Coast Guard again denies boat race permit

Newsday, August 25, 2011

Two boats go head-to-head during the 2009 Battle

Photo credit: | Two boats go head-to-head during the 2009 Battle on the Bay in Patchogue.


The Coast Guard, citing lingering safety concerns, announced Thursday that it will not issue a marine permit for the Battle on the Bay, the annual powerboat race scheduled for Sunday at noon on Great South Bay.

Soon after, race organizers said they would stage the event next year. They also announced that a scheduled fireworks show and party Saturday in Patchogue, part of the race’s land events, were being canceled because of Hurricane Irene’s approaching danger.

Kevin Harrigan, race coordinator of Great South Bay Racing, which runs the event, said organizers had been thinking about canceling the race after learning about the hurricane.

“We didn’t want to see anyone go out on the water and be in harm’s way,” he said.

A display of the boats in downtown Sayville Friday from 3-10 p.m., however, is still on, weather permitting, Harrigan said.

The Coast Guard announcement, made by Cmdr. Amy Beach of the agency’s Long Island Sound sector, amounted to a final blow in what was an embattled year for organizers of the race, which experienced the deaths of two racers in 2008.

“It’s the same issues as what had been identified before, of not really being able to detail the assets that will be available to ensure adequate safety of participants and spectators,” Beach said.

Citing a lack of emergency planning, the Coast Guard announced last weekend that it wouldn’t issue a permit. Beach said then the organizers’ plan had “question marks” and local emergency agencies included in the safety plan expressed concern about “the roles and responsibilities that are being assigned to them.”

Louis Giancontieri, president of Great South Bay Racing, said organizers worked earlier this week to revise and complete paperwork and fill in required details. Beach said the revised plan was received Wednesday evening.

“From my point of view we are done and moving on,” Beach said.

In 2008, its second year, the race was marred when a high-speed catamaran flipped, killing two racers onboard.

Organizers of the Battle on the Bay have dealt with several hurdles planning this year’s event. Last month, the Town of Islip nixed plans to move activities surrounding the race from Patchogue to Sayville. The refusal meant spectators would not be allowed to watch the race from Sayville and organizers could not use the East Islip Marina, Harrigan said.

Despite this year’s challenges, Harrigan said organizers plan to host the event next year and will make a decision about where land events will be held by January. “We will definitely be doing the race next year,” he said.