Lauterbach keeps hobby afloat Builder will race at Kent Narrows

August 06, 1993|By Brian Fishman | Brian Fishman,Staff Writer

The calls come from places such as Montana and Quebec.

Larry Lauterbach encourages his clients to phone any time and from anywhere. Perhaps they are wondering about his latest hydroplane model. They may be in need of proper instructions for repairing a Lauterbach-built boat or calling for advice on increasing the hydroplane's speed.

Lauterbach, of Chester, Md., is an expert hydroplane designer. His father, Henry, started the family business in 1947. Since then, Lauterbach Custom Boats has become one of the world's primary manufacturers, having built 250 hydroplanes.

"I make my money doing repair work," Lauterbach said. "The actual building of a brand-new boat, you can't charge an hourly rate. You have to charge a flat fee [usually around $30,000]. You barely make $5 or $6 an hour doing that."

, As a hobby, Lauterbach races

boats. He has been racing for 30 years, and this weekend, he will compete against some of the country's top racers in the third annual Kent Narrows Powerboat Challenge.

It was only natural that Lauterbach would pick up his father's love for the boats. Larry began working on hydroplanes when he was 12, growing up in Portsmouth, Va. At 16, he entered his first race.

"I had an obstacle because my father was such a great racer that it was harder for me to break in. The

expectations were high for me. Kyle Petty had to go through it because of his father. Davey Allison and Bobby Allison. All of the father-son racers. I didn't let that get to me.

"On the other hand, my father never forced racing on me. If anything, he probably discouraged me from wanting to race. I think he thought there would be too much pressure on me."

Lauterbach, 46, started out racing the simplest class of hydroplane -- a boat with a maximum speed of 80 mph -- and progressed until he had mastered all nine classes.

Few racers can equal Lauterbach's feats. He is a five-time national hydro champion, has won 26 Grand Prix events and has set five Union of International Motorboats world records.

He raced Miss Budweiser and the Winston Eagle, two of the best-known hydroplanes. In 1980, Lauterbach was inducted into the American Power Boat Association Hall of Champions.

In his most competitive days, Lauterbach entered about 20 races a year. Now he may enter only five. The races at Kent Narrows will be Lauterbach's first of 1993.


What: Hydroplane drivers will race in their part of the Kent Narrows Power Boat Challenge on Hog Bay, on a closed course visible from the Kent Island Yacht Club on Kent Island and from the water.

When: 12:30 p.m., tomorrow and Sunday.

Where: Parking is available in lots from Exit 41 off U.S. 50.

Fee: Admission to the yacht club is $5 for adults and free for children under 12.

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