Ocean City will hold powerboat races Sunday

Powerboat racing has been compared with NASCAR or Indy car racing.

It's not only wetter, but it can be wilder, according to Ed Smith, president of the New Jersey-based Offshore Powerboat Association.

"You're dealing with Mother Nature," Smith said. "Every event is different. It's chaos."

Local fans can get their thrills Sunday when OPA Racing will hold the first event of the 2012 season in Ocean City.

After a year's hiatus, the Bull on the Beach Grand Prix has returned. Two races will be held, beginning at noon and 2 p.m. The race will take place on a 5-mile course between 3rd Street and 34th Street. Smith said that he expects "between 30-40 boats" to test the waters on Saturday.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police announced last week that a section of the Atlantic Ocean off Ocean City will be closed between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday. The closed area is between 3rd and 30th streets, extending one mile off-shore.

Phil Houck, the owner of Bull on the Beach and the race's sponsor, said that he is putting up "around $25,000" of the $45,000 needed to put on the event after the race was not held a year ago because of financial reasons.

"I want to promote Ocean City," Houck said.

Fans can watch from the shore for free or, for a fee, watch from a party boat close to the race course, Smith said.

Houck, whose boat has won two world and one U.S. championship in the past three years, said that boat races will have to undergo a "dunk" test on Saturday to insure they can extricate themselves from a capsized boat. Three races died during an event last year in Key West, Fla., Houck said.

The boats can get up to around 115 miles an hour on this course, Smith said.

Smith said that the Ocean City event, one of two in Maryland this season (the other off Solomons Island in September) "is like a vacation because there are so many other things to do."



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