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Mr Solo Too cruises to 18th title
Though having to compete with little-to-no safety measures, multiple time winner of the T&T Great Race Mr Solo Too overcame numerous challenges over the past week, but in the end the team secured an unprecedented 18th championship in the event’s 48-year history.
The crew of throttleman Ken Charles, Darin Marshall and navigator Gino Fusco also won the award for the fastest boat from Trinidad to the sister-isle of Tobago in the A-Class category (130mph), storming past the new finish line in Store Bay in a time of one hour, 12 minutes and 35 seconds to be greeted by hundreds of fans.
The crew though was counting their lucky stars as it was only one of 10 boats from a field of 23, that finished the 86 miles race, as the others experienced various problems and had to receive assistance. Some limped home while others lay hapless in the sea.
The event was marred in controversy after the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) refused to offer its certified helicopter divers, thereby putting close to 100 lives at risk, despite instructions from the Ministry of National Security through its line minister Edmund Dillon, who at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing stated that the SSA was to provide safety service needed for the race.
Marshall, in the midst of his celebration, said he had to reflect on the possibility of something going wrong yesterday, asking, “How many people would have lost their lives due to no air safety service, had something gone wrong. I am just grateful that the boats just broke down and it wasn’t anything more serious.”
Marshall, the cousin of former T&T Powerboat Association president Garth Marshall, who died last year, rubbished claims by the SSA that paperwork was not done in time, as he told Guardian Media Sports that safety is the one thing his association takes care of first. “Imagine with no air safety in the back of our heads, we still had to be doing well over 90 miles per hour under rough conditions at sea yesterday. It brought back memories of the fatal accident by Mr Solo many years ago,” Marshall said.
Marshall dedicated the victory to his cousin who he described as a real stalwart of the sport. He said apart from safety concerns, his crew had decided not to participate in the event after experiencing electrical problems before the start. It followed other problems for the past week in which an engine blew out on Wednesday and they found a rope tied up in their throttle on Tuesday. “We had given up, because for the past few years it seemed to have been problems after problems. But once we sorted out the electrical problem yesterday, we decided that we were going for it” he explained.
The boat, in spite of the modifications that led to the name change from Mr Solo to Mr Solo Too, had not won the Great Race for the past eight years. “We broke down last year, so winning this year was a great feeling for us,” Marshall said. With last year’s winner Paramount out of the race, Mr Solo had been favoured to win despite the challenges of A-Class participants Iron Man and newcomer Cat Killer, and they did not disappoint.
Iron Man secured the runner-up position in one hour and 17 minutes, while Cat Killer was three minutes behind in third in one hour and 20 minutes. Big Thunder, the other boat in the A- Class, did not finish.
Meanwhile there was no winner in the D-Class which featured Sheriff Lobo, Bachannal and Ultra Rush, as none finished the race. In the E-Class however White Heat cruised past the finish line in a time of one hour, 53 minutes and 01 second, with Blue Ice in second in 2:31.20, being the only two boats from a field of six to reach the sister isle.
A Class: 1- Mr Solo Too (1:12,35), 2- Gulf Iron Man (1:17.00), 3- 1:20.00)
E Class: 1- White Heat (1:53.01), 2- Blue Ice (2:31.20)
F Class: 1- Fire Chief (1:45.22), 2- Chris Gone Wild (1:59.58)
G Class: 1- Limitless (1:39.10), 2- Trident (1:59.01), 3- P. P Conqueror (2:00.53)