High-speed powerboat races are coming to Chetek this weekend for Water Mania, hosted by the Chetek Area Chamber of Commerce and organized by the Twin Cities Power Boat Association.
The event takes place at the Hydroflites Water Ski Show Site, at 728 Lakeview Drive. Racers will be doing warm-up laps at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24–25, with races beginning at 1 p.m. Races end around 5 p.m. each day. The Hydroflites will perform two 15-minute mini-shows each day, and a night show on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The event is free to attend, but parking is $5.
Brian Tabara, chairman of TCPBA board, said he expects there to be around 30 racers. Most teams are from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois, but others come from all over North America. He said there will be seven classes of boats, from the smaller boats raced by kids as young as 12 years old, to the top end Formula 150 boats that reach speeds up to 135 mph.
“The boats are pretty spectacular. It’s about 0–100 in about three to five seconds,” Tabara said.
Pro racer Jasen Lindebach, who is from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, races a F150 boat, named “Snuffleupagus” for the big nose it has.
Lindebach noted that each race course is different, but generally set up in an oval with a dogleg. The boats are like small fighter jets, he said. They surpass 120 mph going down the quarter-mile straight stretches and then experience four to six Gs while making the turns.
Lindebach’s boat is a tunnel boat, or catamaran style. It has two hulls, with a tunnel underneath the cockpit. When it reaches high speeds, all but a small part of the rear hulls touches the water. The propeller is practically the only thing in the water, he said.
Moving winds and waves mean the race course changes every lap. A good gust of wind can catch a boat and send it airborne, Lindebach explained. Crashes do happen, and boats can flip in the air, landing upside down.
“Fans like it, but we don’t,” Lindebach said.
With the dangers of crashes, there are two rescue boats with rescue divers on board and a rescue Jet Ski on hand. The top-end boats have safety capsules which the drivers are strapped inside of. Every two years, they get training in those, he said. “We hope there’s no crash.”
Races have a Le Mans start, where the boats—not running—are lined up along the shore. At the flag, they start their engines and race into the course. They must stay in their lane before they get to the “commitment pin” and only after that can they jockey around for position, Lindebach explained.
For the F150 boats, each lap might only take 35 to 45 seconds.
Tabara said there will be two qualifying races of 10 laps for each boat class on Saturday. Sunday will be the main event, with the final 20-lap race for each class. The starting position of each boat depends on how they do on Saturday.
Lindebach said there are friendly rivalries between drivers and teams. Bragging rights are important, but they are a close group, even if they come from all over the country. Some families have fathers racing pro boats, with their kid racing in the smaller classes, he said.
Races start at 1 p.m. each day, but boats and drivers will be doing hot laps at 11:30 a.m. Each team uses this time to calibrate their engines, set up their propellers and form game plans for the races.
Each race awards points to the drivers, and they go toward club rankings and national rankings. This is the TCPBA’s last race of the season, but Tabara said many teams will be traveling to other events across the nation later this year.
The F150, SST 150 and SST 200 classes will be exciting to watch, Tabara said. While slower, the V-hulled boats tend to ride rougher in the water and bounce around more. “They are not fast, but they are the closest races. They look absolutely wild out there,” Tabara said.
The race pits will be closed to the public, but spectators and kids can meet the drivers and get autographs after the races at 6 p.m. on Saturday. There will also be games and music.
“I’m excited. I think it will be a lot of fun,” said Jennifer Blatz, with the Chetek Chamber. Weather looked promising and people were looking forward to the races, she said.
The Hydroflites team will be selling concessions during the event and the Chamber will be selling beer, as well as Water Mania T-Shirts. Blatz said volunteers are needed for the beer stand and anyone interested in volunteering can sign up at the Chamber’s website at www.explorechetek.com.
Traffic arriving can come from either direction on Lakeview Drive, but must drive south on Lakeview Drive when exiting.
The boat landing will be closed all day on Saturday and Sunday.