In at least one way, the annual Catalina Ski Race in Southern California is one of the few remaining true offshore races, the kind where boats disappear into the horizon and don’t immediately return to the start-finish line. The 62-mile roundtrip contest leaves Long Beach Harbor, makes a 180-degree sweeping turn outside Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island and then comes back to the massive commercial port. The water between the start and turnaround points can be smooth or rough, but regardless it is an open ocean race that routinely sees average speeds above 80 mph and top speeds in the 95-mph range.
For those who find those speeds unimpressive—today’s offshore fastest raceboats routinely top the 150-mph mark—it’s worth remembering that the boats in the Catalina Ski Race are pulling highly trained, incredibly skilled and moderately crazy athletes behind them. For the skiers and the team in the boat—driver, observer and navigator—it is the Daytona 500 of water-ski racing.
Fresh from a Catalina Ski Race victory, Nordic Boats is rock-solid and has three new models in the works. Photo courtesy/copyright Nordic Boats.
All of which makes skier Todd Haig’s 14th Catalina Ski Race victory earlier this month a significant accomplishment. The 39-year-old did his first Catalina Ski Race when he was 10 years old and won this year’s contest with a time of 50 minutes and 40 seconds. That broke his own record in the Men’s Open division—and he has competed in the event 25-plus times, he estimated.
Haig’s 50-plus-percent winning percentage is more than impressive and puts him squarely in the “Greatest Water-Ski Racer of All Time” discussion.
Equally noteworthy is that driver Randy Davis, the owner of Nordic Boats in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., has pulled Haig to all of those victories in a 43-foot Nordic V-bottom powered by 1,200-hp engines upgraded by Teague Custom Marine in Valencia, Calif.