OWRA kicks off race series at Pinestone in Haliburton
By Darren Lum
Tyler Charity, a Red Hawks alumnus isn’t giving anything away this long weekend when the first race of the Ontario Watercross Racing Association (OWRA) kicks off on the pond in front of the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre.
A regular podium finisher the past few years will be looking to start the season on a high, which is within a short drive from the high school he graduated from in 2017.
Being at home, he said, he’ll feel the pressure to ride his modified snowmobile to victory, but said it will be exciting.
“Hopefully I do good and show them what I can do,” he said.
Watercross is essentially a snowmobile race on water. His sled uses biodegradable oils and has a fuel system (with oil and fuel tanks) with a one-way valve, which allows the water to go into the gas tank but doesn’t allow the gas to come back out. The typical equipment for each racer includes a bright orange helmet for greater visibility during rescues, a PFD, a leather protective suit (though some just race in a track suit), and motocross or steel-toed work boots.
Charity said his aim is to earn his spot in the pro category next year by winning three races or getting on the podium three times this season.
The difference between the semi-pro and the pro category is the engine size and permitted engine modifications. In pro it is unlimited, with a matching price tag while semi-pro has modification parameters.
As a self-admitted adrenaline junkie, who got into watercross because of his dad, who raced in watercross in the 1990s, he said he will reach top speeds of close to 100 kilometres per hour on the straight away.
The best part of the racing experience is the atmosphere at venues, he said.
“The people are good, good family, friends that are there. Everyone’s just supportive and helps everyone out,” he said.
Just before starting a race, waiting for the start, he said it’s, “nerve-wracking.”
“You’re basically going on a snowmobile straight out onto the water, so you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,”he said. “The worst that can happen is you sink, then we just have to pull the sled out.”
He said when his happens the race is over.
After six years of watercross racing experience, the key to being a good racer is practice, which he does on the weekends to get faster by focusing on his cornering. It’s important, he said, to position on the inside of the sled during cornering, which he said is similar to motorcycle racing – getting low, body forward.
The Haliburton location will not only kick off the season, but is two of three scheduled dates this year, with the return scheduled on the June 25/26 weekend. Races, which are planned to start at 10 a.m. and will not go longer than 5 p.m., will be Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22. The categories include amateur, semi-pro 600 and 800, and pro 600 and 800. At the lone race held last year in Tweed (restricted because of health measures), had a field of 50 racers. The Pinestone venue kicked off the OWRA season in 2019.
Admission is free for spectators, but donations are always appreciated at the front gates.
Charity welcomes fans to come out to enjoy the races.
“Just hope to see everyone there and everyone has a good time,” he said.