Ron Kornsee of Bowser unleashes “the waterfall” after breaking a water balloon near the finish line of the annual Indy 211 lawnmower races at Bowser Legion Branch 211 Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. — J.R. Rardon photo

Bowser race is a cut above

Legion branch 211 hosts 25th lawnmower races

If Bowser’s Bev Kornsee appeared a bit shaky behind the wheel at times Sunday, don’t worry. She’s a responsible lawnmower.

“I didn’t drink and drive,” Kornsee said while heading for the beer garden following her heat in the Bowser Legion’s annual Indy 211 lawnmower races Sunday, Aug. 20. “Now I can have one.”

The almost-annual event — this was the 25th running since its inception in 1992 — drew 25 entries and was watched by more than 100 spectators who lined the field behind the Bowser Legion Branch 211 hall.

“We used to have two guys who cut the grass back here,” said Mary Robertson, president of the Legion branch. “One day they decided to see who could do it faster, and the Indy 211 was born.”

The “race” does not pit multiple mowers head-to-head. Each competitor navigates a timed obstacle course, with penalties added to the time for running into or knocking over drums, pylons and other obstacles. The course requirements include flinging a trio of YardDarts into a hula hoop on the fly, backing into a narrow space using only a hand-held mirror, navigating a pair of slalom features, pushing a giant ball roughly 15 metres and between a pair of “goalposts,” and the grand finale — the “waterfall” feature consisting of a water balloon suspended from a frame that the rider must break overhead.

All of Sunday’s entrants shared two available mowers, with the cutting decks removed, one of them belonging to the Legion. But in its heyday, Robertson said, the Indy 211 drew as many as 25 different mowers.

“It was fun,” said John Ramsay, who traveled from Victoria to take part. “I’d do it again, for sure.”

The men’s and women’s victories went to the husband-and-wife duo of Todd and Kate Gilbert, said Robertson. David Gitterman was the first youth finisher. The fastest three finishers in each division earned small keeper trophies. Todd Gilbert will have his name engraved on the permanent Indy 211 trophy, made of an old-fashioned push-mower blade stood on end to support a platform with a toy model of a riding lawnmower on top.

The racing was followed by a dinner and silent auction, to raise money for Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs, said Robertson.

“It’s a bunch of good fun,” said Ron Kornsee, Bev’s husband, after his third Indy 211. “And if you do well enough you might get a trophy.”

Kornsee earned a runner-up award a couple of years ago, he said. On Sunday, Bev matched him with a second-place showing in the women’s division.

Bev admitted her skills have improved with repetition in the event. She pointed to a flexible, hurricane-style fence erected behind the “mirror reverse” obstacle, and took responsibility for its installation.

“Last year, they had a wooden fence there, and I drove right over it,” she said. “So I’d say this time went pretty well.”

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Bev Kornsee of Bowser loses the handle on her stick after breaking the water balloon in the “waterfall” feature near the finish line of the annual Bowser Legion Indy 211 lawnmower races in Bowser Sunday, Aug. 21, 2017. — J.R. Rardon photo