In just their third full year of speedboat racing, Paul Gahr Jr. and his son, Josh, are enjoying success usually achieved by more seasoned veterans.
A part of TNT Racing, a Sequim group comprised of the Gahrs and Tim and Dylan Cummings and their families, the Gahrs race their speedboat, Livewire, in the United Speed Sprint Boat Association three-month circuit in the Northwest.
Although they are relatively inexperienced, the pair has been successful lately, capturing a checkered flag and the top spot in the July 9 race in East Wenatchee.
“Everything is going good,” Gahr Jr. said. “Me and my son have been running very consistently.”
The father-son tandem races in the A-400 class and was in second place in the USSBA standings after the July 23 race in Albany, Oregon.
Each team collects points based on its times in the qualifying and elimination rounds.
Since starting in 2008, the duo has built an impressive resume, earning rookie of the year honors that year, collecting third place in 2009 and second place last year. “What I enjoy the most is the acceleration of these boats, being able to hit a 90-degree corner and not let off the throttle,” Gahr Jr. said.
The boats are made out of aluminum and the faster a boat travels, the more water is funneled under the boat, allowing the competitors to reach speeds of 80-90 miles per hour.
“There’s no other boat out there that can do that,” Gahr Jr. said.
Seating two people, a driver and a navigator, each boat is equipped with a roll bar and, depending on the racing class, a high-powered engine.
Gahr Jr. and Gahr, his navigator, race with a 412-cubic inch motor that provides 680 horsepower to the 13-foot boat.
“It’s really good for the fans,” Gahr Jr. said. “It’s fast action and they’re all around the track.”
Spectators can number from 5,000-10,000 at the races, Gahr said. There are six races during the regular season, which began in mid-June and culminates with the National Finals on Sept. 17 in Port Angeles at Extreme Sports Park, which is being constructed.
Speed TV, a cable channel, has been filming recent races, which occur in Albany, Ore., St. John and East Wenatchee.
The races are held on courses constructed specifically for speedboat racing. A typical course covers about four acres, with channels 12-15 feet wide and a depth of about three feet, Gahr said.
The most challenging aspect of each course, however, is the layout, said Gahr, a long-time Sequim resident.
From race to race, each course changes its turn sequence and the drivers and navigators are unaware of the sequence until the night before each race. To be competitive, the participants must memorize the track, which usually contains 30-35 turns, before they set their crafts in the water.
Piloting the boats at 80-90 miles per hour requires the teams to turn about every second to second-and-a-half, Gahr said.
The first time each duo goes through the track is during the qualifying round, where the teams have four chances to be among the top eight competitors that advance to the elimination round.
The credit for the success of Livewire extends beyond Paul and Josh, but stays in the Gahr family.
Paul’s wife and daughter are the pit crew and his father, Paul Sr., accompanies the family to each race and also serves as the primary sponsor of TNT racing.
“It keeps the family together. That’s probably the biggest joy, having the family together for the weekend,” Gahr Jr. said. “We’re all part of one big team.”