Dunkirk Hosts First Great Lakes Offshore Grand Prix

Boats and a plane pictured during the first-ever Great Lakes Offshore Grand Prix in Dunkirk. “We wanted to showcase our waterfront,” said Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas. “We knew that would not be having an air show this year, so we wanted to have some type of a boat race. Photo by Joe Conti

DUNKIRK — Thousands were wowed at the Dunkirk lakeside Sunday afternoon by the power of the race boats of the first-ever Great Lakes Offshore Grand Prix.

Three heats entertained spectators, who lined up a dozen deep at the end of the pier and also thronged the shoreline from the lighthouse on Point Gratiot to Wright Park. Race fans on boats lined the horizon, just beyond the course boundaries. Mostly cloudy weather, not too warm and with a slight breeze, made for a perfect day next to the water.

The first and third heats of the Race World Offshore league competition were from the Supercat series, while the second featured slightly smaller and slower ProStock boats. “Slower” is relative: The vessel that won the second race, CR Racing’s S-8, reached 94 miles per hour at one point. All of the craft roared on the water with loud engines that could be heard throughout much of Dunkirk, and sounded exactly like their land-based race car cousins.

The opening race started off with a tough break. The Cleveland Construction boat, No. 4, led the first few laps handily but had to pull out with an apparent engine problem, to sympathetic cheers from the pier crowd. The No. 1 boat from Perf Boat Center took the lead and held it to grab the checkered flag. The Pro Floors Racing ship, crewed by New Zealanders and numbered NZ-1, worked its way up to third place and WHM Motorsports (No. 5) barely held it off for second.

The CR Racing S-8 led from start to finish in the second race. The main excitement in that race was when the No. S-1 boat ran over a temporary pier floating as a lane marker in the gap between the power plant and the outer breakwall. There was a loud crack and the crowd gasped, but no apparent damage was done to the boat. A caution flag flew from an official’s boat for a couple laps as a replacement buoy was put in place.

Photo by Joe Conti

The Cleveland Construction crew made frantic repairs to its boat to get it ready for the third and final race, but the boat fell off the pace earlier and again withdrew. It wound up dominated by the Pro Floors NZ-1, which had looked stronger as the first race went on and rode that upward trend in the third heat all the way to the checkered flag.

Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas and others pushed for this event after the announcement that last summer’s air show along the waterfront would not be coming back in 2018.

“We wanted to showcase our waterfront,” he said. “We knew that would not be having an air show this year, so we wanted to have some type of a boat race. We contacted these folks at Race World Offshore and they came out, took a look at the venue, and they fell in love with it.

“The hard part was going out and soliciting funding to bring this event here. It cost over $100,000 to bring it,” he continued. “Donations from corporations and businesses… I’m thankful to all of the sponsors because obviously without them, we couldn’t have brought this event here.”

Rosas said the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Dunkirk Police Department, New York State Police and volunteer fire departments from throughout the county assisted with the event.

“I think it’s a special day, and special weekend, for the city of Dunkirk, and I’m hoping we can bring this event here again next year,” the mayor said.