Monday, April 6, 2009

2009 Dana Point to Avalon Offshore PWC Sprint Race, By Shawn Alladio

2009 Dana Point to Catalina Sprint
RPM Racing Presents the Inaugural Dana Point to Catalina PWC Offshore Race on April 5th, California USA.
PWCoffshore Race Team Rider Shawn Alladio
WAR- We All Race
“Light bump. Small swell. Fast course”, the email from my friend David Puu gave his 3 elemental quotes. He sent it Saturday night at 10:38 PM. David has followed my travels on the 7 Seas and anywhere in the world; he delivers the current conditions with a perfect 100% accuracy. He has never missed a step. He hasn’t only earned my respect, he’s all about respect.

I had spent much of Saturday at the Registration, branding my Jet Ski with stickers and getting raced prepared. There was a lot of anticipation for this race. The big question and equalizer was the weather. Today the ocean was wicked; it showed promise of a slower pace with a lot of intensity for the boat, the racer and timeframes. But would the wind hold overnight? I and a few others were praying for that degree of difficulty. And we would lose big. California woke up with an endless summer in April.

The Amade Family arrived, kisses and hugs as usual, Mike Arnold was waiting for his #71 stickers I was bringing along that Ryan and Kyla made along with everything else Liquid Militia style. Together we spent the afternoon wallpapering our boats, but mainly laughing and having a great time with everyone. Kyla worked all day making hundreds of stickers I handed out, while Shaniah laughed in the background. Mark Gerner was there along with the RPM Racing staff, Pirate, Dubz and Daughter, Young plugged in my GPS for me as usual, Sean Conner was there. Aaron Cress is making magic happening for everyone, especially for Kim Bushong. I love this vibe!

Ahmed buys all his emergency gear that is required, it is an investment in not only his life, but it could be for others. How prophetic this turns when his boat has mechanical issues 8 miles from shore. I tell him to pack it tightly so there is no friction or movement so his gear stays in one piece. First time racing has a learning curve, and I’ve lost a lot myself not knowing what to expect. One reason to check out the race site and take all the safety, riding and gear tips you can read up on their tutorials. Now Sean mind you looks like he just walked off a NASCAR track. He and his race boats match like red hot Ferrari’s, but it’s his profile image that pulls this look together, because he’s smooth. Tequila Racing was there in the happiest of moods, lifting everyone’s spirits. This is what I love about our racers, even when there is stress involved they are the best group to hang with. They are having fun!

I texted Ahmed Amade at 9:14 pm “Rest well, pack everything tight!” In typical Ahmed fashion he texts back, “Thanks Shawn you are awesome”. I’m working on my motivational stickers for the racers. Ryan plugged in the text and I’m weeding till past midnight: WAR – We All Race. I will hand them out eagerly in the morning, nothing like having a few good words to pump a little more drive into the WAR machine!

Multiple phone calls and texts later from as far away as Minnesota I’m checking in with D.W. for our new ‘assignment’, well probably his. Jim Lambert hails some late night ‘race clip’ emails, and the general vibe is healthy and downright naughty. The PWC race community is juiced about the newest endurance addition, and a few of us will actually experience the big blue come 8:00am Sunday. And some will not sleep at all I imagine.

7 hours later at 5:16 am my phone rings, Puu says ‘It’s going to be a fast track. The Santa Ana winds have picked up in Ventura, it should be interesting’. His perceptions will prove prophetic. Mike Arnold was en route at 5:00am to the Dana Point Harbor from San Diego. He’s been training for his first PWC offshore race, having only ridden for 7 months; stepping up to a Catalina race is sheer determination on his part. He rigged his Sea Doo with race branding the day prior at the Technical inspection. He was the first to arrive on scene. I called him as I headed south on I-5. We laughed about the day ahead; he said it was glass in the harbor, no wind. Oh well! Let’s go racing!

Mark Gerner was next on my call list. He was already pulling out of the driveway. It was still dark, not much traffic and a light breeze began to blow. The stars were shining; I knew I would be able to see Catalina from the race starting position. This would make the route safe and secure for our introductory Sporstman Racers. A huge relief for me, it’s hard to separate the two, racing and safety, I’m stuck in the middle.

Russell Libby from the AWA - Socal Watercraft Club is on the deck; squared away he launches his support PWC and checks in, grabs his radio and he’s on remote control. Aaron Cress has the K38 rescue board tethered to one of his craft, so the tandem safety is secure for the race. The Avalon finish boat, a yellow Sea Tow safety vessel starts off across the channel to get in place. This is a great contribution to the safety of the racers, and they are on my own podium of sorts.
The racers arrive and pull into their parking stalls and begin prepping their boats. RPM Racing holds the rider’s meeting and everyone is good to go, the confidence level is high. Nothing runs out of schedule all day. My kids show up later and set up the Liquid Militia canopy and their day begins. Bryant Lambert and Matt Rodgers from Hypnotic Films arrive and begin shooting the Liquid Militia documentary. We’re focusing on our sport and the people who make it. This is the second stage of Endurance racing for Hypnotic Films, having shot the Mark Hahn 300, the Sprint and the finale will be the LB2CAT in July

I check in with Ross from RPM Racing and tell him I’ll be the last boat to cross the finish line conducting a sweep. I bring up the rear later as Arnold and I are the last to refuel. Catalina was stunning, a USCG Cutter outside the harbor, the Casino loomed, waters were clear and I felt like I was in the Mediterranean.

Everyone comes and greets, finishes the last touches and head out to the starting area outside the Jaws of the harbor. The start line boat in the secondary Sea Tow craft with the RPM racing staff on board, and media personnel are ready for action. Staff gets the 29 racers in line and the roll starts to the white flag. Green flag rises and the modified boats are gone before I even start.
I look over to the North and see a Sea Doo, and the familiar red Ultra of Mark Gerner, his boat pitches forward. I am mesmerized by the pick-up and speed of his boat and the next 3 in line north of him, blocked by his whitewater spray I can’t make them out, but I imagine them to be Sea Doos. I’m riding with one hand on the throttle and tracking the launch of the Pro’s.
I make two quick checks on Mike Arnold; he’s doing really good holding his track line. His first race start. He was not alone in the Sportsman’s class; a good crew was making their first race appearance. They will prove to be the future of this sport.

Mark’s boat levels out perfectly and his pump levels powerfully the full weight of the hull with his body position, it almost looks poetic. I do think there is something about the color red flashing on the surface of water, it jumps out at you. His boat pulls and the forces of action spell race time. Mark is gone in a flash.

I’m watching in high speed real time, by my mind has put it into stop frame shots. I am next to Mike Arnold on his RXT Sea Doo, and as I cross the Sea Tow boat I give a wave to my port side, swim fins flapping and I’m smiling as I look over at Young, Lambert and Rodgers and staff. This is a great opportunity for me yet again, another race, I’m deep into my third decade or racing now. Geez I’m getting old and I love it!

I know my race will not be a podium place, so my goal is 10th, and even that is iffy on my stock Kawasaki Ultra 250X. Mark was running in fine form until near the end of the race his boat found a trouble spot that limited his maximum output. Many others experienced similar moments at different nautical miles of the course. This is the deal about distance, anything can and will happen, and everyone will at some point have the same disappointments and celebrations. A few didn’t even finish.

I am following lead boats, but they aren’t really lead boats, they are far and away boats. I take off and I count my position, I’m in 15 or 16th place. There is a Sea Doo to my port side who slowly creeps away from me, and then he simply disappears, leaving a v white contrail on the water. On my starboard side is a pack of racers, all staying within step of one another, nobody is increasing or decreasing their positions. I’m far south of the pod. I don’t mind it, and I don’t have a navigational tactic, I’m just going to wing it. I’m having fun.

I realize after a few miles, nothing is going to change; I’m still in the same placing. The closer we race to Catalina, the optics appear further away, Catalina seems forever out of reach. The ocean has a nice 3 foot swell, even gentle crests that roll in an undulating smooth pulse. It’s a nice soft texture on the surface; it mixes it up a little at various nautical mile marks, but stays relatively calm. Fast boat racing.

The mega pod of dolphins appears slightly prior to mid channel. I rejoice as I see their characteristic herding push. I love this pod, and have seen them on many transits, how many generations have been born and are the ones from the 80’s in this pod still alive I wonder?
Along the course skating on the surface is a strewn field of balloons. I almost stopped to pick up one large clump. I had to tell myself as I slowed down to stay focused. I know I’m not going to win, so time on the water is just paid time. I dismiss the notion and remind myself, ‘on the way back you can get all of them, stop your thinking process and stay in the race.’
What do I like best about endurance racing? People ask what is the advantage? How many explanations would you like? Let’s start with the most significant one. Time paid for water minutes, combined water acreage transited is by far the best value in racing history! When you average out the length of a course as its overall distance, the time involved, it’s actually cheap! I can race for a continuous hour or over 6 hours depending upon the track and the weather, and I feel I paid for the best value!
How is this possible? Because my body and spirit respect a true challenge, and there is nothing better than going the distance in life. The ending is actually more important than anything else. Racing against yourself is the supreme challenge, because your mindset is what makes a real champion, it’s not always the person who takes first, but the person who takes something positive away from the experience. I have a mental race conversation with Minnesota, (several times) and revel in the positive messages, my kids thanking them for waiting patiently for mommy while they sit around. Mom has all the fun. I think my own mother Diana for she is my number one fan in competition with DW I surmise, she paid my entry fee. Saying something about my mother, there is something so lovely about her spirit, I remember when I was a little girl looking up at this woman and even then recognizing there was something so unique about my own mother, my mom was different. She had this aura of confidence and beauty I never felt I could encompass, and my mom has always told me how proud she is of me. That’s how I feel about her.

I learned from my mom to tell my own children these same things, and it’s real. I tell Kyla and Ryan again during this race, ‘thank you for everything, thank you for my life and what you bring to it’. I am very proud of them. Shaniah, well she can be a huge nuisance at times of course, but what joy she brings into our lives daily with her little girl style and enthusiasm for everything new. She’s going to be chasing Kyla and Bryan around with a camera in no time, she loves photography.

This type of racing offers you ‘core’ time to sift through the valleys of your life. How many lifetimes can flash in your mind in 1 minute, imagine one hour, in solitude, racing a fast boat 37 miles offshore, intimacy, heart and soul all commune within your thought process. The best value for any therapy session I can imagine.

I notice that Pirate is slowing down, he’s to my starboard, and was holding steady; I doubt I could have caught him. He gave his all despite an injury, he really sacrificed, and a few others were running with injuries, I admire them. Pirate runs his pirate flag, a great reminder of a person who knows the value of living life well. The Socal Watercraft Club has a good showing with local talent as always.

I was really impressed with my Kawasaki Ultra. For a stock boat, it was as steady a pace with no interruptions besides the one I gave it. Twice I hit the stop button with my pelvis, having to rekey the ignition start. I had a few good impacts with the hull. I told Arnold I expected a minimum of 5 kisses on the helm during this race or he wasn’t riding hard enough!
The lead race boats are mile out of my sight, I can’t even make out their white trailing jet wash. I am so impressed with these boats. It seems that this race was dominated by Sea Doo race technology. Watching from behind the traction these boats gain, is the only way to appreciate their designer. Steve Friebe once again, tunes winners for podium applause.
I begin to slowly pull away from a small pod of race boats, but I’m not on track, I’m heading south of the Sea Tow finish line boat. I even know it. The island is still further out, but it seems so close. I look behind me, see a few more balloons and I’m in between packs, sorta in a dead spot. There is nobody in front to chase, and nobody behind to get me at this point, that is if I don’t screw myself up, which is what I will proceed to do. And I love it, the entire experience is satisfying, the disappointment and the majesty of just running WOT! (Wide open throttle). There is a lot of boating activity out today; it’s a great day for racing!
I look over and see the yellow dot flashing on the surface just south of the Casino. But I hold my course just rambling in my brain about people and thoughts, I’m drifting. I decide it’s time to head north. I look back at the track and I see a blue Yamaha running so hard and true. It’s Taylor Curtis. He’s the real deal in the surf. This man understands active water and the secrets of waves. He’s started a new business for free riding and I would sure check in with him, as experience saves money and lives. If you want to get ahead, you have to get hooked up with the best.
I believe at his pace he’s going to pass me and rightly so for my mistakes, well deserved on his part. That’s what makes racing great, you never know until the ‘ending’ what might happen. The race isn’t over till you cross that line. I am exceptionally happy, as for me is what racing is all about. A fight for the finish after 37 miles of open water, and with talent on board! I am so lucky.
Your competition is your greatest gift. For without their drive and passion you will never have anything to measure yourself against. Our boats are perfectly matched; speed for speed, the only problem is we are coming at a t-bone intersection because of my failure. He’s right on track and I’m trying to find an edge to my misery. It was great! I either got a penalty or I beat him, and I’m not sure which I deserved most. I really like his style and this is a person who has years ahead of him to curve ball this sport. Remember what I just said.

I’m blazing concentrated thoughts on select racers now, its’ cumulative. Sean Conner takes his number 7 boat at a hot trot. Age doesn’t make a difference in racing, but it is what comes next. A middle aged racer like me is limited by time, yet for racers like Sean Conner, time is their ally. Endurance racing blends the two into a human art form. I believe in Conner.
Trawlercat is in his usual fine form of consistent enthusiasm! The WET DOG Alaska racer is probably experiencing a mere hiccup to our exploration today, while he aims for the Bering Sea and beyond. You don’t know anything about Endurance until you read the PWCoffshore Gunz Racer ‘Scribe work’ on his chronicled adventures. He’s as steady as them come.

There is so much talent here. As I was racing I think about how many hours Belton, Vanick, Gerner, Carreon, Pham, Roque, Phan, Bushong, and every other racer out here combined has underway? How many nautical miles have been navigated? The level of expertise at this event is powerful. What is the total value of this mutual passion of endurance racers? I pull pas the Sea Tow boat on a sharp port side turn at speed, it feels good to finish, I circle back to see if everything is A-ok, I get the all clear sign. ESPN Dave in on board and the scorekeepers who receive no glory, I notice them and I’m thankful for their service. Taylor motors over as we head for fuel and we chat after a while, I head over to the fuel dock, it’s crowded and slow. I go back to the Sea Tow boat and get the report, 2 boats down, one 8 miles out. I exhale, it is too bad, and help is with them, this is great news.

I wait for RXT USMC to arrive at the finish and he comes as soon as I look up. He’s looking great for his first race! Imagine your first race is to Catalina, that’s awesome! And he wasn’t alone! We motor over to the fuel dock. Everyone fuels and hold back, I’ll be the last boat to come home, and I’m his wingman or vice versa.

I keep my promise and bring in over 30 balloons. Pretty soon, Mike realizes I’m not completely crazy and I see him breaking balloons and stowing them on board. It is a good thing to do. Next time you are out, remember, just picking up one piece of trash is a good habit, share the news and if everyone participates, we win big as stewards of our own lives. When I get back to the dock, Kim Bushong comes over and shows me the bouquet of balloons he picked up! I’m not only amazed, I am inspired by Kim. My 5 year old Shaniah thinks I brought them for her. What a cheap mom I am, but heck, recycling!

Today belonged to Pat Roque and Lee Phan. Pat held the lead but navigation continues to plague all of us, their times would have been faster I bet if they had been on target. It is hard to imagine besting 37 minutes, that’s a mile a minute! I’m so blown away by these guys; they can even afford a mistake and still blow the field out of the water! That’s insane! Racing isn’t fair, boats break, bodies can break down and worse yet, your mindset can cripple you. The hardest place is last place. Any champion that is used to taking a win, and not getting close, suffers in confidential spirited spin. It’s hard not to stay on top all the time. I look around at the field of champions; there is only one winner with a #1 on their finish.
My friend Darrick Doerner always reminds me of the ‘Ride after the Ride’. How true this spells out in many dimensions! Saying goodbye to my friends, shaking the energy of the day behind and its only lunchtime mind you, there is still a full day ahead of us to enjoy! I text Ahmed to check up on him, leave Mark a thank you call, and text back to Minnesota or Wisconsin, not sure which, and touch bases for the second time with David Puu. David’s rule is every time I go offshore, I am to call him. He has good reasons for this and I am thankful he cares enough about me to stand with me on my own personal safety. Something we should all take notice of. Thank you for being my friend David. It is a big ocean.

Never Forget Jeremy Hoyland.

Tonight when I’m sorting through my photos, the faces, the smiles and the expressions are what I appreciate the most. The defeats and disappointments prove more for a greater field of water warriors, I know, I see it. But what this does is it brings out excellence from our core. Disappointment and failure are the best measures for motivation I can comprehend.
This inaugural event will prove to be a precursor for the LB2CAT. Those who don’t have the fastest boats will dominate when the ocean comes alive, and the tide will turn. This is the rollercoaster of life; it’s all about environmental timing. Those are the dice some of us need to roll at the expense of a fully modified boat. And that is what makes this kind of racing fascinating. There are vast levels of experience and talent. Every race will throw those truths out as evidence.
Stay tuned for the LB2CAT. You ain’t seen nothing yet!
Thank you to my supports and RPM sponsors: Kawasaki Motors Corporation USA, Dana Point Jet Ski, Sea Doo, Sea Tow, Liquid Militia, My loved ones, RPM Racing,, R&D, Hydro Turf, OTB Boots, Betty Belts, Mustang Survival, Hypnotic Films, K38 GEAR, Gath, Robert Carreon for the trailer, our PWCoffshore race family and Southern California Watercraft Club, AWA, Aaron Cress and Steve Friebe. Our United States Marine Corps, God Bless America and please read the US Constitution. I’m going to bed.

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