Although a number of records were broken during the Catalina Ski Race this summer in Southern California, the biggest “smashes” came from one skier: Todd Haig.
Not only did Haig set a new time of 46 minutes, 36 seconds for the 62-mile course—breaking the record he set in last year’s event by more than three minutes—he took the overall win for the 12th time. That also makes Haig the most prolific winner in the dash from Long Beach, Calif., to Avalon Harbor on Catalina Island and back. The prior record of 11 wins was held by high-speed water-ski racing legend Chuck Stearns.
This year’s race also saw the closest finish in the event’s 66-year history. Haig, a United States-based competitor, finished just seven-tenths of a second ahead of reigning water-ski champion Wayne Mawer of Australia. The average speed for the two skiers was slightly less than 80 mph.
Mike Avila pulled Mawer with his 47-foot Fountain with triple big-block supercharged engines. Haig was towed by Randy Davis in a 47-foot Nordic/Cyclone with a pair of Mercury Racing 1350s engines.
"I knew it was going to be a close race, but just not this close,” said Haig. “Wayne is a super tough competitor and always tough to beat. Team Nordic is awesome; Randy, Dennis and Steve are amazing. I would have never been able to surpass Chuck's Catalina record without them."
A legend in not just the Catalina race but in the sport itself, Stearns appreciated Haig’s efforts.
"I'm kind of glad that Todd broke my record,” said Stearns. “That's what sports are all about -- winning, records, and somebody shooting to become the new record holder.
"I can't believe how fast the skiers are going today,” he continued. “When I was skiing Catalina it was a question of when the one-hour barrier was going to be broken. Today, you've got a dozen or more skiers completing the course in less than an hour."