Old Man River Returns for Redemption By Craig Rutschow In 2014, MnUSA member Craig Rutschow of Red Wing wrote about his first experience participating in a watercross event where he ended his only pass neck-deep in water. He finished the story saying, “This would not be the last they would see of us.” Indeed, he returned for the 2014 World Championship Snowmobile Watercross in Grantsburg, Wis., with a new strategy he calls “Rent-a-Race.” My first attempt at water skipping in the 2013 World Championships at Grantsburg was hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime fail. Realizing in retrospect that I had brought a knife to a gun fight, I gave considerable thought at how I might improve my chances at success. Enter…. Rent-A-Race. I decided to pay cash to an accomplished skipper to try to get me across that pond on a real race machine, set up by a real race team. Bobby Penders of Arctic Cat-backed BP Motorsports decided to take me on. “Show up two hours before launch with your own gear and the cash and we will get you across Memory Lake,” he said. Along with my wife, Barb, and my son/staging man, Clayton, I showed up as instructed along with some panhandled Wilson Oil rocket fuel (thanks Mike). We were ready, and so was the all-pro Penders Team. Team ace Rachel O’Brian took me under her wing and gave me the run down on my pterodactyl-looking machine, which was her former ride. It was a jacked and racked 800 Arctic Cat complete with pink C&A Pro Skis. Bobby eyeballed me a bit and asked me some questions, and had his pit master Josh Smith tweak a few things to my size. With a confidence-building smile, Bobby stepped back and beamed. “There! You pin that thing and hang on…and she will get you across,” he said. The fact that I had nearly two times the horsepower of my old MX 440 of last year was a real boost. Out of the hole in the first race, I felt like the chute opened on an 8-second bull ride. Heat 1 was a baptism as I was roosted by everyone. But I made it over, coming into shore for the first time ever, yahooing like the hillbilly on a can of Mountain Dew. In my excitement, I overshot the landing and speared the hay bales. Rachel to the rescue. After winning her heat, she jumped off and helped me get pointed back to the pits: via the lake, again. Many sinkings happened on that return trip, but I made it. The team said I was getting the hang of it. Heat 2 was more of the same. Over and back. Heat 3 turned out to be the rodeo. I started in the second row, and the big kid to my right got the jump but lost control early and cut in front of me. “Crap,” I moan as I get off the gas and veer right. Big waves! Hang in there…don’t sink it on the last run. I hit the gas and the ole Cat recovered royally. I planed up and out and made the third successful crossing, much to the relief of Team Penders. I could feel the team groan as I got a swampy start on the final return to the pits. I heard the announcer called for the retriever as I started the sink. Then, a miracle save. I started to rock the sled side to side and kept the gas on. It planed back out and I skipped back to the outstretched arms of my new best friends at Team Penders. I swear I heard the song from “The Natural.” Just like the movie, Bobby had picked aging Roy Hobbs a winner. We had done it. Old Man River went from O-1 sunk in 2013 to a clean sweep high and dry 6-0 in 2014. Thanks to Arctic Cat, BP Motorsports and a guardian angel, I was finally on cloud 9 at the end of the day instead of the retriever. To all you slednecks out there, a successful water skip is a true rush. Plus, the experience could help you survive an accidental brush with open water someday. It teaches you that sometimes the only way to not die is to grab the gas and fly. I may try it again, but for now I will leave it to the pros, and I will smile a while…a long while. Summer Action Guide MnUSA Summer Campout July 10-12 in Ottertail mnsnowmobiler.org This year’s annual MnUSA Summer Campout will take place at Thumper Pond, a fun resort in Ottertail. This campout is planned and executed by clubs in MnUSA Region 9 in west-central Minnesota. Registration ($50 for adults; $20 for youth 11-15; $10 for children 10 and younger) includes drinks, evening meals, games and prizes. The weekend will also include a MnUSA board and general meeting on Saturday morning. This is the event where MnUSA members take their helmets off and have some fun in the sun. >> Summer 2015 17