Double dose of speed at Kent Narrows Power Boat Challenge ready to rev up


KENT NARROWS -- Some of the fastest boats in the mid-Atlantic states will top 100 mph this weekend in two racing events held as part of the the 1991 Kent Narrows Power Boat Challenge.

Tomorrow morning, 50 off-shore racing boats are expected to open throttle on an oblong course north of Kent Narrows on the Chester River, reaching speeds of up to 115 mph and covering 45 miles in less than an hour.

Tomorrow and Sunday afternoons, hydroplanes will fly above the surface of the water in Hog Bay, south of Kent Narrows, at speeds of 85 to 140 mph.

Members of the Kent Narrows Racing Association, which organized the racing, say this may be the first time an event has featured two different types of high-speed boat racing that require entirely different types of racing conditions.

"I don't know of anywhere in the United States that has ever had off-shore and hydroplanes racing at the same location," said Bob Wilson, organizer, sponsor and captain of the pace boat for the off-shore racers.

The off-shore boats, popularly known as "cigarette" or muscle boats, are narrow, powerful vessels that guzzle up to 60 gallons of fuel an hour when racing, and are designed to cruise rough ocean waters at high speeds. Hydroplanes, by contrast, need virtually smooth water to reach their top speeds of up to 140

mph without flipping.

The Kent Narrows, a narrow body of water separating the choppy seas of the Chester River from the more protected waters of Hog Bay, is uniquely suited for staging this double dose of high-speed racing.

The Kent Narrows Racing Association, which organized the Power Boat Challenge, isn't leaving anything to fate, however. It plans to bring in its own breakwater in the form of several barges, provided by C.J. Langenfelder, to be positioned on the southern end of the hydroplane race course to reduce wave action.

The off-shore races start at 11 a.m., north of Kent Narrows where an eight-mile course has been established along the Kent Island shoreline. The slowest boats, led by a pace boat, will get on plane first, followed by several progressively faster classes of boats. But within eight minutes, "everything will be up on plane and running," creating a spectacular sight of power and speed or viewers, said Wilson.

The boats will make six laps around the course, some of the boats exceeding 115 mph.

When the off-shore boats finish racing about noon, they will parade through the Kent Narrows to the hydroplane race course on Hog Bay, south of the Narrows, scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

The hydroplanes will race in short, fast heats until about 5 p.m. Jersey Skiffs will also be raced on the same circular course used by the hydros.

In addition to the racing, 25 "super boats" -- expensive, high-performance, high-tech, off-shore racing boats, collectively worth about $6 million -- will be on display at Red Eye's Dock Bar at Kent Narrows on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Children and young adults also have a chance to participate by racing canoes in a "Race Against Drugs" Sunday at noon in front of the yacht club.

Some $14,000 in prize money will be awarded in the off-shore and hydroplane racing, which are both sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association, the national authority in the U.S. for international motorboating.

Facts and figures

Where: Kent Island

When: Racing begins at 11 a.m.

Admission: $1 parking fee at most parking lots, $3 gate fee to enter the Kent Island Yacht Club grounds.

Where to watch: Spectators can watch the off-shore boats racing from Bayside, a 30-acre parcel of land, soon to be developed on the Chester River, which has been leased for the event. The site is on Castle Marina Road, directly north of McDonald's on Route 50. To reach the viewing grounds from Route 50, turn north onto Route 8, just south of the Bay Bridge, then turn east onto Route 18. At McDonald's, turn left onto Castle Marina Road and follow it to the Chester River. After the off-shore race, spectators can leave their cars at Bayside and take shuttle buses to the Narrows, or they can park at a lot off exit 40B, marked by state highway signs on the south side of Route 50, and take shuttle buses to the Narrows. The best location to watch the hydroplanes and Jersey Skiffs racing is from the Kent Island Yacht Club grounds.

The pits: Spectators can visit the pits and talk with the mechanics and drivers. The hydroplane pits are at the yacht club and the off-shore racers' pits are located at Mears Point Marina. The super boats will dock at Red Eye's Dock Bar at Mears Point Marina.

If you're not a racing fan: Courtesy buses will carry visitors to two shopping outlets in the area if they tire of watching boat racing.

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