Columbia's high water slows boats in qualifying
Even with a rough course, the usual favorites were at the top of the qualifying ladder. Dave Villwock and U-1 Spirit of Qatar took the 100 points for fastest speed at 159.645 mph, while Steve David and Oberto were second at 158.155.
KENNEWICK — There were high expectations by unlimited hydroplane drivers that someone would set qualifying speed records at the Columbia Cup on Friday.
But the only thing that turned out high was the water level on the Columbia River, which in turn wreaked havoc on the 13-boat fleet. The high water stems from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releasing a lot of water recently upriver from Priest Rapids Dam.
It's beating up the boats and slowing down the speeds, said U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto driver Steve David.
"You're getting large, standing swells from the apex to the exit in turns 1 and 2," said David. "You come in real fast, then hit this big stuff and it just bends you out of shape, and it brings speeds down about 6 mph from last year."
Even with a rough course, the usual favorites were at the top of the qualifying ladder. Dave Villwock and U-1 Spirit of Qatar took the 100 points for fastest speed at 159.645 mph, while David and Oberto were second at 158.155.
Scott Liddycoat in the 88 Degree Men were third at 154.342, while Jimmy Shane in the U-5 Graham Trucking was fourth at 153.152.
Both young drivers were surprised at how the river was handling.
"It's amazing how that first turn just holds its wakes," said Shane.
Shane was also amazed at how fast his speeds were with the current, and how much slower the boat was going upriver.
So was Liddycoat.
"It's like you're hitting bricks going upriver," Liddycoat said.
Erick Ellstrom, crew chief and owner of the Qatar, said: "I've been told the river is six feet higher than normal. And the current is two or three times as fast. Just don't be in the back of the field."
Kip Brown, driver of the U-17 Miss Red Dot, broke the bottom of his left tibia when the steering failed and he hooked the boat on a test run.
Brown will miss Sunday's race and Seafair next weekend.