Racing on the Rouge

Getting up a ‘0’ dark hundred on a Saturday morning, I am heading to my old stomping grounds, Grants Pass. I am going to the Boatnik. The Boatnik is a four-day festival over Memorial Day Weekend. The festival has a big parade, golf shootout, brewfest, carnival, 5K run, concert, white water hydroplane races, drag boat exhibition, and sprint boat exhibition on the Rogue River. I have been involved with sprint boats since the start in the Willamette Valley and here I am heading south on I-5. The sprint boats are part of the big Boatnik parade. I asked if I could ride in the back of one of the tow rigs in the parade. Hundreds of people line the main street, I waved and took photos.

After the parade all the sprint boats were towed to a boat ramp just down river from the main festival at Riverside Park. Here we unladed the boats and got ready to go for the day. For all you gearheads who don’t know what a sprint boat is, let me explain. Sprint boats, or as they are sometimes called, jet sprints, started in New Zealand and Australia. These boats are “unbelievable”! 14 feet long, custom aluminum hulls with V-8 Engines. The hulls are fitted with full roll cages. The engines vary from small block Chevys with carburation, to big blocks with fuel injection, to aluminum big blocks with twin turbos. The hulls differ depending upon the manufacturer or if they are custom built. There are different classes depending upon engine size. The horsepower ranges from 600 hp to 1500 hp with speeds well over 100 mph and 0-60 speeds in as little as 3.5 seconds. These boats were built to turn sharp and fast with up to 7 Gs through a 90 degree turn.

A sprint boat would normally race on a track made of ditches 15 feet wide and 2 feet deep. The track is made of islands and predetermined course through the islands. This is where the boats need to go. It’s a timed event with only one boat at a time on the track. The driver goes through the course with directions form the navigator and hand signals as fast as he or she can.

This race is a little different, there are not ditches, just a river with a current. The course the boats go through is determined by buoys set up in the river.

We had to share the river wit drag boats and the small wood outboard powered hydroplanes. So, when they were done we set up the buoys and were ready to go. The boat ramp was down river a ways from where the course was. You could see the spray of the boats as they went around some of the buoys. There was about a dozen sprint boats there so everyone went out at least four times. There was only one boat that had to be towed back.
This was an international event. There were boat teams and drivers from Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, and Australia.

We were done on the river; all the teams will be on the river tomorrow. I had a great time but now I’m heading home for a family get together. If you get a chance on Memorial Day weekend head to Grants Pass for the Boatnik. Also, if you want to see sprint boats in action you can go to Youtube under “sprint boats.”

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