out in the distance in front of me after the turn boat (26 mile Half way point). Here’s the problem:
My start to turn boat gps for some reasone never found satellite reception. Not such a big deal because i stayed with the pack and followed hoping their gps units were working. They were and I made it to the turn boat without issue.
After the turn boat was another story. Every gps is different and my return gps had found satellite but when I hit the turnboat waypoint, it did not pick it up and did not route my return to the finish. This left me flying blind for the return as well. Once I came around the turn boat and was ready to start really pouring it on, the 3 watercraft in the distance in front of me seemed to spread out. I wasn’t sure who to chase down. I eventually just gave it my best guess and tried to catch up with what I thought was a jetski. Turns out it was a boat that wasn’t headed where I needed to go. This put me way off course and shattered my chances for a podium finish. To say I was frustrated is certainly and understatement. I now couldn’t see any other jetskis either. When you aren’t sure where you are and are in the the open ocean with no shore in sight it’s crazy intimidating with no trustworthy direction. I know it slowed me down a bunch as I only have a certain amount of fuel with minimal margin for error. I for sure got in my own head a bit but tried to keep a decent speed in the direction I felt was right. I was never concerned about safety as I had plenty of communication equipment on board if it came to calling in to shore for direction but that would mean stopping and I still had a glimmer of hope that I would get lucky and end up near the finish boat.
Once I finally got a good visual of the shore, I realized nothing looked familiar. Since I didn’t recognize anything that looked like where we started, I chose to play it safe and come into the channel inside of a harbor where I waved down a coast guard boat to ask for a little guidance back to the queens gate starting point. They happily gave me direction. About that time my low fuel indicator started beeping at me also. Turns out my trajectory was a few miles off from the finish boat. I slowly cruised back over to the proper location to conserve fuel and finish the race but certainly not with a time that I knew I was capable of clocking had I done a better job with my navigation set up. No excuses and no one to blame but myself. I just should have had a better navigation set up. This is just part of what separates the top guys from the guys with slower times at the Long Beach to Catalina and back offshore race.
You can bet that i will make the proper adjustments for next year.
Despite my gps issues, i’m really happy with the experience and everything I learned. I finished 6th out of 8 riders in my class due to a couple that did not finish. Had I tracked the right course, i’m confident I would have placed very well. I had such a great time tackling this new to me form of jet ski racing. There are a lot of factors and so much preparation that goes into finishing well at this race. It’s truly a huge accomplishment to finish this race at the top and my congratulations to all of those those that did. I had an amazing time doing the LB2CAT for the first time and I look forward to making some adjustments and clocking a much better time at the 2018 LB2CAT. It’s a well run event with top notch riders in every class.
For the full event recap and results, look for my article in the next print issue of Pro Rider Watercraft Magazine with photos courtesy of PWCOffshore.com.
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