This hydroplane was due to compete at Oak Harbor. They pulled off the jetty and headed towards the track but, for some reason, they broke down. They were left drifting just outside the jetty for a while. The driver climbed out of the cockpit and was left to wait for a tow to come along. It took a while for a boat to come to their aid. They weren’t drifting fast but they were slowly heading away from the shore and towards the course. They were taken care of long before they got anywhere risky, though.
The hydroplane races at Oak Harbor had a variety of classes of contenders. Many of the boats appeared on course from a marina across the harbor but the most exotic of the boats were operated from alongside the spectator area. A pit area was set up on the shore. Here the crews were busy preparing the boats to race – occasionally carrying out engine runs. There was no slip so the way boats were put in the water involved a crane lifting them up and depositing them alongside a jetty close by. The initial lifts seemed to be a bit slow and inaccurate but a little practice and they were soon moving them across and back after the races with ease.
It’s been a long time since I watched any hydroplane racing. The Kankakee event in Illinois was a fun one to attend, not least because the constraints of the river meant it was possible to get really close to the action. Racing is quite popular in the Pacific Northwest and one event was scheduled for Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. I decided to head along and see what it was like.
I was quite surprised how easy it was to attend. I found parking conveniently close and got a waterfront spot to set up with ease. Plenty of people came and went during the time I was there but it never felt terribly busy. The racing took place in the harbor and it was a bit distant for all of the spectators. The good spot to watch from would have been across the harbor but that was within the naval facility so out of bounds for the rest of us.
The course provided for some good angles on the boats as they made the first turn. The second turn was rather distant. The PA system was well away from me and the program seemed to be only vaguely related to what was happening so most of the time I was oblivious to the classes that were racing at any one time. The more powerful boats were staging from the pits near the crowd but many of the smaller boats would appear on course from the marina across the harbor. I would just watch them going around and try and figure things out from the flags on the course boats.
It was a sunny day so sitting next to the water and watching the occasional race was pleasant. Not knowing what was going on was a bit harder and the random feeling of when a race would occur left me a bit confused but I got to watch racing and get some photos so hardly a bad was to spend a Sunday afternoon.
We recently had the 40th anniversary of the Fastnet race that ended up with a significant loss of life and boats. Weather forecasting technology and the methods of communicating were very different forty years ago and some of the boats were ill-suited to open water racing of that nature. Growing up in Cowes, the Fastnet race was always a big deal. It was every other year as part of the Admiral’s Cup. Some of my school friends got to crew on it. I watched the start of one of the races when we still lived in the UK and I scanned in some of the shots I got that day. The start was always frantic. Boats are jockeying for position, often very close to shore. Lots of shouting goes on. With a good wind, big sailing boats look so cool to me.
The races at the rowing meet I covered in this post tend to overlap from what we saw. The length of the course and the time to complete it is such that the next race was started before the last was finished. Consequently, there is not a way for the crews to return up the cut as the next boats are heading towards them. Apparently, they all wait in the next bay. Then, when it is clear, they all row back up together. The cut was full of crews rowing back to take their boats out of the water. It made for an impressive sight!
It was purely by coincidence that we happened to be at UW when a rowing meet was taking place. We had read much about UW rowing in The Boys in the Boat (well worth a read if you have the opportunity) and were planning on walking down to the Cut to see the Shell House but there were plenty of boats and crews in the parking lot when we came through. We actually got there almost at the end of the meet. I guess they row early to get the calmest conditions?
A few final races came through as we walked along the cut. The crews were working hard but still had some way to go when they came past us. By that distance, the strongest crews were showing themselves clearly. We watched them disappear up the cut and towards the finish line. As the last race past by, you could see the course boats start to disperse so we knew it was done. What we didn’t know was that we would get a nice finale. That will be another post.
I didn’t get to the Spartan Race in time for Jim’s start so he was out on the course when I got there. I wandered around seeing others making their way around and decided he must have already passed the earlier spots I might see him. I waited for him to come back in to the main area before heading out again on the second big loop. I was wondering if I had missed him when he came into view down a hillside. Rather than distract him, I let him do the next obstacle before I said Hi!
I then saw him do a few more tests before he was off again. At least now I had a rough idea of where he was and who was on a similar pace. That made picking him up again a lot easier. I could then follow him around the final series of tests. These shots are a bunch of those I got of home as he was in the second half of the race. He pushed on to the end and finished well. I was tired watching it all so I bet he was shattered. However, once he finished, he looked really stoked so I guess the success was rejuvenating.
Two of the later obstacles in the Spartan Race involved water. The first was crossing a small river. It wasn’t too deep but the cold water on tired leg muscles was not nice. The banks were also getting very muddy and slippery given the number of contestants that had been before. Then there was a second water crossing. This was across and back the river with bank climbs on both sides. The water was also a lot deeper and the bottom of the river was uneven. Here people really struggled and the tiredness was really showing.
A couple of the obstacles in the Spartan Race that I saw involved getting yourself across a series of ropes and hoops or using grab handles that moved while you hung on. These obstacles would be tough if you were fresh but they were in the latter portion of the race when tiredness was already very apparent. It was fascinating to see the different techniques people used and the success or otherwise. Dropping off was very common given how tired people were and the resultant 30 burpees will not have helped.
The physiques of people didn’t seem to have any indication of the probability of success. Some people looked like they would struggle as they set up to start and would then surge across. Others would look good and then drop off quickly. Knowing how I would have fared, I was very sympathetic. A few were in fantastic shape and just flew through. Others got so close to the cowbell at the end that signified success and would drop when almost in reach. You were willing people on.
One of the toughest to watch was one of the elite female competitors. She was in third place coming to the last obstacle and nearly made it across before slipping. She headed off to do her burpees and, while she was doing them, the person in fourth approached. She got onto the test and made it across cleanly jumping into third place. The other competitor had to finish her burpees which must have been so hard having just seen your podium position slip away.
My buddy, Jim, was taking part in a Spartan Race. The event was being held in Snohomish so, while I wasn’t willing to get up quite as early as him, I did go up to see the race and what people were prepared to put themselves through. The whole thing was being held on land that is usually an equestrian center. The Beast race was a 13.2 mile trek punctuated with a variety of tests and obstacles that the contestants had to negotiate. Fail to succeed on any of them and there was an area for you to head to where you would have to do 30 burpees before you could move on!
There was a central area for spectators and those who were waiting to start or who had already finished. (A sprint course was also available so the whole Beast course was not the only option.) A number of the obstacles were close to this area while many others were scattered out in the woods and fields. There wasn’t anything to stop you heading out to the other areas if you wanted to and, as I was there longer, I did go a bit further afield. Not all the way out though. I wasn’t testing myself!