53rd Annual Columbia Cup hydroplane race expects to draw fans from around the country
By Owen Blauman
KENNEWICK, WA– The Tri-Cities in southeastern Washington consist of the cities of Kennewick, Richland, and Pasco and is a growing metropolitan area where 300 sun-filled days offer visitors a year-round outdoor paradise along the Columbia River. Located three and a half hours from both Seattle and Portland, Oregon, the area has more than 200 wineries within a 50-mile radius and the region produces some of the finest wines in the country.
But, on the last weekend of July every year since 1966, the Tri-Cities is flooded with fans from throughout the country, who come to see the world’s fastest race boats on one of the fastest 2 ½-mile racecourses in the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series. The third race in the series stops in on July 27-29 for the 53rd running of the HAPO Columbia Cup as part of the area’s annual Tri-City Water Follies Association festival.
Like wine, this year’s favorites include a ‘young’ and a ‘full-bodied’ driver, both exhibiting strong tastes of success this season.
Andrew Tate (Walled Lake, MI) driving the U-9 “Les Schwab Tires,” is the young maturing driver, now in his third season of racing unlimited hydroplanes. The full-bodied driver Jimmy Shane (Maple Valley, WA) driving the U-1 “Miss HomeStreet” is in his 10th season. This year, both have one win each and hope to continue with a win at the Columbia Cup.
Last month, Tate won the season opener in Guntersville, Alabama, in a deck-to-deck dual against Shane. Tate, in one of the oldest boats on the circuit, won the nail biting winner-take-all final by just four-tenths of a second over Shane. This season marks the boat’s 26th year since debuting as the “Coors Dry,” and is just two years younger than its driver.
The 28-year-old Tate has four wins in just 12 starts. With a winning percentage of 33.33 percent, he has quickly established himself as one of the sport’s rising stars.
Several weeks ago in the second race of the season, Shane won the Madison Regatta Indiana Governor’s Cup at the team’s hometown of Madison, Indiana. Shane is already one of the best driver’s in the sport’s history with 17 wins. Shane has also won the past five H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series national championships.
His Miss Madison Racing team is the only community-owned team in motorsports and plans to debut a new race boat at the Tri-Cities event. After a thorough battery of tests at the Columbia Cup, the team will decide on which boat to race.
“The Miss HomeStreet team will be in full-throttle mode with the debut of our new 2018 hull along with running the current hull. The plan is to test and qualify both boats and determine which one will make the cut when preliminary heat racing begins on Saturday,” Shane said. “This will be the first time I have a chance to run an H1 Unlimited Hydroplane that is brand-new out of the box and truly cannot wait.”
The team has campaigned a boat every year since 1961. In the past ten years, the Miss Madison Racing team has yielded seven wins at the Columbia Cup with both Shane and retired driver Steve David behind the wheel.
Going into the third race of the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series, Tate leads Shane in the national standings by 440 points. Tate has 3,200 points and Shane 2,760 points.
Another close battle between Tate and Shane is expected during the Columbia Cup weekend and both hope to taste victory. Tate said, “We’re looking forward to racing against a larger field for the west coast races, and gaining some unpredictability with preliminary heat draws.”
A wild card in this year’s race will be last year’s Columbia Cup winner J. Michael Kelly (Bonney Lake, WA) driving the U-12 “Graham Trucking.” The team struggled with mechanical issues in the pre-season and elected not to race the first two races. Considered one of the sport’s veteran drivers, Kelly is now in his 13th season and has collected eight national points race wins.
Sitting behind Tate and Shane in the standings is Tom Thompson (Cambridge, MD) and the U-11 “Reliable Diamond Tool presents J&D’s,” which had a strong opener in Guntersville with three second-place finishes in preliminary heats and a third in the championship final. Now in his seventh year in the sport, Thompson scored his first preliminary heat victory at the race in Madison, IN.
The U-440 “Bucket List Racing” and 2017 Rookie-of-the-Year driver Dustin Echols (Sultan, WA) bill themselves as the sport’s “blue collar” team. The boat has suffered damage at each of the first two races. Each time, the team made the necessary repairs to the bright orange hydroplane, and it continues to improve as the season progresses. After being in the bottom of the barrel in national high points after the first race, the team has risen to fourth place.
Rookie Aaron Salmon (Bonney Lake, WA) driving the U-99.9 “CARSTAR powers Miss Rock,” is well on his way to completing his rookie qualifications having completed the required laps in an H1 Unlimited hydroplane. When he qualifies the boat for the race, however, he will be required to start his preliminary heats behind the front line until H1 Unlimited’s chief referee Doug Shelton clears him for front-row racing.
Locally sponsored U-21 “Darrell Strong presents PayneWest Insurance” driven by Brian Perkins (North Bend, WA) is expected to return to the circuit after sitting out the event in Madison. Like the Miss HomeStreet team, the U-21 team is expected to pop the cork soon on a new hull they have been working on for several years.
Others boats expected to participate include the U-1918 “Oberto” driven by Cal Phipps (Avon Lake, OH), and the only piston-powered hydroplane, U-3 Grigg’s presents Miss Ace Hardware, to be driven by Jimmy King.
General admission tickets are $25 for the weekend, $10 for ages 6-12. Saturday-only tickets are $15, $5 for ages 6-12, and Sunday only tickets are $25, $5 for ages 6-12. Tickets are available at Albertsons/Safeway stores in the Tri-City area. Pit passes available for $45, include general admission, and can be purchased at the Tri-City Water Follies office located at 621 N. Gum, Suite A, Kennewick, Wash.
HAPO COLUMBIA CUP H1 UNLIMITED SCHEDULE
Friday, July 27, 2018
8:00 am-9:00 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing
9:00 am-11:00 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Qualifying
12:25 pm-1:45 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing
5:05-5:15 pm H1 Unlimited Dash for Cash (3 boat invitational)
Saturday, July 28, 2018
8:00 am-9:00 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing
10:20 am-10:35 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 1A
10:40 am-10:55 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 1B
4:20 pm-4:35 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 2A
4:40 pm-4:55 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 2B
Sunday, July 29, 2018
7:30 am- 8:30 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing
9:50 am-10:05 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 3A
10:10 am-10:25 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 3B
12:35 pm-12:50 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 4A
12:55 pm-1:05 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 4B
4:20 pm-4:35 pm HAPO Columbia Cup Championship Final
H1 UNLIMITED HYDROPLANE RACING SERIES NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
1) Andrew Tate, U-9 “Les Schwab Tires” — 3,200 points
2) Jimmy Shane, U-1 “Miss HomeStreet” — 2,760 (-440 behind)
3) Tom Thompson, U-11 “Reliable Diamond Tool presents J&D’s” — 2,415 points (-785 behind)
4) Dustin Echols, U-440 “Bucket List Racing” — 1,289 points (-1,911 behind)
5) Brian Perkins, U-21 “Darrell Strong presents PayneWest Insurance” — 1,094 points (-2,106 behind)
6) Cal Phipps, U-27 “Chase Building Group” — 625 points (-2,575 behind)
7) Aaron Salmon, “CARSTAR powers Miss Rock” — 225 points (-2,975 behind)
2018 H1 UNLIMITED HYDROPLANE RACING SERIES SCHEDULE
June 1: Preseason Testing • Kennewick, Wash. • Columbia River
June 22-24: Southern Cup • Guntersville, Ala. • Guntersville Lake (Winner: Andrew Tate, U-9 “Delta/Realtrac”)
July 6-8: Midwest Tube Mills Indiana Governors Cup • Madison, Ind. • Ohio River (Winner: Jimmy Shane, U-1 “Miss HomeStreet”)
July 27-29: HAPO Columbia Cup • Kennewick, Wash. • Columbia River
August 3-5: Albert Lee Cup • Seattle • Lake Washington
August 24-26: Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Gold Cup • Detroit • Detroit River
September 14-16: HomeStreet Bank Bill Muncey Cup • San Diego • Mission Bay
ABOUT H1 UNLIMITED HYDROPLANE RACING SERIES —
H1 Unlimited hydroplanes are the fastest racing boats in the world and their races are sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association. With deep history, the 115 year-old sport‘s majority of hydroplanes are powered by turbine engines that produce 3,000 horsepower, allowing the H1 Unlimited hydroplanes to reach speeds of nearly 200 mph, producing a massive 60-foot tall, 300-foot long wall of water called a roostertail behind them. With very few restrictions, these majestic hydroplanes race in front of shorelines packed with fans on bodies of water throughout the United States. For additional information on the 2018 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series, visit the series website at H1Unlimited.com, visit on social media on Facebook’s ‘H1Unlimited’ and Twitter ‘H1Unlimited’ and be sure to download the ‘H1 Unlimited’ app from your app store.
ABOUT THE TRI-CITY WATER FOLLIES ASSOCIATION — Event promoter for summer community festival featuring the HAPO Columbia Cup for H1 Unlimited hydroplanes and Over-the-River Airshow. Tri-City Water Follies is committed to exceeding expectations by providing the best boat racing, air show and shoreline entertainment experience while ensuring the safety and security of all guests.