Low Lake Levels Curb Regatta

CELINA — Citing low lake levels and boater safety concerns, the organizers of the Governor’s Cup Regatta decided to cancel the race scheduled for Aug. 25 and 26.

“It was an awful decision,” Regatta President Allen Baskett told The Evening Leader Monday morning. “We’ve been watching the situation during the last few weeks, hoping to have days like this that would really make a difference. We still had money to raise and we felt like we could do it but then we came up against this obstacle.”

A dry summer has caused the levels in Grand Lake St. Marys to drop. Baskett said as organizers watched the lake’s levels, they had conversations with officials from the American Powerboat Racing Association, the sanctioning body for the Inboard Hydroplane Series. A contingent from the Governor’s Cup even traveled to Michigan last week to discuss the situation before deciding to cancel the race.

“That race had trouble with water depth,” Baskett said. “The race course was fine but the pits were too shallow so they had to move some of those around. That’s just something you cannot overcome. You cannot add water to the lake. The depth is fine for pleasure boats but these boats go over 100 mph.”

Baskett said low lake levels within the course could pose safety risks to boaters in the event of a crash.

“The rule book doesn’t have a depth, so that’s why we wanted to talk with the race officials,” Baskett said, noting there were races canceled in Illinois because of low water levels. “They were racing some small outboard boats and they require a minimum of 5 feet. We are seeing depths of around 5 feet or less in some of the race course and that’s where our concern is. These are much larger and faster boats than the outboard boats and we didn’t want to put the racers at risk.”

The race was canceled for the first time in 2010 — in the wake of toxic algal blooms on the lake. The race returned last year to host the World Championships and Baskett stressed the improved water quality of the lake served as an asset the past two years.

“We canceled it in 2010 and we didn’t lose any momentum in 2011,” Baskett said. “The efforts of the lake groups to clean the lake have paid off as we were able to have our race last year. They had better water last year and even better this year so the algae is not an issue at all. The water is just too shallow to race safely.”

Organizers are now in the process of determining their next step. When they were forced to cancel the race in 2010, organizers put on a music festival to help raise money for the lake.

“We have bands lined up that were going to perform anyway,” Baskett said. “We are starting to see if we can pull something together like we did in 2010.”

While rain has returned in recent days, Baskett said organizers have a cut-off point to make a decision to cancel the race.

“Just like in 2010, we had a drop-dead date of 30 days out,” Baskett said. “We just think it’s fair and we think that was part of the reason they all came back after we canceled in 2010. We didn’t try to wait until the last minute to pull the plug. We gave them notice so they could make changes to their schedules.”

Baskett also admitted obtaining sponsorships has been difficult in recent years.

“With the economy struggling as it has, a lot of times when a group or businesses make cuts, they cut back on contributed dollars,” Baskett said. “We have seen the impacts on that. We have always been able to work through it and we felt we could work through it this year, but the water level put us in a position that no matter how much was in the bank, we didn’t have the water in the lake to race safely.”

Despite the cancellation, Baskett said he is confident the race will return in 2013.