The TT Power Boat Association (TTPBA) will push the safety measures of the sport to a new high when it hosts the Great Race competition on Saturday. The annual competition will celebrate 51 years with the introduction of enhanced safety features through a partnership with bmobile. Brian Branker, a former racer and the current TTPBA treasurer, said, “Safety is the number one priority for us and without it we would not hold the race. However, the safety costs are significant. Bmobile is a very important sponsor for us this year, since they are covering the cost to ensure the race is safe.”
Transponders keep track of the location of each boat throughout the race and will facilitate a response within minutes to any boat which may be in distress.
“Before we used to have only one transponder in the boats but this year all the boats will have two transponders, in case one fails. Bmobile coming aboard is a very good thing for the sport since they are sponsoring the cost of the SIM cards for the transponders, as well as other important safety aspects of the race.”
Marsha Caballero, TSTT’s senior manager, Corporate Communications said, “We are pleased to partner with the TT Power Boat Association to help ensure the safety of each competitor in the Great Race. We have witnessed great achievements in the sport over the years, both here and on the international stage. On behalf of bmobile, I commend the TT Power Boat Association on their plans to continue to promote and develop the power boat racing sport. It’s through initiatives such as this that, together, we can achieve sustainable national development in sports.”
Branker is very proud of the local growth in the sport, noting that the Great Race holds the title of one of the longest running offshore powerboat races in the world.
“Although the overall number of annual competitors hasn’t increased much over the years, we have seen growth in the types of boats and in the technology being used. In the last ten years we transitioned from boats with total horsepower that was less than 2,000 to horsepower that’s now in excess of 2,000. Before, the boats were about 30 to 40 feet, they are now 50 feet long.
"So we are seeing more sophisticated engines, longer boats, faster boats and an evolution from most of the competitors being in the lower race classes to more participants in the higher classes. There is now a drive to see who has the fastest boat. These changes mean that we have now reached the status where our local racers can comfortably compete in international competitions. We can now compete on par with anyone anywhere.”
Ronald Daniel has been photographing and collecting information on the Great Race since 1976. His passion and dedication to the sport was evident in his vivid recollection as he shared some of the milestones over the years. Daniel said it was Ken Gordon who first pitched the idea of an offshore powerboat race to Ralph Gibson, Bob Skinner, Ken Charles, Brian Bowen, Dennis Ramdwar and the Sa Gomes brothers in 1968. After months of planning and co-ordination, the 1st Great Race was held on Saturday, August 2, 1969. That year, 62 boats between 13 and 21 feet long competed and the race was won by a 21 foot wooden boat named Camena, piloted by Lennox Tang Yuk and Hollis Rodriguez. This year the Great Race will begin in front the Boqueron Seafood and Tapas at the Chaguaramas Boardwalk at 7am and finish at Store Bay, Tobago.