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Sprint boats are back
The Olympic Peninsula is home to several of the nation's top sprint boat races.
Now it's also home to a bonafide niche sport.
Extreme Sports Park in Port Angeles hosts the first of two U.S. Sprint Boats Association tour events on Saturday, Aug. 11.
Buy tickets through www.extremesportspark.net or brownpapertickets.com.
Running 60 to 70 mph on fuel-injected engines through small canals of just 3 feet of water, sprint boat racing, or jet sprinting, has found a small but strong and growing fan base in the United States, more than two decades after its birth in New Zealand. There are three classes of boats: Super Modifieds, A-400s and the unlimited super boats.
With less than 10 minutes between heats, speedboat races are a constant menu of speed at a frenetic pace.
On the course, boats that feature grooves on their hulls can reach up to 70 mph and actually grip the water better at higher speeds. Drivers and their navigators negotiate a series of turns — about 30 or so — through a maze of gravel islands, all in about 55 seconds or less.
"It's the most exciting racing event i've ever witnessed," says Kelie Morrison, race organizer and part of Port Angeles-based Team Wicked. "I've been to NASCAR, Formula One, National Motorcross races; I've been to pretty much everything."
Morrison says she often shows the uninitiated video clips of sprint boats.
"They can't wait to see (races) live," Morrison says. "There really isn't anything like it."
Speedboat racing is strong in the Northwest in particular, with three tracks (Port Angeles, St. Johns and Tangent, Ore.), and about two dozen driving teams listed with the USSBA.
Port ANgeles hosted the USSBA national event last September; Morrison says that race drew between 8,500 to 10,000 race fans.
She expects an even bigger draw this Saturday.
"Lots of power, lots of action," she says. "You get to see the whole race before your eyes."
Local racers on the tour include: TNT Racing's Tim Cummings (driver)/Mike Fuller (navigator) in Jeepers Creepers boat No. 1 and TNT's Dillon Brown-Cummings/Teri Cummings in Jeepers Creepers boat No. 2, both in the Super Modifieds classification; Wicked Racing's Doug Hendrickson/Nichole Heaton in Wicked No. 1, TNT Racing's Paul Gahr Jr./Taylor Gahr or Josh Gahr in Live Wire No. 2 and Twisted Racing's Wayne Brown/Nicole Brown in Twisted Racing No. 18 boat, each in the A-400 division; and Wicked Racing's Dan Morrison/Cara McGuire in Wicked Racing No. 10 boat in the Superboats division.
The second event in Port Angeles is the USSBA national finals on Saturday, Sept. 8.
The park also hosts its first Run A Muck Obstacle Course Challenge and Music Festival on Sept. 29.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children 7-12 and youths 6 and younger are free.