Hydros churn up huge roostertails in 2016. (Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

Grand Prix boats to join Hydros for Heroes

Changes and additions to this year’s Hydros for Heroes prompted the theme “History in the Making.”

The hydroplanes will return to Oak Harbor Bay for the fourth consecutive year Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 19 and 20. The boats will compete 12:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30-5 p.m. Sunday.

The racing will enter the event’s history book with the inclusion of Grand Prix boats. For the first time the big boats — second only in size to the unlimited class — will scream across the 1.25-mile Oak Harbor course, reaching 150 mph from a standing start.

It will also be a points race for the first time. In the past, the Oak Harbor races were only exhibitions.

“Oak Harbor has never seen this before,” race director Jim Woessner said. “It will be all-out racing with money on the line.”

Drivers will earn prizes and points toward the national championship, and it will be one of the few opportunities for spectators to watch the Grand Prix boats race in the Northwest this season.

Championship

For the tunnel hull classification, there will be more than money on the line. Hydros for Heroes is the tunnel boats’ official North American Championship race.

In all, the Oak Harbor event will include eight boat classifications but will not include the smaller boats this year.

The Grand Prix class will be the main event and feature four-boat heat races with possibly five or six boats in the final, according to race owner Craig McKenzie.

“Whatever boats are left — which ones that haven’t blown up — will be in the final,” he said.

Among the drivers this year will be J. Michael Kelly and the father-son duo of Jerry and Greg Hopp; all have experience on the unlimited boat circuit, the major leagues of boat racing.

Charitable Event

McKenzie took over ownership and financial responsibility of the event last year and christened it Hydros for Heroes to honor local heroes, such as military personnel, police officers, firefighters and school teachers.

McKenzie noted, however, that everyone involved in the race — the drivers, fans, sponsors and volunteers — is a hero for helping make this community event successful.

Proceeds go to Rotary Club of Oak Harbor’s charitable works, including the Food for Kids Backpack Program.

Last year, Hydros for Heroes netted nearly $24,000.

Hydros for Heroes is an offshoot of Homes for Heroes.

In 2016, the Craig McKenzie Team Foundation of Keller Williams Whidbey Realty raised $161,000 for the Homes for Heroes program, the sixth highest total of any agency in the United States. So far this year, the team has generated $156,000, which ranks fourth nationally.

“Everything we do, including the hydros, is always with the win-win mindset,” McKenzie said. “It is good for all those involved.”

Ready for 2017

McKenzie and Woessner both laughed when asked if everything was falling into place for this year’s hydro races.

“It’s organized chaos; there are so many moving parts,” McKenzie said.

Those parts meshed last year. Three racing teams stopped by McKenzie’s office on their way out of town to thank him for hosting such a well organized event.

“We heard the good word spread all the way to Detroit (one of the centers for hydroplane racing),” Woessner said.

Many of the changes for this year’s event were made with the spectator in mind.

The races are free, but for a fee fans can upgrade their viewing experience by choosing from three VIP opportunities — viewing from yachts with food and refreshments provided, from pavilions at the Oak Harbor Marina F Dock with food and drink provided and from a covered beer garden near the pits on Flintstone Freeway, with seat service.

Half of F Dock will be open for free viewing, McKenzie said, but there is a limit of 600 spectators because of space.

Spaces will also be rented along Pioneer Square for RV parking.

A bounce house will be available for kids, and the youngsters will receive a free hat while supplies last.

The U.S. Army will provide its STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Asset Experience. The exhibit is interactive and allows visitors to experience military scenarios.

Friday Dinner

The public is invited to the drivers’ welcoming dinner from 5-8 p.m. Friday at Louie G’s, where an $8 all-you-can eat pizza meal will be served. The boats will be on display for free viewing.

Hydros for Heroes could use more volunteers, McKenzie said, and a few sponsorship opportunities are still available.

Volunteers will be treated to a barbecue meal cooked by Scott Fraser of Frasers Gourmet Hideaway.

For more information, visit the race’s website: www.hydroforheroes.com

A pair of hydros come out of the second turn in last year’s race. (Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

Hydros might it out in last summer’s event. (Photo by Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times)

More in Sports

Late rally puts North Whidbey in state tournament / 9-10 softball

Three runs in the final inning propelled the North Whidbey Little League… Continue reading

Central Whidbey falls to Sedro-Woolley in championship game / 10-12 softball

Host Sedro-Woolley defeated Central Whidbey twice Saturday, June 16, to claim the… Continue reading

Oak Harbor takes 1st, Coupeville 3rd at Anacortes tournament / Baseball

The Oak Harbor High School summer baseball team took first place and… Continue reading

Martin wins state singles, doubles titles / Bowling

For the second consecutive year, the Island Girls, an Oak Harbor-based bowling… Continue reading

Park and crew complete Seventy/48 trek

She survived. Oak Harbor’s Drea Park and her six-person crew completed the… Continue reading

NW juniors get state berth; CW majors, NW minors 1 win away / Little League softball

The North Whidbey Little League junior softball team earned a trip to… Continue reading

Hines, Jackson receive Athlete of the Year honors at Oak Harbor High School

A pair of three-sport athletes, senior honor students Samantha Hines and Ozell… Continue reading

High school coaches schedule summer youth basketball camps

The Whidbey Island Youth Basketball Association and Whidbey Elite Basketball will offer… Continue reading

Central Whidbey wins tournament opener / 10-12 softball

The Central Whidbey Major (10-12) Little League softball team scored in every… Continue reading

Most Read