Through The Lens: Vintagen Race Day 2019
Some years ago Mary and I were away from home on vacation. We met a couple and they inquired as to where we lived. As soon as we told them New Martinsville they immediately responded, “That’s where they race boats.” That response is one that has been echoed over the years all around the country. Our community’s association with APBA power boat racing will once again be validated this weekend when historic racing boats return to our community.
The weekend’s event schedule is filled with seven classes of boats. So far the boat registration committee has received notice from twenty-eight boats that plan to attend the event. Committee officials speculate there will be more boats that will arrive on race day. Each class of boats will be on the water for two different events. That makes a total of fourteen vintage heats for each of the two days. That many water events means the cranes and crews will be busy all day. It also will give those in attendance a full day of speed and excitement on the river.
It has taken nearly a year to prepare for this event. The vintage boat organizers work diligently to continue the long tradition of hydroplanes on the Ohio River. Part of their goal is to make the weekend’s activity open to all those people who love the sights and sounds of the boat speeding around the course. For the spectators who attend, they may see the event as routine. But that is far from reality.
A long list of preparations have to be made in advance of the actual event. First arrangements must be made with both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard to open the river to a mile and quarter course. In order to do this the river must restrict barge traffic. The Ohio River is a major water way for commercial barge traffic that moves freely up and down the river. Tow boats and their barges must be able to navigate without concern for smaller traffic, including racing boats. Each of the barges moves cargo that is essential to reach its destination on time and safely. Only with the help from the Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can that be accomplished. Support and river security is also provided for the event by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.
For the safety of the drivers and their boats, rescue professionals from Tonawanda, New York will be on hand for the entire weekend. These teams are trained to move quickly to an incident site and provide specialized services. Each rescue boat is equipped with EMT’s and divers along with their emergency equipment.
Once all four permits to conduct the event are approved, then sponsors must be found to support the free weekend event. For those in attendance there is no fee to attend, but it still takes financial support and in-kind services to conduct the event.
This year 29 sponsor’s donated money or in-kind services to help make the vintage show possible. Support came from, Wetzel County Commission, Mustang Crane, Merco Marine, Litman Excavating & Construction, Holiday Inn Express, Dr. Dave Kappel, Dos Hermanos Mexican Restaurant, Frye’s Boat Docks, Lance and Lisa Heasley, Wayside Furniture, Wheeling Hospital, Aunix Minerals, Dr.& Mrs. David Bridgeman, Lite Rock 93R FM, Mark West Resources, Quinet’s Restaurant and Catering, Anderson Orthodontics, Colonial Life-Tim Starkey, Goodfellars Tree Services, J.C. Mensore Distributors, Inc., McDonalds, Ricochet, Mr. & Mrs. John B. Bridgeman, Dr. & Mrs. Neil Marshal, Moose Lodge 931, New Martinsville Rotary, Riggenbach Tile & Carpet, WesBanco, Bayer Federal Credit Union, PJ’s Pizza and Bridgeport Equipment & Tools.
Vintage boat events have been growing since changes in safety requirements prevented many older boats from racing. But event such as New Martinsville still draws boats from as far north as Ontario, Canada and south from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Many of the boats that will be attendance have raced on the Ohio River over the years. Those boats have been restored to original conditions and still can achieve racing speeds.
One of the good things about this event is the ability for spectators to visit the pits between events to talk and take pictures with the boats and their owners. Each of the boats in attendance has a story to be told and their owners are eager to share with the racing fans the history of their hydroplanes.
This year spectators will be able to watch the river events from the park south of the fire Department. Due to the generosity of home owners the properties behind their homes just north of the pit area will be opened to spectators to watch the boats. The exhibition course will extend from approximately behind the courthouse up to about where McEldowney intersects North Main. Spectators are reminded to bring their own lawn chairs. This Saturday’s events will begin at 10 am and 11 am on Sunday. Both days exhibitions heats will run until p.m..
The Vintage boat pits will be along the river behind Dos Hermanos Mexican Restaurant. This site returns the boats to their original racing course that began in 1938. At that time the area was owned by the Magnolia Yacht Club. With the return of the vintage boats to the original racing site, the community is looking forward to the sights and sounds of Vintage Racing Hydroplanes returning once again to our community as we watch Through the Lens.