Friday, April 9–No Swimming During Boat Races

OCEAN CITY – The grand spectacle and sheer energy of offshore powerboat racing returns to the resort in May with the arrival of the first leg of the 2010 Geico Offshore Grand Prix, but fans will once again have to clear out of the ocean during the event.

Race officials came before the Mayor and Council on Monday seeking final approval for the event, set for May 28-29 in the resort area. Produced by OPA Offshore Racing and sponsored locally by Sunset Marina, which will serve as race headquarters for the weekend, along with Seacrets and Harley Davidson, the event will turn Ocean City into the offshore powerboat racing universe for at least one weekend in May.

The Ocean City race is the first in a summer-long series that includes other race sites in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Michigan. Offshore powerboat races have been held in Ocean City off and on for years, but the one drawback has always been the distance of the course from the spectators. The roughly two-mile course starts around 6th Street and runs north to about 22nd Street. The course’s closest point to the shore is the area of 14th Street and the Commander Hotel, which will host the official race viewing events.

Before town officials could sign off on the annual event again this year, they wanted assurances from the promoter any and all safety issues for spectators had been addressed. Spokesman Mike Yowaiski said he had met with the Coast Guard and the Ocean City Beach Patrol to discuss safety elements of the race including clearing the course area of swimmers during the actual races.

“We have had meetings with the Coast Guard and the beach patrol, and we’re all in agreement the area should be cleared of swimmers,” said Yowaiski. “What we would like to do is close the ocean to swimming from 6th Street to 22nd Street for the first race, which runs from about noon to 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, let them back in the water after the race, and clear them again during the second race, which will run from about 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.”

Beach Patrol Lieutenant Ward Kovacs assured the council the proposed safety measures would work. Kovacs said clearing the water of swimmers in the course area was the best solution.

“We’re not going to allow swimming in the course area during the races,” he said. “With the time of year and the water temperatures, it shouldn’t be a big problem. We’re also not going to allow anyone to set up too close to the water’s edge. They can certainly walk along the beach, but there will definitely be no swimming allowed in those areas.”