By Darren Lum
Published May 3 2016
Watercross is making its debut in Haliburton during the June 4 and 5 weekend at the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre located just outside Haliburton on County Road 21.
Watercross is a powersport that combines snowmobile and jet ski driving skills on open water in the summer months. Competitors will reach speeds of close to 90 kilometres an hour during a series of heats with three competitors with the aim of completing four laps with two orange buoys and one yellow buoy called the “equalizer” that the competitors must get around at least once on oval courses that are generally measured 350 x 550 feet.
Ontario Watercross Racing is in its third year and with growing popularity among competitors and spectators has added Haliburton as the first race in the 2016 five race series.
Third-year watercross racer Shea Comer 24 is excited to be able to race his two-stroke modified snowmobile that is like a boat.
“I was always addicted to going across water in the winter time and figured this was little safer” he said.
He said these vehicles are strictly for watercross and include such features as a check valve in the gas tank to prevent fuel from being released.
“It’s pretty wild quite the experience. It doesn’t look like much from shore but when you’re out there it’s quite the experience” he said.
He adds the feeling is similar to riding around on a slalom ski.
Some of the challenges in watercross are the wakes created by other competitors. Taking the lead off the start also known as getting the hole-shot is important for clean water and a better chance to win.
One of a possible 100 competitors expected the Moore Falls cottager is entering his third season in the semi-pro level OWR series.
Comer is familiar with the area having cottaged all his life here. Both of his parents live full-time in Minden Hills while his younger sister Sara graduated from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School a few years ago.
During a weekend event racers will compete in up to six races including heats qualifiers and finals on the Sunday.
Event co-organizer Kelly Hall who runs the Ontario Watercross Association with her fiancé Jason Bidan a former watercross racer who competed in the U.S. said the Pinestone and its pond in front of their resort is an ideal location for a race.
“Pinestone’s pond is perfect. It’s the right size. It’s the right depth. I’ve got lots of space to put my racers and we can stay right there” she said.
Photos of the venue were sent to her and Jason to assess if it was suitable. They returned twice and firmed up details for the event as of last week.
The Pinestone’s general manager John Teljeur is excited about hosting.
“This is an event that not only brings business to the resort but it also puts focus on the area and that’s kind of our mandate going forward [to] drive tourism events to help get the message about Haliburton” he said.
It’s great to have the resort host an event and booked entirely for three nights during the “off-season before July and August.”
This is a different event compared to the usual Pinestone events of the past.
“This is what we’re doing going forward is to do things different” he said.
He expects the event to grow which will correspond nicely with the resort’s future development plans.
Hall said this event is great for the powersport lover of all ages.
“There’s no real demographic. I have racers from 16 to 55. The spectators [are] anybody interested in snowmobile racing and motorsports of any kind. We’re different unique and it’s a pretty fun event” she said.
It might be very competitive on the water but back in the pits there is a family atmosphere she adds.
Admission for everyone over 12 is $10. There are discounts for two-day passes.
Children under 12 are admitted free. Spectators are permitted to bring lawn chairs and snacks but no alcohol.
Races will start at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Finals are Sunday and the start times will be determined by Saturday. Also included on Sunday afternoon are exhibition races such as doubles (men and women) and the mechanic category race where the racer’s mechanics can compete.
The registration deadline for racing is Wednesday before the event. No on-day registration as the race roster is set for Saturday. The field of competitors is capped at 100.
After Haliburton the series will travel to Tweed at Trudeau’s Park on June 18 to 19.
The organizing couple have chosen to get married at the Pinestone in 2018 and expect to return for that as well as the event.
“We’re hoping to make this a yearly thing obviously and just whatever we can do to build the circuit. We’re trying to really push to expand across Ontario where each region gets a race to the best of our ability anyways” she said.
See www.ontariowatercrossracing.com for more information.