Bridge to Bridge organisers respond to Lower Clarence 'snub'
THERE was no snub to the Lower Clarence in the decision to change the format of this year's Bridge to Bridge Ski Classic, says race organiser Mark Stephenson.
Mr Stephenson, who is the head of the six-strong committee behind the annual event that brings ski racing teams to Grafton each October Long Weekend, was responding to criticism the new format was symptomatic of the division between Grafton and the lower river towns.
The year's Bridge to Bridge Ski Classic, held at the weekend, was the first time the race was run over two laps on a course between Grafton and Brushgrove.
Mr Stephenson said the committee made the decision to change the format with a heavy heart.
"We're a stickler for traditions," he said.
"The Grafton to Harwood format has been what the race is about for 40 years. There was no malice in it. In reality, if we hadn't run it over the short course this year, it might not have happened at all."
Mr Stephenson said there was no thought of a division between Grafton and the Lower River.
"I own a business down river, I wouldn't do anything to keep that division going," he said.
"It was more proof that we are a small committee and didn't have the people to set up the course, and safety boats and all the things you need to do."
He said the committee would take on board the willingness from Maclean Chamber of Commerce to help in the future.
"That was good to see that the Chamber was willing to help out," he said. "We will have a meeting to discuss what happened this year and the feedback we're getting.
Mr Stephenson said unfortunately some of that feedback was online trolling, which he didn't appreciate.
"We're more than happy to hear constructive comments, but if it's just trolling, we'll ignore it."
He said the committee was disappointed with some of the comments from people down river.
"They said we'd had meetings and talked about press releases," he said. "None of that happened.
"We didn't have any contact with any of the people who commented in the paper."
Mr Stephenson admitted the committee could have done more to notify people outside the region.
"Once again it comes back to us being a small committee," he said. "We'd put the story out in The Daily Examiner, so we thought we had the story out there. We didn't think about what Tourism NSW or Destination NSW had on their websites."
Mr Stephenson said the new format was an improvement for the race but it could go back to its previous format as soon as next year.
"We didn't hear a complaint from people over the weekend," he said. "The most common thing we heard was how much they liked the racing on the shorter course and from spectators, how good it was to see more of the action."
But he said the race could go back to its old format as soon as next year.
"Especially if the people who are now offering their support follow through, there is every chance we would revert to the Grafton-Harwood course," he said.