KENT NARROWS -- Hydroplanes flying around a turn at more than 120 mph in the Kent Narrows Power Boat Challenge yesterday narrowly avoided a three-boat collision when Cloud Nine, with Maryland's top hydroplane driver at the helm, suddenly went dead in the water.
Bobby Brown of Parsonsburg was in the lead and just three laps away from making a sweep of two hydroplane classes in the weekend's high speed racing at Kent Narrows when the ignition module on the boat, owned by John Savage, of Hampton, Va., suddenly shut down as he rounded a turn.
Brown tried without success to restart the engine, then leaped to the seat of the five-liter hydro, waving frantically at two drivers closing rapidly in on him.
Bruce Densten of Vineland, N.J., was 10 yards from the turn in Wet N Wild when he saw Brown and veered sharply to the inside of Brown, which allowed him to take the lead.
Gregg Williams of White Marsh, in Hot To Trot, missed Brown by a few feet, as he ran off the race course to avoid a collision.
"It was close. When they're coming at you at 120 mph, things are happening so fast. All you can do is stand up and hope they see you," said Brown after his boat was towed into the pits.
Earlier in the day, Brown easily won the 2.5 Cobra hydroplane class in his own race boat, Lil Lightnin. He also won the finals in both the Cobra and five-liter classes Saturday. All races are sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association and count toward the national hydroplane high-point award.
Brown would have captured the Albert I. Baker Memorial Trophy for best performance of the weekend had Cloud Nine finished. Instead, Densten went on to take the five-liter class high-point award.
Hometown favorite Wheeler Baker of Kent Island placed first in every race he ran over the weekend, including two qualifying heats and two finals. Baker's 2.5-liter modified hydro, Aquamet, sponsored by Baltimore Specialty Steels, may not have faired so well, however, had Chris Oliver of Annapolis been able to keep his machine together.
Oliver, who said he hasn't raced his boat, Every Penny, since last October, ran neck-and-neck with Baker when the boat ran, but he failed to finish three of four starts because of minor mechanical problems.
The 36 high-speed boats which raced around an oval course in Hog Bay near Kent Narrows yesterday had flat water but encountered some problems with rolls off the wakes of passing motorboats in Kent Narrows. Several of the hydroplanes, which fly over the surface with little more than their rudders in the water, nearly flipped when they were hit sideways by one of these little waves that roll across flat water.
Brown shot into the air momentarily during a qualifying race. Gregg Williams almost stuffed the front end of Hot To Trot into the water, which could have flipped the boat. Both drivers were able to bring their boats under control.