Stephanie Llanos

HISTORY BECKONS: Stephanie Llanos will be throttleman for driver Jason Costa aboard Heat Wave in Saturday’s Great Race, a rare occurence in a male-dominated sport.

Powerboat racing fans can expect an exciting race this year when the 52nd edition of the annual Trinidad and Tobago Great Race is run off on Saturday. Twenty-nine boats in six different race classes will contest the event, launching off from William’s Bay in Chaguaramas at 7 a.m.

The Great Race is hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Power Boat Asso­ciation (TTPBA) and sponsored by bmobile. Ian Galt, Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago’s (TSTT) general manager for Enterprise Services, commended the TTPBA for hosting the world’s longest-running, offshore powerboat race for yet another year, and extended his best wishes to all the teams for a safe and successful Great Race.

“We are proud to be the techno­logy partner for the Great Race for a second year, and will continue to support the sustainable development of our national sports,” Galt said.

Sheldon Edghill, the TTPBA secretary, noted this year’s event will be different because of the Covid-19 restrictions. The race will be streamed live on the TTPBA and bmobile Facebook pages. Over 100,000 persons worldwide watched the live stream last year, and the viewership is expected to be even larger this year because of the cancellation of many powerboat events, all affected by the coronavirus.

“We will miss the crowds cheering us on at the start and at the end, but with the live streaming, we know they will be cheering us on from the safety of their homes this year,” said Edghill, who thanked bmobile for being the event’s technology partner for a second consecutive year.

“Bmobile is assisting with the live streaming of the event, as well as with the GPS tracking of the boats,” Edghill explained. “Because of bmobile’s spon­sorship, race fans can stay home and watch the race.”

Edghill has been racing for 14 years overall and for ten years as dri­ver for the Energizer boat in the 95 mph class. Energizer placed first in its category last year.

“Unfortunately, we will not have many of the bigger boats because they are really expensive to run,” Edghill said, adding, “However, Mr Solo will be gunning for his 19th win this year, and there will be a few newcomers in his 130 mph class who will be trying to defeat him.”

Mixed team makes waves

This year will also feature a mixed team, which is unusual because powerboat racing is a male-dominated sport. Jason Costa and Stephanie Llanos are hoping to capture first place in the 80 mph class with their boat, Heat Wave. The couple, who are engaged, will be racing together for the first time, with Llanos making her entry into the sport as the driver and Costa, with seven years’ experience racing Heat Wave, as the throttle man.

Heat Wave came first in its class last year and second the year before.

Costa explained that Heat Wave’s usual driver opted to race with another team this year. He then asked Llanos and she said yes. When asked why she decided to race this year, Llanos shared that she grew up around mechanics, so she was very comfortable and knowledgeable about engines. She also became familiar with boats because of her relationship with Costa.

“The desire to compete in the Great Race was growing, so I am very excited that an opportunity opened up for me this year. I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.

Costa also noted the Great Race is an endurance event. “It’s a very long race at 100 miles. A lot can happen and many boats break down. Sometimes, it’s relatively calm and it’s an easy run to Tobago. Other times, the water is really rough, we get banged up and it takes a toll on the body. We are hoping for nice weather with calmer waters, which also results in a faster race. Look out for us in the top three!”

Fans and newcomers alike need simply to log on to the TTPBA and bmobile Facebook pages at 7 a.m. on Saturday to catch all the excitement and drama of Great Race 2020.

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