Bring on the ‘Thunder’

Spotlight on Sports

It was five years ago that the unlimited light hydroplanes splashed down in Port Angeles harbor for a two-day, season-ending show on the salt water and it doesn’t seem possible that the sixth edition of this event is here.

The unlimited light boats are the hydroplanes that race in Lake Washington at Seafair and they recently raced in Silverdale. Richland, Phoenix and South Dakota are other stops on the trail that leads to the final race of the season, with points determining the champion.

The course is a mile and a quarter loop in the Port Angeles harbor and the location enables fans to line the waterfront trail from the Port Angeles city pier to the Francis Street park to listen and watch the action.

It only looks as if the boats are racing 50 feet off the shoreline, but they’re almost that close. The lights are 20- to 26-feet long and 12-feet wide, gas powered with engines of 800 horsepower that can reach speeds of 170 mph.

There is also a new class of boat, the lighter than lights, and they will perform between heats of the larger craft.

Boats will arrive Friday with parties planned for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Race history

Strait Thunder got off to a rather rocky start. Not knowing exactly what the unlimited fraternity was like, the main sponsor, Jack Harman of Victoria Express, gathered a crew of guy and gal supporters and planned the race.

Since the host city has to pony up a few bucks to get on the race program, admission was charged the first year for watchers to perch on the waterfront trail or to visit the pier to mingle with boats and drivers.

Sponsors forgot about the Port Angeles version of Cheapskate Hill, however. Fans didn’t like being charged to watch from the Haines Park area at Front and Peabody streets, which overlooks the harbor, and only a handful of fans paid to watch the race from a vantage point adjacent to the abandoned Rayonier property.

Since that first year, Harman and Co. has secured event partners to offset costs, with Victoria Express the presenting partner. Others are 7 Cedars Casino, Affordable Crane, U.S. Army National Guard, Budweiser, Les Schwab Tires, Little Nickel Publications, Mickey’s Sports Bar and Grill,, Pettit Oil, Red Lion Hotel, Washington Marine Repair, Steele’s Sports Bar and Grill, United Rentals, Eagle’s Flight BBB and First Federal.

No longer is there an admission charge to watch, only to visit the pier area, which is the hydro pits.

The only drawback of Strait Thunder is it takes two cranes a long time to hoist boats in and out of the water and the past two years the public address system has been available only in the pit area. That has meant long stretches of inactivity and race fans along the trail seldom know what boat is leading and other information during race day.

There will be vendors, food and drink available and it’s $10 for adults to visit the pit area.

One more thing, early fall fog sometimes has hampered the race and wind last year ruined the final day, but the crews, drivers and boats will be ready this weekend.

Note: Parking is available at no charge at Fourth and Peabody streets on the county and city parking lots. A shuttle will be provided by the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program, the official charity of Strait Thunder. Donations of toys or cash to ride the shuttle are welcome.

For more information, go to

Baseball playoffs

The baseball playoffs matched Detroit at Chicago for a rainout makeup Monday and the Sox will play Minnesota to decide the AL wild card Tuesday if they tame the Tigers.

Three games Wednesday. Boston will be going against Los Angeles and it will be the LA Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, with wild card Milwaukee at Philadelphia.

I like the Dodgers and Angels, but the Cubs are the sweetheart of the fans throughout the land because the Cubs haven’t won a series in 100 years.

More on baseball next week.

Columns by KONP 1450 AM sports announcer Scooter Chapman appear weekly in the Sequim Gazette. He can be reached via e-mail at

Strait Thunder


Gate hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Oct. 3

8 a.m. – Hydroplanes begin arriving

10 a.m. – Food and vendor booths open

5:30 p.m. – Capsule training at Red Lion

• Oct. 4

10 a.m. – Opening ceremonies, food and vendor booths open

10 a.m. – Unlimited Light qualifying

Noon – Coast Guard rescue demonstration

12:30 p.m. – Lighter than Lights qualifying

1:30 p.m. – U.L. heat 1A

2 p.m. – L.t.L.

2:30 p.m. – U.L. heat 1B

3 p.m. – L.t.L.

3:30 p.m. – U.L. heat 2A

3:45 p.m. – L.t.L.

4 p.m. – U.L. heat 2B

4:30 p.m. – L.t.L.

• Oct. 5

11 a.m. – Opening ceremonies, food and vendor booths open

11:30 p.m. – Coast Guard rescue demonstration

Noon – L.t.L.

1 p.m. – U.L. heat 3A

1:30 p.m. – L.t.L.

2 p.m. – U.L. heat 3B

2:30 p.m. – L.t.L.

3 p.m. – U.L. B main

3:35 p.m. – L.t.L. final

4 p.m. – U.L. final

5 p.m. – Awards ceremony