Powerboats on the bay, a flotilla of fans

On the Outdoors

July 28, 1996|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

STEVENSVILLE -- Powerboat racing is experiencing a rebirth of sorts, according to local racers and officials of the American Power Boat Association, and this weekend the revival is being held immediately south of the Bay Bridge, off Kent Island.

Yesterday, a spectator fleet of more than 1,000 boats and a couple of thousand shoreside race fans gathered to watch 10 classes of club-level and national teams thunder around an 8-mile course at speeds that, at times, exceeded 100 mph.

Today, beginning at 1: 30 p.m., four more classes will race, highlighted by the APBA's monster Open Class, which is making its first racing appearance on the Chesapeake Bay.

"This is our first time here," said Don Jones, APBA Offshore chairman, "and we are looking at it as a growth venue because it has tremendous demographics that will appeal to sponsors and a race area that should be good for spectators."

Using such "growth venues" around the country, Jones said, has helped produce an increase in APBA memberships of more than 30 percent over the past two years.

Todd Harper of Edgewater, whose Extreme won Class F and had the best overall performance in the 40-mile club-level races yesterday, has raced power boats for 10 years.

"I have seen it peak and drop," said Harper, co-owner of Cancun Cantina, a popular nightspot in Anne Arundel County. "But in the last three years I have seen a revival, especially at our level."

While the top-of-the-line boats in the Open Class come to races with crews of mechanics, race boats, chase boats and in some cases helicopters and medical staffs, club-level teams come with minimal sponsorship, guts and a competitive camaraderie.

Before yesterday's races, for example, Harper had a steering problem on Extreme.

"Well, Jay Meyer of Agitator helped me fix it in time to race," said Harper, 34. "And then during the race, he had steering problems and we were able to win. That's just something you do for each other."

Meyer of Annapolis, who was driving Agitator for owner Steve Stanley, finished second in class.

"Guess you have to give Agitator an assist on that one, don't you?" Meyer said to Harper after the race, as crews and spectators mingled dockside at the Bay Bridge Marina, where the races are headquartered.

According to Jones, a national level A Class racer will have an annual budget of about $50,000 and teams such as Spirit of Texas or Zerodefect compete in the Open Class with budgets that can range into the millions.

But a top club racer such as Harper makes do on between $15,000 and $20,000 annually.

"But we only race two or three events a year," said Harper, whose boat tops out on the course at about 100 mph and averages in the 80s.

In the national classes that raced 54 miles yesterday, the Class C Harrah's team from New Jersey had the fastest average speed, at 82.74 mph.

Harper and his navigator, Doug Stuart of Edgewater, said controlling a boat at those speeds in a crosswind and chop requires precise teamwork by each member of the three-man crew.

"You have a driver, a throttle man and a navigator," said Harper. "The driver steers the boat, the throttle man works the throttles and the trim tabs and the navigator counts laps, checks engine gauges, keeps an eye on the rest of the field and makes sure we don't miss any marks [on the course].

"And when it is done right, it is like running a fighter plane. We are all wired in by radio and we make the boat really move."

And, according to Stuart, keeping up with how the boat systems are running, where the fast and slow boats on the course are and even where the course is can be nerve-wracking at times.

"It is watching constantly, and telling the other two guys what's on the left or right or where they are behind," said Stuart. "When you do it right, it is exhilarating."

Chesapeake Challenge

# Yesterday's results

Club races

Class A: 1, Warlock; 2. Fast Time; 3. Switzer; 4. Just One More; 5. Playin' Nasty; 6. DX-DT.

Class B: 1. Not For Sail; 2. Hardcore; 3. Bay Cafe.

Class C: 1. Flying High; 2. Screaming Eagle; 3. Haulin' Glass.

Class D: 1. Severna Vice.

Class E: 1. Slo-a Phobic; 2. Ballistic; 3. Kitty Kat; 4. Snake Eyes.

Class F: 1. Extreme; 2. Agitator; 3. Out for Justice; 4. Red Eye's.

APBA

Stock: 1. Team Stalker; 2. Cutting Edge; 3. Team Bermuda.

Offshore C: 1. Harrah's; 2. Zero Gravity; 3. Intimidator.

Offshore B: 1. Buckshot; 2. Baby; 3. Thee Muscle; 4. Banker; 5. Jawanna; 6. Instigator.

Offshore A: 1. Subluxator; 2. Performance Marine; 3. Ale House; 4. Team Hardcore; 5. Damn Donzi; 6. Mr Zip; 7. Rain X Express.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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