After a foggy and breezeless beginning to the day, things were just starting to come together for the GBCA and Houston Kiteboarding RIB Regatta. It was Saturday morning (March 22), the marks were set for the first course and the wind was finally blowing over 10 mph. The breeze had just shifted to the south when both spectators and competitors started to smell something in the air. Teams on the rescue and race committee boats were checking their engines to see if there was a problem with the boats. People on a spectator boat texted the race committee and said they were seeing oil on the water just to the south of the race course.Within moments, word came that the adjacent Texas City Dike was shut down and people were being asked to leave. Competitors grabbed their gear and headed into the water hoping for at least one race, but the Police showed up informing the race committee that a barge and tanker had collided in the Houston Ship Channel and there was oil leaking into the bay. Everything had to be packed up and all individuals had to evacuate the levee.
According to Phil Midler, owner of Houston Kiteboarding, “It is a rocky start to our summer season, but we’re already planning to have a makeup day for the GBCA Rib Regatta Race in the near future as well as Houston Kiteboarding’s annual 30-mile Galveston Island down-wind ride.” According to new reports, the barge is estimated to have spilled nearly 170,000 gallons of tar-like oil into the Houston Ship Channel, closing one of the nation’s busiest seaports for several days. While investigators will likely look at the role fog may have played as well as the various speeds of the vessels involved, and the cleanup will continue, it seems the local kiteboarding community is already back in the water. “Everything is now opened and there was luckily no oil at our riding spot although there was a bit in Galveston. There seems to be hope that our local riding conditions won’t be affected,” says Phil Midler.
Although there is no set date for the regatta, for more information checkout www.gbca.org and click on the link for the 2014 RIB Regatta.