Is the Buckeye Buoy Tour the future of amateur waterski competitions? The skiers in Ohio think so. Every month or two someone starts a new thread right here on Ball of Spray asking questions like, "How can we grow our sport?" and "How do we put fun and competition back into class C tournaments?", well entering it's 4th year, the Buckeye Buoy Tour seems to be answering those questions. The Concept The Buckeye Buoy Tour was created with a few goals in mind. 1) Bring more FUN into local class C tournaments both during and after the event; 2) Create COMPETITION among all participants; and 3) Give novice and non-tournament skiers an environment where they feel comfortable participating and getting involved. With these goals we created a basic outline for all Buckeye Buoy Tour events. - A "Fun Format" Slalom tournament where skiers will be competing against each other based on handicaps. - All skiers will be guaranteed two rounds of slalom with the option to qualify for more. - All Tour Stops will include Trick & Jump on Sunday (site permitting) with a new head-to-head format in each event. - All Tour Stops will have announcers. - All Tour Stops will serve lunch or provide concessions. - All Tour Stops will have Individual Awards for the winners. - All Tour Stops will include coaches in the boat for beginner skiers - All Tour Stops will utilize the new Ohio Novice Rule with Mini-Course - All Tour Stops will have online registration Implementation To implement these ideas, the Buckeye Buoy Tour was created with 5 Tour Stops each season. Lakes from around the state put in bids to host the events and the bids are then presented and voted on at the winter meeting. Any club who did not host a tour stop in the previous season is guaranteed their bid. This ensures that the locations are changing from year to year to keep the tour fresh. In addition to changing tour stop locations, the formats also change from year to year. Ohio has approximately a dozen different tournament formats that are all based on the same handicapping system and range from different types of head-to-heads to team tournaments to other elimination style formats. The System The question everyone wants to know is, "How do you handicap skiers to make a skier at 38 off compete with someone at 26 mph?", the secret is in THE FORMAT. The truth is, if you're skiing against "your average" then a 26 mph skier has a great advantage over a 38 off skier because the 26 mph skier is much more likely to ski beyond their average. The trick to overcome this issue is seeding the running order and grouping skiers based on average buoy count. Let's use our "Top Cat" format as an example. The running order is seeded based on buoy count ranging from 1 buoy up through 100 buoys. The running order is then split into 3 even groups which roughly groups novice, intermediate, and shortline skiers together in their own groups of approximately 15 skiers each. After 2 rounds of skiing, the Top 5 skiers from each group (based on how they skied against their average) advance to a 15 skier Finals where the final 15 compete in a 3rd round of skiing to be crowned the Top Cat Champion. What's important, is that during the first two rounds, any score beyond a skiers average becomes their new average for later rounds. So if a novice skier had an average of 36 buoys and they run 42 buoys, then 42 becomes their new average for later rounds. This is important because this is what levels the playing field for the finals on that given day. Grouping the running order based on seeding also has other advantages because you can make sure you have a "coach" in the boat for the novice skiers and you can make sure that you have the most capable driver available pulling the shortline skiers. The Results The results have been great. Skiers from all ability levels have won both individual tour stops and the overall tour. We're averaging between 40 to 60 skiers for every tour stop, State Championship participation is up, overall OWSA membership is way up, and there is a lot of buzz and excitement from skiers at the events. Ultimately the biggest issue we face is how to accomodate more and more skiers. The little things such as having an announcer, providing lunch, giving out awards, and having social events afterwards all add up to a great environment and a great day at the lake. For additional information on the Buckeye Buoy Tour and more details on its many fun formats, visit the Buckeye Buoy Tour webpage at www.skiowsa.com.