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By Eric Heinz

Units of Special Forces will put their skills to the test in the inaugural Marine Raider Boat Challenge on Sunday, July 22, at Ocean Festival.

Amphibious crafts will be used in the races similar to the Dory boats and other competitions. The boats are inflated rafts and competitors will have to paddle—no motors are involved.

The event was created by Prime Hall, a former Marine Raider who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hall put on the Marine Raider Challenge in February and is the founder of the Underwater Torpedo League.

Photo: Courtesy of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Photo: Courtesy of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

“I first reached out to Barrett Tester, Ocean Festival’s official referee and event analyst, about a year and a half ago, and he was super stoked when I came back with my draft permit, but I needed someone to run my beach operations, and he stepped up to do it,” Hall said. “They really wanted us to build out a military-themed event because there had never been one at Ocean Festival.”

There will be three Marine Raider races on Sunday at 11:40 a.m., 2 and 2:20 p.m. near the San Clemente Pier.

The boats are typically used to transport special operations forces. The first major usage of the vessels was in World War II when the Marine Raiders, USMC Special Forces, inserted them by submarines to each island-hopping campaign in the Pacific Theater.
“These dudes come out, inflate the boats and put the deck plates in and throw their gear in, and it’s quick,” Hall said.

According to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, using amphibious crafts proved vital toward the end of World War II.

“(President Theodore) Roosevelt wanted the Corps to form commando units,” according to an insert from the museum’s website. “The Joint Chiefs of Staff ended the debate by committing the Corps to the Pacific as amphibious assault troops. The Marines welcomed the mission but worried about attaining the means to accomplish it.”

Eight teams of six competitors comprised of active and former Marine Raiders, Navy SEALS, Army Special Forces and reconnaissance teams will compete. The route goes straight out about half the length of the Pier and then around a series of buoys before returning to land at the finish line. The twist is once the boats are behind the buoys, the teams must flip the raft over and then reestablish it before moving on toward the finish.

Only two boats will compete against one another in each race in a head-to-head competition. Each team will get three races, and the top two teams will battle it out and the bottom teams will race as well.
Each team will raise money for their special operations charities of their choice. To see the various charities to donate to, visit www.facebook.com/marineraiderchallenge/.

One such charity is the World War II Marine Raider reunion, which takes place the same weekend as Ocean Festival.
There is also a rescue demonstration tentatively planned for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. San Clemente Marine Safety will partner with Air Force Reserves to put on the demonstration.

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