The Chesapeake Challenge finished up a weekend of competition on the Patapsco River yesterday with strong racing in five classes and a brush with disaster.
Alcone Motorsports, the 1997 American Power Boat Association offshore world champion, won the Open Class, with Matt Alcone of Irvine, Calif., driving the 45-foot Skater catamaran around the 72-mile course at an average speed of 127.58 mph.
"We ran the first lap just trying to get a feel for the course and the water conditions," said Alcone, whose team is now 3-1 and two points out of first place in its class.
"By the third lap, we were able to make a move to the inside, got position and built up momentum and kept building the lead."
Alcone and the other three entries in the Open Class completed the course without incident, but in the Super Vee and Modified classes several boats broke down, with only Ocean Spray crossing the finish line in Super Vee.
Nemschoff and the Fountain team, with Annapolis area driver Art Lily on the throttles, broke down on the seventh and fifth laps.
In Modified, Udderly Fantastic was an easy winner, with Lightning Jack's and Team Pepsi/Prolong coming close to disaster after rounding Turn 2 on the first lap.
Heading up the backstretch, before a spectator fleet estimated by race officials at 4,000 boats, Lightning Jack's rolled quickly through 360 degrees, landing upright in the middle of the course.
Lightning Jack's throttleman, John Woolley of Manasquan, N.J., said the 36-foot catamaran hit some turbulent water under Key Bridge while trying to move out to the right side of the course.
"We caught one sponson, caught the other and then flipped to the right," he said. "We were doing 120 mph when we started to get loose [from the turn], and probably a little over 100 when we flipped."
Joey Padavano, driving Pepsi/Prolong, said he was only 30 feet behind Lightning Jack's when it went over.
"When they hit, there was a big wall of water and we couldn't see," Padavano said. "We had to guess whether to go left or right. We guessed lucky and flew through it.
"At the time, we just looked at each other and kept going. But we kissed the ground when we got home."
No one aboard Lightning Jack's was injured.
Pepsi/Prolong eventually retired from the race on the seventh lap with engine problems.
Citre Shine won the Super Stock Class and Pennzoil was the top finisher in Pro Stock.
Nicky Cutro, throttleman and owner of Pennzoil, said his team was able to build a lead as following racers avoided rescue boats and helicopters converging on Lightning Jack's.
"We stretched it out after that," he said. "It's just like in NASCAR: If you build a lead and then make a mistake, you have a chance to recover without losing much of that lead."
Race officials and racers said Baltimore's first APBA offshore event seemed to be a success.
"I am very, very pleased," said race director John Wilmoth. "It's a new site and new race [organizing] team. You never know how it's going to work out, but it went real well."
In general, racers liked the racing conditions, but several said a course closer to shore would have allowed more spectators to enjoy the races.
Gene Whipp, the chairman of APBA's offshore events, said the boat-handling facilities at Baltimore Marine Center were excellent compared with other venues around the country.
"But, in particular, I want to compliment the fire and rescue department in Baltimore, which did a tremendous job," said Whipp, noting Lightning Jack's flip yesterday and the fire aboard Fountain on Saturday.
"Usually, when we get a fire that involved, the boat burns to the water line. They really have their act together."
Super Vee -- 1. Ocean Spray, 105.08 mph, 35: 58; 2. Nemschoff, retired on 7th lap; 3. Fountain, retired on 5th lap.
Open -- 1. Alcone Motorsports, 127.58, 33: 51; 2. How Sweet It Is, 125.78, 34.20; 3. Drambuie On Ice, 125.64, 34.23; 4. WHM Motorsport, 120.16, 35.56.
Modified -- 1. Udderly Fantastic, 112.45, 33.36; 2. Out of Bounds,110.75, 34.07; 3. Flying Tiger, 103.69, 36.26; 4. Pepsi/Prolong, retired on 7th lap; 5. Lightning Jack's, retired on 1st lap.
Pro Stock -- 1. Pennzoil, 97.20, 38. 53; 2. Crimebuster, 95.82, 39.26; 3. Hooters, 95.63, 39.31.
Super Stock -- 1. Citre Shine, 95.68, 33.51; 2. Club Kasatschock, 94.93, 34.07; 3. Bodyguard, 92.17, 35.08.
Pub Date: 7/27/98