Riding the water with 3000 horsepower

Courtesy of Emily Raney

Courtesy of Emily Raney

Micah Chen, Staff Reporter

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The Albert Lee Appliance Cup, a hydroplane boat racing competition, is one of the featured attractions at Seattle’s Seafair Weekend Festival. CWU freshman Emily Raney is a familiar face at the annual adrenaline-pumping event.

 

Family business

Raney’s family owns a boat racing team, known as the U-11 Reliable Diamond Tools Presents J&D. The team has 20 to 30 people that are part of the crew, which includes Emily.

“I don’t drive them… You have to be really strong to drive them,” Raney said. “3,000 horsepower from the engine is a lot to control.”

Raney’s primary responsibilities are on the engineering side of the team. She helps with the hydroplane engine, the electrical system, and the team’s social media page.

The Raney family first got into the hydroplane business when Raney’s father, Scott Raney, started working at a hydroplane shop at age 19. He gradually worked his way up to owning a team.

The Raney family boat resides in Edmonds, Washington. The Seafair Weekend Festival may be the closest race to their hydroplane location, but it is not the only event they race at.

 

Preparing for success

The U-11 Reliable Diamond Tools Presents J&D will be traveling to places like Tri-Cities, Washington, Detroit, Michigan, Guntersville, Alabama, Madison, Indiana and San Diego, California.

Raney had particularly kind words for the Tri-Cities race, known as the Columbia Cup.

“That’s one of the best race sites, if not the best race site across the country,” Raney said. “Everyone loves racing in Tri-Cities, I want to win the Columbia Cup so badly.”

According to Raney, there are serious accolades and rewards that can come from winning a hydroplane race.

“You get national attention and the sponsors come to you,” Raney said. “One of the most successful boats is sponsored by Home Street Bank, and they’re really sponsored by Oberto Beef Jerky.

 

From inside the cockpit

Raney’s description of what the interior of a hydroplane looks like could also be the same description for a NASCAR vehicle.

The driver will wear a driver suit, similar to what is used in NASCAR. Helmets, gloves, and boots are all part of the attire. The inside of the hydroplane typically doesn’t get wet.

The driver is strapped in the vehicle tightly, with harnesses going all the way around their body. This is a necessity in order to withstand the impact of driving a boat 200 mph.

Another similarity to NASCAR in hydroplanes is the communication system. A communication set inside the hydroplane relays back to a crew chief located in a tower and the crew chief informs the driver what to do.

“We’re like on-water NASCAR,” Raney said.

 

The dangers of racing

Even when precautions are taken, the sport of hydroplane racing can be incredibly dangerous.

“They’re not in the water, they go above the water. They’re hydroplaning,” Raney said. “They’re more of an airplane.”

There’s always the danger of the wind coming underneath the hydroplane and flipping it over. If the wind is blowing too much, races can be delayed or even cancelled.

Emily has seen people flip, and she describes the events as terrifying.

When this happens, a highly trained rescue team goes out to make sure the driver is safe. They then flip the hydroplane back over.

 

The competition scene

Raney’s competition in the hydroplane world is local Ellensburg resident Bob Ross.

Ross was originally on a team with Scott Raney. Scott left the team because he wanted to be a crew chief somewhere else, while Ross stayed with the team.

The biggest job for Ross is transporting the hydroplane to the locations of the races. This entails driving the truck hundreds of miles to the various race destinations across the country.

Like Raney, Ross is a big advocate for the Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities, which will take place this summer in the last week of July.

“In my estimation, it’s the best race course and the best place to go,” Ross said. “A lot of it is the people, the weather is generally good, the race course is fast. It’s a well run race.”

According to Raney, help is always wanted when it comes to hydroplane racing. They have a team member that reached out from New Zealand, who now commutes to the United States to be a part of the hydroplane racing weekend.

The U-11 Unlimited racing group can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. A message sent to any of those pages would be a great first step to get in the hydroplane racing game.

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