The H1 Unlimited Racing Series returns to Seattle this weekend after two seasons away

SEATTLE — The fastest race boats in the world will return to Seattle this weekend after two seasons away because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The action at the HomeStreet Bank Cup will get underway with qualification runs on Friday, competition in a new match-race format on Saturday, and the running of the main event on Sunday.

For many of the teams on the H1 Unlimited Racing Series, this is one of the biggest events on the schedule because most of the race teams and drivers are based in the Seattle area and because the tradition of unlimited hydroplane racing in the city goes back to 1951.

Leading the competitors for the Seattle race will be Jimmy Shane and the U-1 Miss HomeStreet, who has won both of the last two events on the H1 Unlimited circuit in convincing fashion. Shane, 36, of San Antonio, Texas, won the Indiana Governor’s Cup in Madison, Indiana, and last weekend’s HAPO Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities, Washington, by being the fastest qualifier and by winning every heat entered. The team is the defending national champion and is currently leading in the 2022 national points standings.

Second in the points standings is last year’s national driver’s champion J. Michael Kelly, who will be at the controls of the U-9 Boitano Homes of the Strong Racing Team, which is based in Auburn, Washington. Kelly, 43, of Bonney Lake, Washington, placed second last weekend in the Tri-Cities with his boat named Lynx Healthcare presents Miss Tri-Cities and drove the boat to victory in two of the four races held last season.

Jeff Bernard, Shane’s teammate in the Madison Racing Team, is currently third in the standings while driving U-91 Miss Goodman Real Estate. Bernard, 37, of Kent, Washington, placed second both in the Gold Cup at the beginning of the season and at the Indiana Governor’s Cup. While the ownership of this boat and Miss HomeStreet is in Madison, Indiana, the team operates from a boat shop that is in Tukwila, Washington.

Collecting third-place honors in every race so far has been Jamie Nilsen, 37, of Gig Harbor, Washington, who will be driving the U-11 Miss The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse. His boat is now fourth in the national standings, having raced last weekend as Miss Joker’s Casino and earlier in the season as Miss Colleen. The team is based in Cle Elum, Washington.

Potentially one of the fastest boats on the racecourse will be the U-40 Miss Beacon Plumbing, which is driven by Dave Villwock, 68, of Monroe, Washington, who has won more races and national championships than anyone else in the history of the sport. His race team has contended with a large amount of misfortunate so far this season, however. 

The Miss Beacon Plumbing hit a log while traveling at over 150 mph on the Ohio River at Madison and was damaged enough that it had to be rushed back to its shop near Snohomish, Washington, for repairs. Then, while racing in the Tri-Cities last weekend, the boat suddenly went airborne, flipped in midair, and crashed into the Columbia River. Villwock was not injured and the team intends to have the hydroplane repaired in time for the Seattle race.

Nothing compares to the unique visual beauty of watching the spectacular H1 Unlimited hydroplanes careen across the water at speeds approaching 200 mph while throwing white spray high into the air. For those who want to watch them in person on Lake Washington, tickets are still available at Seafair.com.

If you can’t be there to watch the “Greatest Show on H-2-O” in person, the next best thing is to watch the live streaming broadcast, which boat racing fans around the world can catch on the H1 Unlimited YouTube Channel. To find a link to the broadcast, or to learn more about the hydroplanes, go to H1Unlimited.com.