The Tri-Cities in southeast Washington consists of the cities Kennewick, Richland, and Pasco and is a growing metropolitan area where 300 sun-filled days offer visitors a year-round outdoor paradise along the Columbia River.
Located three and a half hours from both Seattle and Portland, Oregon, the area has more than 200 wineries within a 50-mile radius and the region produces some of the finest wines in the country.
But, on the last weekend of July every year since 1966, the Tri-City is flooded with fans from throughout the country, who come to see the world’s fastest race boats on one of the fastest 2 ½-mile racecourses in the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series.
The third race in the series stops in on July 27-29 for the 53rd running of the HAPO Columbia Cup as part of the area’s annual Tri-City Water Follies Association festival.
Like wine, this year’s favorites include a ‘young’ and a ‘full-bodied’ driver, both exhibiting strong tastes of success this season.
Andrew Tate driving the U-9 Les Schwab Tires, is the young maturing driver, now in his third season of racing unlimited hydroplanes.
The full-bodied driver Jimmy Shane driving the U-1 Miss HomeStreet is in his tenth season.
This year, both have one win each and hope to continue their strong smells and flavors of victory with a win at the Columbia Cup.
Last month Tate won the season opener in Guntersville, Alabama, in a deck-to-deck dual against Shane. Tate, in one of the oldest boats on the circuit won the nail biting winner-take-all final by just four-tenths of a second over Shane.
This season marks the boat’s 28th year since debuting as the Coors Dry, and is two years older than Tate.
The 26-year-old Tate has four wins in just 12 starts. With a winning percentage of 33.33 percent, he has quickly established himself as one of the sport’s rising stars.
Several weeks ago in the second race of the season, Shane won the Madison Regatta Indiana Governor’s Cup at the team’s hometown of Madison, Indiana.
Shane is already one of the best driver’s in the sport’s history with 17 wins.
He has also won the past five H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series national championships.
His Miss Madison Racing team is the only community-owned team in motorsports and plans to debut a new race boat at the Tri-City event.
After a thorough battery of tests at the Columbia Cup, the team will decide on which boat to race, Shane said: “The Miss HomeStreet team will be in full-throttle mode with the debut of our new 2018 hull along with running the current hull.
The plan is to test and qualify both boats and determine which one will make the cut when preliminary heat racing begins on Saturday afternoon.
This will be the first time I have a chance to run a H1 Unlimited Hydroplane out of the box and truly cannot wait.”
The team has campaigned a boat every year since 1961. In the past ten years, the Miss Madison Racing team has yielded seven wins at the Columbia Cup with both Shane and retired driver Steve David behind the wheel.
Going into the third race of the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series, Tate leads Shane in the national standings by 440 points. Tate has 3,200 points and Shane 2,760 points.
Another close battle between Tate and Shane is expected during the Columbia Cup weekend and both hope to taste victory.
Tate said: “We’re looking forward to racing against a larger field for the west coast races, and gaining some unpredictability with preliminary heat draws.”
A wild card in this year’s race will be last year’s Columbia Cup winner J. Michael Kelly (Bonney Lake, Wash.) driving the U-12 Graham Trucking.
The team struggled with mechanical issues in the pre-season and elected not to race the first two races. Considered one of the sport’s veteran drivers, Kelly is now in his 13th season and has collected eight national points race wins.
Sitting behind Tate and Shane in the standings is Tom Thompson (Cambridge, Md.) and the U-11 Reliable Diamond Tool presents J&D’s, which had a strong opener in Guntersville with three second-place finishes in preliminary heats and a third in the championship final.
Now in his seventh year in the sport, Thompson scored his first preliminary heat victory at the race in Madison, Ind.
The U-440 Bucket List Racing and 2017 rookie-of-the-year driver Dustin Echols (Sultan, Wash.) bill themselves as the sport’s “blue collar” team.
The boat has suffered damage at each of the first two races. Each time, the team made the necessary repairs to the bright orange hydroplane, which continues to improve as the season progresses.
After being in the bottom of the barrel in national high points after the first race, the team has risen to fourth place.
Rookie Aaron Salmon (Bonney Lake, Wash.) driving the U-99.9 CARSTAR powers Miss Rock, is well on his way to completing his rookie qualifications having completed the required laps in an H1 Unlimited hydroplane.
When he qualifies the boat for the race, however, he will be required to start his preliminary heats behind the front line until H1 Unlimited’s chief referee Doug Shelton clears him for front-row racing.
Locally sponsored U-21 Darrell Strong presents PayneWest Insurance driven by Brian Perkins (North Bend, Wash.) is expected to return to the circuit after sitting out the event in Madison.
Like the Miss HomeStreet team, the U-21 team is expected to pop the cork on a new hull they have been working on completing for several years.
Others expected include, U-1918 Oberto driven by Cal Phipps (Avon Lake, Ohio), U-7 Spirit of Detroit driven by Bert Henderson (Brockville, Ontario), and the only piston-powered hydroplane, U-3 Go3 Racing and is expected to be driven by Jimmy King.
General admission tickets are $25 for the weekend, $10 for ages 6-12.
Saturday-only tickets are $15, $5 for ages 6-12, and Sunday only tickets are $25, $5 for ages 6-12.
Tickets are available at Albertsons/Safeway stores in the Tri-City area.
Pit passes available for $45, include general admission, and can be purchased at the Tri-City Water Follies office located at 621 N. Gum, Suite A, Kennewick, Wash.
HAPO COLUMBIA CUP SCHEDULE
Friday, July 27, 2018
8:00 am-9:00 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing
9:00 am-11:00 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Qualifying
12:25 pm-1:45 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing
5:05-5:15 pm H1 Unlimited Dash for Cash (3 boat invitational)
Saturday, July 28, 2018
8:00 am-9:00 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing
10:20 am-10:35 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 1A
10:40 am-10:55 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 1B
4:20 pm-4:35 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 2A
4:40 pm-4:55 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 2B
Sunday, July 29, 2018
7:30 am- 8:30 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing
9:50 am-10:05 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 3A
10:10 am-10:25 am H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 3B
12:35 pm-12:50 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 4A
12:55 pm-1:05 pm H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 4B
4:20 pm-4:35 pm HAPO Columbia Cup Championship Final