Snowmobile drivers take the plunge
By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford/Union - posted Fri., Jul. 8, 2011
What event happens twice each summer, combines snowmobiles with personal flotation devices, is held outdoors - but not canceled when it rains - can involve diving and is a real spectacle sport, complete with spectators?
It is the Nipmuck Trail Riders Snowmobile Club's Water Skip, held on the property of Martin Michalec in Union. Michalec, who is one of the original founders of the snowmobile club, hosts the event each year on the first Sunday of both July and August.
The July 3 water skip was favored by warm summer temperatures, and bouts of rain did not deter the many visitors who lined the shores of the small pond.
The water skip is primarily a recreational and fun event for club members, but also functions as a fundraiser through the sale of food during the competition. From parking cars to running the start line, snowmobile club members - who are required to donate volunteer hours to the club each year - help with the day-long functions.
Kevin Hunter, of Cheshire, the current national water skip champion, kept activities rolling.
“We basically do it just to run for fun. No trophies, no prizes. Everybody comes and has a good time,” said Hunter, who explained that the machines are adapted to run on water. Their engines are sealed to protect them from water, and to protect the water from engine oil and fuel.
The racers make a donation to participate in the water skip. Those funds are used “to help maintain the retriever boats and the motors and keep everything running,” said Hunter.
The water skip activities are a sight to see, featuring modified snowmobiles and drivers decked out in swim vests and helmets, as they compete in four-lap “oval” races around the pond's island, perform figure-eights, take recreational laps and launch from the water jump. Watching the snowmobile drivers dive for their sunken machines and be pulled from the water by a modified “floating wrecker” provides its own form of entertainment.
“It all looks so easy,” said Michalec, who said it takes lots of practice and good balance to keep the snowmobile afloat.
The next water skip is scheduled for Aug. 7 and begins at 9 a.m.
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