NORWOOD There was not a flake of snow in sight at the 23rd annual Norwood Lake Regatta on Saturday, but that didnt stop 18 roaring snowmobiles from racing.
Watercross, snowmobile racing on water, returned to Norwood Beach this weekend with riders from across the Northeast.
Snowmobiles on the water, come on! Whats not to like about it? asked William W. Best, Albany, one of the organizers of the Eastern Watercross Association.
Speed is key for riders looking to keep their sleds atop the water. Once the machines speed off the shore and onto the course, stopping is not an option. Snowmobiles that cant keep up the pace will slow, stop, then sink to the shallow bottom of the lake, leaving their riders bobbing on the surface.
After each race a boat with a small crane picks up the sunken sleds, which their riders then tune up and have ready to go in time for the next race.
The riders began practice runs shortly after 11 a.m., and the races began in the early afternoon. Spectators watched from the shoreline.
Its very interesting, said Jerry J. Thomas, Potsdam. It seems unnatural to see them on water instead of snow.
While it is possible to get a normal snowmobile to run on water, in order to be racing-ready, it has to be modified. Moving the transmission makes steering on water possible, and drain holes keep the machine from becoming waterlogged. The extra cost is worth it, racers said, because for adrenaline junkies, there is nothing else like it.
The competition is harder. Its different. It gets your adrenaline pumping, said Derek P. Leinbach, 14. You need to keep going or youll sink. A boat just floats.
Plenty of safety precautions are taken. Riders wear life jackets and helmets, and an ambulance is on the scene in case of an accident. However, as with any other extreme sport, there is always some element of risk. Its part of the appeal.
You just have to tempt fate sometimes, said racer Kurt M. Fitch, Middleborough, Mass.
Saturdays weather was perfect for racing, sunny and warm, but watercross runs in any conditions.
I tried it for the first time last winter. I almost died, Mr. Fitch said.
No matter what the weather, the race must go on.
We run rain, sleet or snow. Last year we ran during Hurricane Irene. It rained all day, Mr. Best said.
Watercross will return to the Norwood Beach at 11 a.m. today for the second day of the regatta, which also features a craft fair.
Admission is $5 and benefits the Norwood Lake Association.