Madison gears up for hydroplanes this weekend

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By Dave Taylor

The 2010 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane World Tour kicks off this weekend as Madison hosts the 60th running of the Lucas Oil Indiana Governor’s Cup Race.


Twelve of the world’s fastest boats are expected to race deck-to-deck on the two-and-a-half-mile Bill Cantrell Memorial Race Course on the Ohio River. An equal number of automotive-powered Grand National/National Modified hydroplanes are also expected to compete during the weekend. Slightly smaller than the Unlimiteds, the Grand National/National Modified limited inboard hydroplanes use big block V8 engines and will provide an exciting roar in the river valley.

Time trials and testing will be held Friday and Saturday. The first sets of heat racing begin at 1:15 p.m. Saturday. Heat racing continues all day Sunday, leading up to the Governor’s Cup championship final at 4:20 p.m.

Other popular attractions this weekend include the Madison Regatta Parade on Main Street at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 2; the American Legion Post No. 9 Fireworks Spectacular at dusk on Saturday, July 3; two days of air shows featuring local aerial acrobat Cliff Ronbinson including a twilight air show Saturday night before the fireworks.

Admission wristbands to the Madison Regatta are now on sale at a number of outlets in Madison. The public can also call the regatta office at (812 ) 265-5000, visit www.madisonregatta.com to purchase wristbands, or see the list of outlets where they may be purchased. A wristband is required for daytime access to Vaughn Drive and the riverfront from 6 a.m. Friday, July 2 until after the final race on Sunday, July 4. Children 10 and under are free.

The current series of Madison Regattas began in 1949. The first Unlimited hydroplane to compete at Madison was Andy Marcy’s My Darling in 1950. The 2010 race marks the 60th anniversary of Unlimited racing in Madison. The Indiana Governor’s Cup Race was instituted as the regatta’s feature event in 1951. Madison has also hosted powerboat racing’s most prestigious event—the American Power Boat Association Gold Cup—in 1971, ’79 and ’80. The 1971 Gold Cup race, won by the hometown-owned Miss Madison, was the subject of the 1999 motion picture, “Madison,” starring Jim Caviezel.

                   Miss Madison now races as Oh Boy! Oberto, with sponsorship from the Oberto Sausage Co. The hydro is driven by four-time national Unlimited driving champion Steve David, of Lighthouse Point, Fla. David and the Oberto/Miss Madison team are the two-time defending H1 Unlimited National High Point Champions and will be again wearing the U-1 designation in 2010.

                   Among the 200-mph-plus competitors vying for the Governor’s Cup title will be defending Madison champion Dave Villwock in the U-96 Spirit of Qatar. The boat is the former U-16 Ellstom’s Elam Plus, winner of three races on the 2009 H1 Unlimited season schedule and top qualifier at all but one event. Villwock is Unlimited racing’s winningest active driver with 59 career victories. He is rapidly closing in on the record held by the late Bill Muncey (62 wins) and second place held by retired champion Chip Hanauer (61 wins).

                   Jimmy King, of Wales, Mich., will return in the only piston-powered Unlimited, Ed Cooper’s U3 Go3 Racing Team of Evansville, Ind. The 2003 Gold Cup winning hydro is equipped with a turbocharged Allison aircraft engine, which powered America’s most potent fighter planes of World War II, the P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning. All other Unlimiteds are powered by jet turbine engines from Vietnam War-era Chinook helicopters.

                   2008 Governor’s Cup winner Jeff Bernard returns in the U-5 Formulaboats.com hydro. Bernard is a resident of Kent, Wash. His teammate, J. Michael Kelly won the 2009 World Championship Race in Doha, Qatar last November aboard the U-7 Graham Trucking. Both boats are based in Decatur, Ind.

                   Another former Madison winner returns this year in a new driving assignment. J.W. Myers, who won the 2005 Governor’s Cup aboard the U-16 Ellstom’s Elam Plus, replaces retired Jean Theoret aboard Billy Schumacher’s U-37 Miss Peters and May. Theoret was critically injured early in last year’s Madison race when the boat—then racing as Miss Beacon Plumbing—went airborne and slammed to the water upside down.

                   Cal Phipps, of Sterling Heights, Mich., will be driving the U-13 Spirit of Detroit, from the Motor City. The boat won the 2006 Gold Cup race.

                   Other contenders include Kip Brown in the U-17 Our Gang Racing, from Preston, Wash.; Brian Perkins in the U-21 Albert Lee Appliance from Maple Valley, Wash.; 2009 Rookie of the Year Mike Webster in the U-22 Matrix System Automotive Finishes of Reading, Pa.; Dr. Ken Muscatel in his U-25 Superior Racing hydro, and Greg Hopp in the U-100 Leland Racing of Kirkland, Wash.

                   The 2010 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane World Tour includes stops in Detroit, Mich., the Tri-Cities and Seattle in the state of Washington and a second straight trip to the Middle East to race in Doha, Qatar this fall.


Staff Writer Dave Taylor is a two-time past president of Madison Regatta, Inc., a boat racing historian, a member of the nominating committee of the Motorsports Hall of Fame and served as national public address announcer for Unlimited hydroplane racing from 1980 to 2004.