Sprint boats return to Port Angeles for second try at ESP

Racing runs from 10 a.m. to late afternoon

After a number of sprint boat race teams were bounced, jostled and ultimately ousted on a highly technical race course back in July, teams and fans are hoping for a better go of it for the second racing event of the summer Saturday.

Gates open at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with qualification heats starting at 10 a.m. at Extreme Sports Park, 2917 W. Edgewood Dr., Port Angeles.

Three classes will compete: modified, which have engines up to 350 cubic inches; 400s; and unlimited, the biggest and baddest of the boats.

Cut-down heats and finals for each class will be held in the afternoon, and the day of racing usually wraps between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

There will be food vendors, race team merchandise for sale and a beer garden on site as well.

Event organizers say face masks are optional at the outdoor event.

Drivers and navigators travel through a “rotation,” or series of around 30 twists and turns around the track’s maze of islands, reaching speeds in excess of 90 mph.

Area race teams had difficult days in July.

Port Angeles’ Wicked Racing No. 10, driven by track co-owner Dan Morrison and navigated this time around by Sara Hopf, was eliminated in the eight-cut quarterfinals after posting the second-fastest Unlimited time in qualifications.

Team Kiwi No. 35, a boat driven by New Zealand expats Chris and Katie Munro, claimed the Unlimited title with a final-round lap of 48.226.

In the Modified Class, the 146B driven by Port Angeles’ Nicole Brown and navigated by Tina Huff made the eight-cut quarterfinal and were on tight lines through the channel, but missed a turn for a day-ending DNF.

The Sequim-based Live Wire No. 2 team of driver Vaughan Trapp and navigator Matt Denson qualified for the 400 Class eight-cut but bounced into an island, sucked up some turf and clogged its pump, forcing the boat to effectively limp to the finish line.

What makes sprint boat racing unique is drivers and navigators have just hours to memorize the track’s layout of twisting turns and never get a chance to practice on the course.

The course rotation will be released at the free Sprint Boat Show and Shine event today from 4-6 p.m. at Lower Elwha Food and Fuel, along U.S. Highway 101 at 4773 S. Dry Creek Road.

Sprint boat teams will have their boats checked out to ensure they meet technical and safety requirements, and fans are welcome to take pictures and talk racing with drivers and navigators

Miss a turn and boats earn a dreaded DNF, or “Do Not Finish,” placing each sprint boat team’s emphasis on first memorizing, and then communicating the track layout via a series of hand signals.

Crashes are fairly common with some spectacular rollovers, but drivers and navigators typically walk away unharmed thanks to reinforced roll-bars and other standard safety features.

Race-day announcer Bill London will return to walk spectators through the day’s action.

Tickets are $30 for those age 16 years and older, $25 for seniors older than 55 and military members with ID, $25 for children 12 and younger.

The ticket price includes parking.

Camping also is available for $25 per night, or $50 for the weekend.

Tickets can be bought online at tickets.extremesportspark.net or at the gate on race day.

The race also will be shown live at facebook.com/EspPortAngeles.