Will the Oh Boy Oberto once again be victorious at Seafair this year? (Image source: farm2.static.flickr.com)
Although I think that the H1 Unlimited title sponsor is still that NASTY Air National Guard; BARF! Nevertheless, apparently I missed the Memo last fall when it was divulged that perennial Pacific Northwest favourites, the Navy's Blue Angels would be returning to Seafair in 2014; having just accidently heard 'bout I-T whilst catching some snippets 'O KIRO's "Eleven at Eleven" Newscast a Fortnight before this year's annual Seafair Spectale, aka the Hydroplane races.
As Steve "HOLY SMOKES!" Raible, voice of the Seattle Seahawks local radio broadcasts was doing his "Day Job," as lead News Anchor for KIRO7, when I tuned into the ex-Seahawks WR announcing how "Fat Albert," aka the Blue Angels C-130 Transport and Air Show performer was out of this year's Seafair show due to an unfortunate Bird Strike; YIKES!
As now I'll be more inclined to pay Attenzione to Seafair this year since the Blue Angels are back, after being SACKED by last year's STUPID Sequestration BULLSHIT! As one source reports that attendance was down a whopping 27% due to the lack of the Navy's Blue Angels; Aye Karumba!
Yet, onto the Blower Boats, aka the turbine powered Unlimited Hydroplanes, which utilize the ubiquitous Lycoming T-55 turbine as their powerplants, as I'd also not gotten the Memo on Jimmy Shane winning last year's championship for Graham Trucking, since I hadn't paid Attenzione since the Seafair Finals race and presumed that Steve David and Oh Boy Oberto would be the High Points Champs' once again.
Thus, very loosely following the events leading up to this year's Albert Lee Cup, NO relation to "Fat Albert;" Hooah! On the shores of Lake Washington from the Stan Sayre's pits, I was also surprised to hear that Jimmy Shane, who I first became aware of in 2013, upon hearing of his winning the Tri-Cities race upon Steve David being Disqualified, had now taken over the U-6 Oh Boy Oberto, as apparently Steve David has retired.
Meanwhile, in another tiny News blurb, semi-retired legend Dave Villwock has apparently been lured back into the cockpit, as he'll take over driving duties of the U-37 Beacon Plumbing at the Tri-Cities race at Pasco, WA (July 25-27) the weekend prior to Seafair; (Aug 1-3) apparently part of the boat's pending sale, as the new owner wanted an experienced "Hand" at the wheel before final purchase.
Villwock is the sport's all-time leading winner with 67 career victories and nine national High Points championships along with an unbelievable ten Gold Cup wins, many coming at the controls of the legendous' Budweiser Beer Wagon owned by the late Bernie Little, which probably helped him earn the nickname "Darth!" As Villwock, age 60 returns for a two-race deal at the same age that Steve David retired, with the Beacon Plumbing boat having been sidelined to date whilst undergoing major modifications.
As so far, the U-6 Oh Boy Oberto/Miss Madison has been the boat to beat, as Covington, Warshitonians' Jimmy Shane obviously jumped at the chance to drive this perennial winning hull after David's retirement. As Shane cruised comfortably all weekend at the season opening round's Madison Regatta, (July 6th) winning all three heats before excitedly jumping the start by a foot, giving the victory to his former mount, the U-1 Graham Trucking with J. Michael Kelly at the controls.
Yet Shane & Co. were all smiles the following weekend in Detroit, (July 13th) when the 28yr old reigning High Points champion driver did what his predecessor had been unable to accomplish in 22-attempts... As Shane rode the Jerky' boat to a clean sweep en route to winning the sport's most prestigious trophy, the Gold Cup, now some 109-years old. As the shoe was on the other foot, with J. Michael Kelly jumping the one-minute start position and being given a one minute time penalty.
Thus it appears that Shane's main rivals to date in the relatively slimmed down eight boat field (Rounds 1-2) have been the pair of ex-Miss Budweiser, now Graham Trucking hulls of J. Michael Kelly and Cal Fipps, along with the thorny U-9 Red Dot/Spirit of Qatar piloted by John Zimmerman.
Hence, will the wily Dave Villwock be able to halt Shane's dominant romp during his for now two race Pacific Northwest swing. And will Kip Brown show up in the U-96 Spirit of Qatar? As hopefully we'll have at least ten boats poundin' over the rollers of the Log Boom on Lake Washington for this year's Seafair regatta.
Thus, in what appears to have been a wet 'N wild rollercoaster preview to this weekend's Seafair Unlimited Hydroplanes race, much carnage was had upon the Columbia Cup's race in the Tri-Cities of Washington, which instead of trying to replicate all of the action, I'll leave it to others instead, albeit the final result shouldn't be that shocking - since once again Jimmy Shane and Oh Boy Oberto were victorious. Yet, cynics could suggest that Shane's path to claiming the cup was made easier by J. Michael Kelly's Graham Trucking and Dave Villwock's Beacon Plumbing boats not being in the final...
2014 SEAFAIR COMPETITORS
U-1: Graham Trucking ; J. Michael Kelly
U-6: Oh Boy Oberto; Jimmy Shane
U-7: Graham Trucking II; Cal Fipps
U-9: Red Dot/Spirit of Qatar; John Zimmerman
U-11: Peters & May; Tom Thompson
U-12: CerPro/Miss DiJulio; Greg Hopp
U-17: Our Gang Racing; Jeff Bernard*
U-21 Miss Al Deeby Dodge; Brian Perkins
U-22: Webster Racing; Mike Webster
U-37: Beacon Plumbing; Dave Villwock*
U-96: Spirit of Qatar; Kip Brown*
As mentioned, Dave Villwock returned to competition at Tri-Cities aboard the U-37 Beacon Plumbing, and Kip Brown ran the new U-96 Spirit of Qatar for the first time this season also during the Columbia Cup, along with the U-17 Our Gang Racing boat making its season debut...
Yet this year's Columbia Cup wasn't without controversy, or more likely as U-17 boat owner Nate Brown aptly put it; "Drama!" As all-time winningest Unlimiteds driver Dave Villwock was the center of the storm after his two separate racing incidents upon his return to the cockpit, which ultimately makes for a good storyline going into Seafair this weekend...