Bright future ahead for Cambridge Classic
A bright future awaits the Cambridge Classic Power Boat Regatta after a recent partnership with the Canada-based Hydroplane Racing League.
The HRL brought more than 60 addition boats to last weekend’s 107th Cambridge Classic on the Choptank River in Cambridge. Though rain postponed the action Saturday, May 13, a large crowd gathered at Great Marsh Park and along the Choptank for high-speed racing.
Cambridge Classic organizers believe the new partnership with the HRL will bolster the event for years to come.
“We felt strongly that this was a great opportunity to establish a relationship with HRL,” said Allen Nelson, vice commodore of the Cambridge Power Boat Racing Association.” This weekend was one that was available. We decided we had to take that and try it.
“We will find the best weekend in 2018, but we have high hopes because when we entered into the contract with HRL, they guaranteed 60 or more boats, which is more boats than a normal race. We now know we can go to our sponsors and go to the community and say this is what we will be putting on due to the relationship with HRL.
“Before you were hoping you could attract a certain number of boats,” he said. “There were things out of our control that would affect that. Now, we have more control over it. HRL is extremely professional with how they do things. HRL has really gotten this sport down to a science.”
On the water, the HRL joined the American Power Boat Association as boats participated in six classes — Grand Prix Hydroplanes, H350 Hydroplanes, Formula 2500 Hydroplanes, 2.5 Liter Hydroplanes, 1 Liter Hydroplanes and Jersey Speed Skif fs.
“We feel we can take the whole race to another level with our relationship with HRL,” Nelson said. “It has proven out so far to be everything we thought it might be. The people here saw the hospitality of Cambridge, Dorchester County and the Eastern Shore.”
Drivers raced in qualifying heats beginning Sunday morning with the winners transferring to the finals. Drivers also qualified for the finals based on best times and a last chance race.
In the 2.5 Litres Class, Grant Hearn defeated Alexis Weber. The Formula 2500 Class saw Yan Beaupre beat Gullaume Charette. Jimmy King won the Hydro 350 Class with Donny Allen coming in second. Bert Henderson defeated Marty Wolfe to win the Grand Prix Class. J. Michael Kelly won the 1 Litre Hydro class over Keith McMullen. Tom Pakradooni finished first over Jimmie Stewart in the Jersey Speed Skiff Class.
“Though plagued with heavy rain and wind on Saturday, we were able to test on Friday afternoon and have a great day of racing on Sunday with all heats run,” Nelson said. “A total of 66 boats participated coming from Louisiana to Canada and west to Michigan.
“The community rallied to help,” he said. “We had to shut down parking at Great Marsh because of the wet ground. Blackwater Shuttle provided a shuttle bus service to ferry spectators from parking at Sandy Hill Elementary to the entrance gate.”
Nelson said Tom Pakradooni in his Jersey Speed Skiff JS7 won the prestigious Nathan Index of Performance Award. The Skeeter Johnson Memorial trophy, awarded by the Hill’s Point Gang, went to GP777 Steeler driven by Bert Henderson.
The racing saw one accident when Mario Blain in his GP777 Canada Boy flipped in the first turn of an elimination heat.
“Mario was released after a thorough check out by emergency medical personnel on site — a testimony to the latest safety designs being utilized,” Nelson said.
The Choptank River will see power boat racing again in 2017 with the Thunder on the Choptank on Aug. 19-20. The Kent Narrows Racing Association brings its Thunder on the Narrows race to Cambridge due to the shallow waters at Kent Narrows.
“Cambridge and Kent Island have a long tradition in boat racing,” Nelson said. “We were the last two races in the state. We’ve helped them in past years. We asked what we could do to help.
“We have great events like Ironman to go along with the Cambridge Classic,” he said. “This is another big event to attract people. Our vendors and businesses will benefit as the community see another great race. Tradition in this community is enormous in power boat racing. We want to continue that tradition, and this is a way to do it.”
Follow Caroline/ Dorchester Editor Dustin Holt on Twitter @Dustin_ StarDem.
Racers jockey for position on the Choptank River Sunday, May 14, in the 107th Cambridge Classic Power Boat Regatta.