Seattle Seafair hydroplanes

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Had the opportunity to visit Seattle and watch some of the 2009 hydroplane qualifiers and races. The organizers were kind enough to grant me hot pit access, which is how I was able to get some nice close ups of the boats and crew.

Not knowing much of anything about hydroplane racing, I did notice that there were two types of powerplants. Piston and turbine powered. I think the turbines go faster, but the pistons make the more satisfying roar!
- Bernard Zee


I visted the pits area friday, thinking it would be less crazy than on race day.


Each of the teams had their own little area to work on the boat. Huge cranes haul the boats from the trailer to the water and back.


The qualifying runs were held in between various air show practice acts (or vice versa!).


By paying a bit extra, hydroplane fans can visit the pit area - where they can see their favorite boats up close.


The hydroplanes run in a counter-clockwise oval pattern in Lake Washington. The I-90 bridge and log boom can be seen in the background.


Here, crews work to fine tune their boats to get the maximum performance.


The U-37 Hoss Mortgage Investors boat was a serious contender, with a qualifying speed of 150.38 mph.




As the boat is run around the course, crew members look closely at how their boat is performing.
Finer points of how the boat is handling is discussed between crew and pilot.


The heat put out by the turbine engine can be seen behind the boat.


Some young race fans got to hang around the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto pit area.


Spray is thrown everywhere as the hydroplane is getting up to speed


The hydroplanes throw up an impressive rooster tail when going fast. The only things in the water are the propeller and rudders!


The U-1 team looks on as the boat makes its way around the course.


I love this dynamic shot of Oh Boy! Oberto, as he's coming in to the pits!


U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto was in the thick of things with a blistering qualifying speed of 152.55mph! Love that awesome shark nose paint scheme!


U-1 stayed close to the leader on the Final heat, but caught a big wake and landed hard on the 3rd lap. This caused some damage to the boat, and it was all he could do to finish.


Here, you can see the flat underside of the boat, and the position of the 2 rudders.


This is U-22 Matrix System Automotive Finishes. Basically skimming over the surface of the water, the boat relies on the air foil to trim it and keep it under control.


Didn't get to see the Boeing alternative fuel boat run, but did hear it when they started her up. Quite loud!


U-7 Graham Trucking runs with a piston engine.


Here is U-7 out on the water. They had a very respectable qualifying speed of 146.94mph. Just a tiny bit slower than the turbine powered boats!


This is the UL-9 U.S. Army sponsored boat. I believe it competes in the Unlimited Light category.


As the name suggests, 'Smokin' Joe Souza is the driver of the boat.


U-37 being hauled out of the water by a crane.


Here's the crew looking over the engine.


This is the crew of U-48 Albert Lee about to lift the boat out of the water.


They have people on the ropes to prevent the boat from swinging when being moved.


It's amazing that there's only one propeller putting all that power into the water.


Here's the engine outside of the boat.


I think the race official is doing a check after the run to make sure everything was in order.


Seafair has this pirate motif going on. Here's the popular logo on a hydroplane canopy.


A closer look a the propeller. It must spin insanely fast to propel the boat up to 150mph!


A rear view of the U-37 Hoss boat.


Here's the U-16 Ellstrom Elam Plus. Fastest qualifier at 154.35mph, and overall winner!


It was an uncharacteristically hot day in Seattle, so every bit of shade helps!


A closer view of one of the boat turbines.


The front left rudder. Looks fairly complicated!


The crane operators had to be very skilled, as it was dangerous work moving the boats back and forth.


Lots of red.





Putting the engine back in.


Police exporers were on hand to help with the crowds.


U-77 Miss Wahoo is a great looking boat.


Hydroplane pilots have their own air mask and air supply, in case they end up underwater after a crash and need to wait for rescue.


The Seattle fire department was on hand just in case.


Here, they're standing by since the crew wants to do some work where sparks would be involved.





Here's the Grant Boat Racing team working on their hydroplane.


This shot taken from the lake on race day. An impressive wall of water being thrown up by the hydroplanes as they make their turn!


I am very happy to have been able to experience a bit of the hydroplane racing fever! Here's wishing the various teams the best of luck in their season!


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