JEFFERSON – The no-wake conditions on Lake Hopatcong caused the cancelation of Sunday’s Lake Hopatcong Grand Prix Offshore Powerboat races, the finale of a three-day event, which were scheduled to run later Sunday morning in the Woodport Bay section of the lake. The event, held Mother’s Day weekend last year, is hosted by the Lake Forest Yacht Club.
According to Ray Calogero, commodore at LFYC, an early morning phone call Sunday from a representative at the NJ Department of Environmental Protection overrode both the state police, who issued the initial permit for the event, and Jefferson Township. Both the state police and Jefferson Township mayor Russ Felter felt the race could proceed despite the high water level. The USGA reported the water level at the gage at Hopatcong State Park was at 9.76 feet at 9:30pm Saturday night.
Thirty-six race teams from all across the country were scheduled to run on Sunday, said event organizer Jay Muller, “more entries than at most races,” he added.
“People like the venue,” said a disappointed Muller who felt the race was unfairly cancelled. According to Muller, despite the size, the boats used on the OPA racing circuit ride on top of the water, creating minimal wake.
The Lake Hopatcong Grand Prix has been a controversial event since its inception in 2013. Boat racing was an annual event on Lake Hopatcong many years ago and Muller, who races on the OPA circuit, felt his home lake could again be a great place to host a race. But he said, organizing the first event and this year’s event, he experienced push back from some lakefront property owners and environmentalists. The 2013 race went off without a hitch and was well received by both spectators and racers, said Muller.
Muller said the cancellation this year cost “tens of thousands of dollars” not only for him as the organizer but also for the host venue, Lake Forest Yacht Club, vendors and the race teams.
“Race teams came from California, Florida and Michigan,” said Muller. “Every hotel room in the area was booked.”
“I’m angry,” said Calogero. “This hurts the lake,” he said, adding that spectators especially liked the “arena-type” atmosphere offered at Lake Hopatcong.
“This lake was built on tourism and it’s a shame that some people don’t want to continue the tradition,” said Lake Hopatcong resident Brian DeVries who also felt the event should not have been cancelled.
The race teams and their drivers took the news of the cancellation in stride, having to deal with various weather conditions around the country. High water, though, is not an issue at other venues.
Kevin Smith, owner of the race team Tug It from Baltimore, said he feels bad mostly for Muller. “He busted his butt to put this all together but I understand the concerns of the home owners,” he said referring to the high water level.
“We were really excited to be here for a second year in a row. This event is great revenue for the town, “ Randy “Mad Dog” Schleuss, owner of Typhoon Racing.
“Unfortunately Mother Nature dealt us something that was out of our control,” said the Edison resident.
When asked if he would bring back the Grand Prix in 2015, Muller was adamant.
“There will be no next year for sure. I won’t put my time and effort into this again. The naysayers won this year,” he said.