Sonny Samuelson would be proud (with video!)
The annual Sonny Samuelson bobsled races were as wildly popular as ever, despite the lack of Rick Mercer’s participation this year, with hundreds lining Spokane Street from top to bottom to witness 24 teams plummet downhill in unlikely clunkers.
City workers volunteered time at 4 a.m. the morning of the race, choosing the coldest time of night to spray the street with 1,000 gallons of water to make the course as fast as possible despite the unseasonable warm weather.
Liquid Courage took the day with a top speed of 73 km/h and a combined time of just over 74 seconds. Last year’s icy course was won by SS Instigator with a top speed of 85 km/h, but they finished fifth this year.
“They’ve been the dynasty for the last four years,” exclaimed the stunned Winter Carnival organizer, Kelly Acheson. “They’ve got a machine with stuff that’s top secret. Nobody’s allowed to see their sled. But they’re a cold weather team.”
Liquid Courage’s winning runs can be experienced on YouTube. Dial in “Rossland bobsled 2011” to watch the footage from two different helmet cams. A front view of the team's second run is featured above.
The sled was built by Travis Drake and friends when he was a student at RSS. Last year was his first year with a new crew — Scott Urquhart, Alastair Berglund, and Luke Russell — and they won third. Now Drake is a ski tech at Gerrick’s and he credits the sled’s old Fischers and the right wax for his team’s win.
“We had the ugliest sled on the course,” Drake said, raising a highly debatable point, “but it was all in the skis that we won.”
Other sleds run on “plastic coated pipes which are better on ice. It’s about knowing your conditions.”
Almost tied for second with combined times just over 79 seconds and top speeds of 70 km/h were the historic (if humble) Old and Blue — run by Darrin Albo, Jason Ward, Dave Thoss, and Darren Pastro — and the sleek and green Whalebacker — run by Mike Williams, his brother Darren, Steven Robinson, and Craig Clare.
The Whalebackers edged Old and Blue into third place with a clocked speed in the second run that was 3 km/h faster.
“Its one of the highlights of my life for sure,” said Mike Williams who, along with the rest of the team were born and raised in Rossland, though now all but Darren live in Trail. “We’ve all done it various times before, but since we had kids we’ve stayed away from such risky stuff. But this year we just decided we’d go for it!”
“It’s great. We were a little nervous — the speed and because we are older,” he laughed, “but when you come over that arena hill it’s quite a thrill.”
Other notable contestants include last year’s last-place team, the Warfield Fire Department, who this year placed 19th.
“They were inside out with glee over how much they had improved over previous years,” said Acheson, the Winter Carnival organizer.
This year’s last-place team was Bobbi’s Bus, a close-knit family affair with Parry Lafonde, Trinda Ross, and Lorilie Jones led by matriarch Bobbi Lafonde.
With a clocked time of 46 km/h both times, “they win the consistency award,” Acheson said.
“They’re awesome sports, they come out every year.”