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Rain-swollen rivers hold risks for personal watercraft racers at regatta

Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review - Teams participating in the PITT Sailing Club Invitational set sail from the North Shore on July 3, 2014. The intercollegiate sailing regatta, the first ever held in Pittsburgh, featured teams from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Akron.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review</em></div>Teams participating in the PITT Sailing Club Invitational set sail from the North Shore on July 3, 2014. The intercollegiate sailing regatta, the first ever held in Pittsburgh, featured teams from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Akron.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review - Jessica Bailey, a senior at the University of Akron, prepares to set sail from the North Shore during the PITT Sailing Club Invitational on July 3, 2014. The intercollegiate sailing regatta, the first ever held in Pittsburgh, featured teams from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Akron.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review</em></div>Jessica Bailey, a senior at the University of Akron, prepares to set sail from the North Shore during the PITT Sailing Club Invitational on July 3, 2014. The intercollegiate sailing regatta, the first ever held in Pittsburgh, featured teams from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Akron.

Park rules

Officials said regatta attendees must follow these guidelines and restrictions at Point State Park:

• No fireworks, alcohol, in-line skates or skateboards.

• The park's fountain and reflecting pool are decorative pools. Swimming and wading are not permitted in either water feature.

• Bicyclists should walk, not ride, bikes through the park.

• Domestic or service animals must be in control and on a leash.

• Security checkpoints will be set up at entrances to the event to ensure compliance with park rules.

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By Megan Henney
Thursday, July 3, 2014, 10:18 p.m.
 

Despite traveling high speeds on a rain-swollen river with possible risks from branches and other debris, several personal watercraft race competitors in the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta on Thursday said they were not concerned about conditions from recent stormy weather.

“It's a little breezy, but no matter what it is, if it's rain or shine, six-foot waves or flat, we'll race as long as there's no lightning or thunder,” said Victor Nolan, 29, of Baltimore.

Nolan has been riding watercrafts since he was 21. He has been injured twice during his career. He once broke some ribs and, another time, separated his collarbone from the shoulder blade.

“Those were pretty bad injuries,” Nolan said. “But as the competition gets more intense and the speed gets higher, there's an increase in danger.”

He said he continues racing because of a love for the sport.

“It's a passion you need more than anything in order to keep racing,” Nolan said.

Mike Young, announcer for the race, said he was concerned about the Allegheny River being higher and swifter than normal because rising currents could move the buoys used to direct the racers.

“It gets dangerous, that's all,” he said.

To be sure there would be no issues with the buoys during the hourlong race, Young said, they were testing some in the river. Other than that, he said the race would be “easy peasy.”

“To me, that's the first thing,” he said. “Safety is always our first key, especially after doing this for so long.”

Jay Edworthy, 40, of Cambridge, Ontario, started riding watercraft in 1989. He began racing in 1998. He said he once broke his arm because he was thrown from a watercraft.

“It's not the safest sport in the world,” he said. “There have been fatalities; there have been people who have been really hurt.”

And there have been a lot of events and races in which there are no injuries or issues, Nolan said.

“You can find the bad in anything,” he said. “I try to find the positive.”

Megan Henney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7987 or mhenney@tribweb.com.

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