THE TRINIDAD and Tobago Great Race turns 49 this weekend. The race, which will begin at the Foreshore from 8 am and end at Crown Point, is regarded as one of the world's longest and oldest running powerboat events.
This year, the race is being held to celebrate the life and passion of Garth Marshall – a racer and crew chief in his early years of the Great Race, dating back to the 1980's, but later traded in his helmet and became a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Powerboat Association's (TTPBA) executive committee for 25 years. And Marshall held the post of vice president of the Association, until his passing last year.
Yesterday, the Minister of National Security, Edmund Dillon, ordered the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) to provide helicopters to oversee the safety of the event after it was reported that the TTPBA did not receive any confirmation from the company that they will grant their services for the event.
The TTPBA said they tried to contact the officials of the SSA but were unsuccessful.
Dillon stated in a media conference yesterday, "This is an important national event and we would like to ensure that this event comes without any sort of incident whatsoever, so as Minister of National Security, I have instructed the SSA to do whatever is required to ensure at least the safety requirements are considered."
Later in the day, the TTPBA expressed their gratitude to the Minister; however they wanted more clarification on the matter as to what services will be provided.
In a media release, the TTPBA said, "They were informed by the SSA that a helicopter will be provided to follow the Great Race course from the air, but, they were not prepared to take the professional divers on board the helicopters as they have done for the previous 12-14 years of the event."
They continued, "These divers are highly trained along with the SSA pilots to make sure the safety of all racers in the race. To have a helicopter without divers would be like having an ambulance arrive at an accident, without paramedics."
This year, the starting point remains at the Foreshore Highway in Trinidad. However, to facilitate a better viewing of the finish for spectators and an exciting climax for the racers, there is a new route for this year's event. In the past seven years, the race ended outside Scarborough. The TTPBA decided to return to the races to its original finish outside Store Bay, but with a twist. There are also new routes for boats depending on class.
Vantage points to view the new route of the Great Race include Forshore, Trinidad and Tobago Yacht Club (TTYC), First Boca, Maracas Bay and Grande Riviere in Trinidad. Over in Tobago, some exciting locations to catch the action include Store Bay, Plymouth, Turtle Beach, Grafton Beach and Mount Irvine Bay.