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Powerboat race canned 2nd year in row

Two boats in CLASS VI, the entry level

Two boats in CLASS VI, the entry level for speed racing, go head to head during the 2009 Battle on the Bay in Patchogue, a series of races for off-shore powerboats in which the boats reach speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. Credit: Sharkey-Images.com

Just when Long Island speedboat racing fans were getting excited about the return of the Battle on the Bay, officials again have grounded the event.

Suffolk County officials last week decided they would not grant permits for the race. It's the second year in a row officials have shut down the popular event, disappointing area race enthusiasts.

"Everyone was very excited and then all of a sudden it was a tremendous letdown," said Bruce Dimpflmaier, a race volunteer.

Last year, the event was canceled when the Coast Guard and Islip Town denied permits, citing "question marks" on safety and other aspects of the organizers' plan. In 2008, the second year the race was held, a high-speed catamaran flipped, killing two aboard.

Organizers with Great South Bay Racing, which puts on the event, had thought they were on track with this year's race, scheduled for Aug. 24-26 in the Atlantic Ocean off Smith Point County Park.

"We'd had approval, which we'd been jumping through hoops to get done," Dimpflmaier said.

But on Monday, county officials "pulled the plug," according to Louis Giancontieri of Brentwood, president of Great South Bay Racing.

The officials said they needed more information. But Giancontieri said it seems that some did not get all updates while others didn't read what was sent.

"We supplied everything they needed," Giancontieri maintained Friday night from Michigan, where he was attending a boat race. "They had no intention of doing this from the beginning. Ultimately, the people who worked on this for a year and addressed every whim that was thrown at us got hurt the most."

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said Great South Bay Racing had so many problems with its plans that several agencies, including police and parks, did not feel "comfortable" granting event permits. The organizers' details kept shifting, including the location, number of days for the event and proposed special features, he said.

"Things just kept changing, and when you're dealing with . . . a race where people have literally died, you get to a point in time where emergency services personnel say things aren't going to work," Schneider said.

Battle on the Bay draws thousands of people and scores of speedboat teams, including some from abroad.

Hank Degamon, of Lake Grove would watch the race on the water from his own boat. "It's a sad thing that it's happened again," he said.

Degamon said officials need to understand that in speedboat racing "accidents will happen. Unfortunately, that's racing."

Dimpflmaier and others said the race would have brought needed revenue to local businesses. But Schneider said it costs the county money to hold the event. At one point, he said organizers planned to hold a boat parade past the Mastic Beach area, which could have brought visitors' cash to downtown, but that idea fizzled.

In an effort to save the race, Giancontieri has requested a meeting with County Executive Steve Bellone.

Schneider called the decision "final," adding, "We're not going to override our emergency experts."

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