Oak Harbor gives $5K for hydroplane races in bay

Racers prepare their boats for a hydroplane race. Michelle Curry took the photo while investigating the sport.  - Photo provided
Racers prepare their boats for a hydroplane race. Michelle Curry took the photo while investigating the sport.
— image credit: Photo provided

A banker will be bringing the noise to Oak Harbor this summer.

Michelle Curry, a loan officer at Peoples Bank, is organizing an event with hydroplane races Aug. 16-17 in the water just off the marina.

She’s inviting Harley Davidson clubs in the region to come watch the speedy, noisy races and join in the festivities.

She proposes calling the event “Hogs and Rooster Tails.”

“It’s going to be a huge family event,” she said, “that appeals to both men and women.”

Yet it won’t be the first time hydroplanes have raced in the harbor. Businessman Jim Woessner was among a group of young people from Oak Harbor who raced in the 1970s; the Fourth of July races was a tradition for many years.

He was only 14 when he started racing on a three-boat team that included his older brother. His boat had a pair of jaws painted on it, he said, because he “was pretty infamous for running into other boats.”

Woessner said he has stayed in touch with the hydroplane racing community and is helping Curry with the event.

“It’s going to be very exciting,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of noise and a lot of water, a lot of rooster tails.”

Curry had never been to a hydroplane race until she agreed to take on the event last year.

Chris Sublet, the harbormaster at the marina, came up with the idea of hosting a race in the city.

A city staff member asked Curry, who was involved in many other events, including the Oak Harbor Music Festival, to create the event.

“I want to see Oak Harbor as a destination city, not just a pass-through city,” Curry said.

Curry started going to races last year immersing herself into the exciting, but “very expensive” sport. She said she realized that Oak Harbor will provide a perfect venue.

“We can provide one of the best views of a race probably in the state of Washington,” she said.

Bayshore Drive and Barrington Drive east of downtown will be closed down so that residents can watch the races. In addition, Curry said she’ll be selling passes to walk around the marina and special “suites” with close-up views of the half- and quarter-mile circular laps.

Seattle Drag and Ski will run the races themselves. The races are very competitive and highly regulated. Up to 120 teams travel the racing circuit; Curry said from 50 to 75 boats will likely come to Oak Harbor.

She expects boats up to the “grand prix” class to participate. The grand prix class is one step below the giant “unlimited class” that wow the crowds at Seafair.

The hydroplane racers lost the popular “Tastin’ n Racin’” event in Bellevue, Curry said, and she hopes Oak Harbor will fill that void.

Since the event will likely attract people from Seattle and beyond, the Oak Harbor City Council agreed to give $5,000 from lodging taxes toward the race.

The 2 percent money is earmarked for tourism-boosting events that bring in people from outside the community.

Curry asked for $10,000 and questioned whether all of the other events sharing in the limited funding lured people from off the island.

Nevertheless, she said she is grateful for the funds.

Mayor Scott Dudley, who’s an outspoken proponent of adding more community events, said he’s excited about the new race.

“It’s not only good for the economy and will bring individuals to the city, it’s another event where the community can come together,” Dudley said.


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