Jet ski speed record falls at river regatta

Uva Perez spent four years chasing history to set his first world record. He only had to wait three months to make history again.

Uva Perez came to the Bradenton Area River Regatta already holding the distinction as the fastest personal watercraft rider in the world. Last November, he was clocked at 114.6 mph for the world record. It didn’t make the 118 mph he put up Saturday on the Manatee River any less exciting.

“There’s a lot of people who want to break that record,” Perez said, “so I wanted to set it pretty high.”

Perez was advertised as one of the Bradenton River Regatta’s many on-water attractions during the third year of the event, even though his billing fell behind most of the other competitive events.

There’s an element of chance to breaking the personal watercraft — more commonly referred to as Jet Skis — speed record and the conditions collided perfectly for Perez in Bradenton. The water was smooth and a chance of watercraft — Perez has switched off to a Yamaha FZR this year — let him open the year with his best run yet.

“It’s faster than the other one,” Perez said, “and more reliable.”

Perez has been dedicating himself to record hunting for about eight years now. Before that, the Cuban was a racer, competing on courses with other riders. An injury, though, scared him off. A competitor bumped him from behind, pinning his leg between the two watercrafts. Nothing was broken, but the scare and the swelling were enough to chase him to a less risky form of watercraft competition.

Now Perez runs a personal watercraft shop, U Jet Ski Service, in Miami with his two sons. He can still chase the thrill of speed and feed his adrenaline fix by record-hunting, even if doesn’t get to duke it out on the course like he used to.

“Just go fast and straight ahead,” Perez said. “For me, it’s better.”

David Wilson: 941-745-7057, @DBWilson2