Powerboat collision mars tight race

One in serious condition

Tivoli wins at Chesapeake

July 25, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Through seven laps yesterday, the Offshore B Class powerboats raced on the edge of disaster in the Chesapeake Challenge on the Patapsco River. On the eighth lap, Dramamine and Pier 57 Fountain went over the edge.

Dramamine, a 39-foot Fountain driven by Jeff Harris of Washington, N.C., tried to duck inside at Turn 2, ran up and over Pier 57 and flipped.

The collision ripped the starboard quarter and part of the foredeck off Pier 57 and left propeller tracks along the hull.

Both boats were in danger of sinking before they were taken in tow by rescue craft.

Divers from the American Power Boat Association's STARS rescue team were at the crash scene almost immediately to assist the crews of both boats. Offshore B boats are equipped with safety cockpits that are sealed and have oxygen supplies for the crews, which receive mandatory training in escaping from overturned boats.

Dramamine's throttle man, Bruce Sperling of Palos Heights, Ill., was flown by state police helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center for diagnosis of a possible back injury and was treated for lacerations. He was listed in serious but stable condition last night, said a hospital spokeswoman. There were no serious injuries among others in the collision.

As Dramamine was lifted from the water by a crane at the Baltimore Marine Center, the bottom of its hull appeared badly battered, one of its two out-drives had been sheared off and the hull was buckled forward of the twin cockpit canopies.

Race officials said the collision was simply "the kind of accident that can happen on the course."

"That was some of the best racing I ever have been in," said Jamie Coates of Dallas, the throttle man aboard class winner Tivoli Fountain. "That was all three boats wide-open and within 30 yards of each other all the way around."

Coates and driver Wyatt Fountain had Tivoli in third place at the time of the collision. They said their speed on the straightaway was about 105 mph, and they were running through the turns at 85 to 90 mph.

"It got funny real quick," Coates said. "All we could see was spray ahead and then in the next second we saw Dramamine pirouetting and rolling within its own length."

John Morris, driver of Pier 57, said he had a slight lead over Dramamine as they approached the turning buoy, and a clear path as he and throttle man Art Lily turned to the mark.

"I thought Dramamine was behind and carrying to the outside," said Morris, who is from Memphis, Tenn. "It shocked the heck out me -- but that's racing."

Lily, who is from Edgewater, said he didn't think there was room for anyone to get inside Pier 57 at the mark.

"But he cut in there," Lily said. "I didn't even see him until the crash."

Chief race referee Mike Tomlinson said it appeared Pier 57 buried its bow and spun out slightly entering the turn but did not infringe on Dramamine's right-of-way to the turning buoy.

"In a race like that, you never know," Coates said. "There were times in that race where it easily could have been a three-way collision. That's how close the racing was."

Some three dozen boats in 10 pro and amateur classes raced yesterday without any other serious incidents.

Racing continues today with a half dozen pro classes, including the popular big boats in Super Vee and a large field in the Factory 2 Class. Racing begins at 1 p.m. east of Fort McHenry.

Sun staff writer Tim Craig contributed to this article.


Pro classes

Offshore B: 1. Tivoli Fountain, 79.42 mph avg., 58: 52 total time.

Offshore A: Nemschoff Sports, 73.96, 63: 11.

EFI: White Lightning, 56.59, 45: 53.

Factory 1: Mountain Dew, 71.35, 58: 14.

Amateur classes

Class 1: Eastern Express, 86.77, 29: 44.

Class 2: Team Utz, 81.9, 31: 29

Class 3: Cancun Cantina, 86.9, 31: 29

Class 4: Sanford Racing, 75.4, 34: 11

Class 5: Mickey, 53.3, 48: 23

Class 6: Outrageous, 54.6, 47: 44.

Pub Date: 7/25/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.