'Amazing Race' kicks off new season on St. Thomas

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ST. THOMAS - Those were not just the normal disoriented tourists running around St. Thomas on Saturday.

The Virgin Islands was the first stop for this year's season of the "Amazing Race."

Competitors from the 25th season of the CBS show were spotted in pairs on St. Thomas on Saturday seeking help from local St. Thomians in finding the clues. Each clue leads them to the next leg of the race.

The race kicked off in New York City's Times Square early Saturday morning, according to the show's site, and St. Thomas was the first destination.

The show will not air until this fall, according to the Amazing Race website.

Competitors visited, in order, Carval Rock - across from St. John, Hans Lollick, Magens Bay and then ended at Fort Christian.

Many people spotted the participants on the waterfront, across from Vendor's Plaza, waiting for a sea plane to take them to locations around the territory.

"All of the helicopters were flying overhead, and the seaplanes were going and there were cameras everywhere," said David Lean, who has a booth selling silver goods in the plaza. "All of these racers came running towards my booth, asking where the sea planes were, and then other group came running. I asked, 'Are you guys from the Amazing Race or something?'"

Lean said he has never regularly watched the show, though he may watch this season. This year, the show will be airing on a new day and time, 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Fridays.

"I'll watch it and see if I'm on it. Why not?" Lean said.

The cast was seen at various times during the day, Lean said, as they were on the waterfront initially in the morning and then they returned later in the day to complete their time on St. Thomas at the fort, where they were met by a group of women dressed in Carnival-wear.

Most of the companies that assisted the production, including the boat charters and the Caribbean Buzz Helicopters, could not comment on their experience with the show's cast and crew, nor could the V.I. Tourism Department.

"I can only tell you that there was a production," said Luana Wheatley, Tourism Department assistant director of communications. Wheatley said that she could not confirm that the production was the Amazing Race since she had signed a non-disclosure contract.

Wheatley, who works closely with the department's film office, said that last year the territory made about $7 million to $8 million off of productions. Though the film office, one of the first in the Caribbean, has been around since 1972, it has been increasing its business in the last few years, Wheatley said.

"We've started to get hot over the past few years," Wheatley said.

The show has been on-air since 2001. Teams consisting of two people who have a pre-existing relationship, compete in a series of challenges, some of which are mental and others physical, the Amazing Race website said. When the tasks have been completed, the teams learn their next destination.

Teams who are farthest behind will gradually be eliminated as the contest progresses, with the first team to arrive at the final destination winning at least $1 million.

Eleven teams are competing this year, according to the website. The teams include surfer newlyweds Adam Dirks and Bethany Hamilton, the latter of whom made headlines after a shark bit her arm off in the upkick of a promising surfing career; Brooke Adams and Robbie E. Strauss, dating pro wrestlers; a pair of food scientists and a pair of dentists.

Representatives of the show could not be reached Monday to comment on where the cast's next destination was, though Twitter accounts reported spotting the teams in Oxford, England, on Monday.

In the show's history, 234 teams have competed, visiting 84 countries and traveling 770,000 miles, according to the website.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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