Crowds Flock To Regatta

CELINA —  Hydroplane boats once again zipped across Grand Lake St. Marys as the Governor’s Cup Regatta returned this weekend.

Racers and their friends and family sported matching racing T-shirts and mingled under tents near their boats, waiting for the giant cranes to place the vessels in the water.

Saturday afternoon saw the start of heat racing, where the seven different classes of boats complete five laps, or a heat.

Each class, which is based on the size of a boat’s engine and on the boat’s general size, raced two heats on Saturday and two heats Sunday, Race Committee member Allen Baskett said.

“What we’re racing today are inboard hydroplanes,” he said. “That means it’s a boat that is designed to basically fly above the water. Once they start moving, they get (enough) momentum, the boat will pack air under the boat. It has two sponsons in the front, and the sponsons force the air to raise the boat up off the water.”

To enter, racers have to pay a fee and be a member of the American Power Boat Racing Association. Racers start as rookies, who are not allowed to officially race with the other boats.

“You go out and you run behind the rest of the boats,” Baskett said. “And you have to qualify. I think you have to race 11 heats of racing before you’re allowed to actually get in and mix it up with the rest of the racers.”

But someone who starts the morning as a rookie and finishes his last heat can race with the other boats by the afternoon.

The regatta, which was canceled last year because of low water levels on the lake, draws people from all over the world including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and both coasts, Baskett said. It has been taking place on and off since 1958, and one of the main draws is the people.

“The racers love to come here because the community is so friendly and people really understand racing here,” Baskett said. “It’s a great location, a great venue to watch. The racers also like coming here because they’ve got a really good safety record ... Most of all it’s the local people here. That’s what draws them. We’ve always had good support from the businesses in the area, good sponsorship support. All that comes together to put together a nice race.”

One team, dressed in black T-shirts to match their sleek, black boat, included a couple from Australia.

Graham Coddington, who would be racing the boat, came to the states in early July with his wife, Kerry, from Brisbane, Australia. They shipped their boat over to participate in the Summer Vintage Circuit. It’s not a race, he said. They just drive the boats fast and put on a show so people can admire the vintage boats.

He has been racing since he was 17, taking after his father who also raced boats.

This particular boat, which is his favorite of all the boats he has ever raced, has a lot of history behind it.

“It was built in 1972 by Henry Lauterbach, which is the brand of the boat ... and it was the USA National Champion in 1973,” Coddington said. “In 1985, Peter Knight bought this boat from here and shipped it to New Zealand. And it was in New Zealand right up until we purchased it in 2003. While it was in New Zealand, it was raced.”

He and his wife saw it advertised, bought it, and restored it. They have been racing it ever since in places like Sidney and Victoria, Australia.

Recently boat racing laws in Australia changed, requiring boats like his to have a driver’s cockpit that is enclosed. This, Coddington said, is not something that is done to a vintage boat, so he will continue to race it in the United States.

They heard about the regatta from a friend who lives in Dublin, Ohio, he said, and their first visit to Celina has been a good one.

“I love it,” Coddington said. “I think it’s great. Very good venue, friendly people.”