Families, spectators and power-boat race enthusiasts can join the Kent Narrows Racing Association this weekend to watch powerboats race more than 100 mph at the 17th annual Thunder on the Narrows races at the Kent Island Yacht Club.
"It's flat-out fun; I tell people it's the most fun you can have with your clothes on," said Wheeler Baker, the race director.
Attendees can watch more than 50 boats whizzing past at high speeds. The fastest boats go about 140 mph, Baker said.
According to Baker, the event usually draws a crowd of more than 1,000 spectators. Most of the boats use converted automotive engines with anywhere from 80 to 680 horsepower
Hydroplanes and Jersey speed skiffs make up the majority of the boats in Thunder on the Narrows, Baker said. There are nine classes that compete in the annual race. They include: 1 liter modified, 1 1/2 stock, 2 1/2 stock, 2 1/2 modified, 5 liter, national modified, jersey speed skiff, pro stock and super stock.
The up-close nature of the race is what sets Thunder on the Narrows apart from other typical boat races, Baker said. Spectators can expect to have a close and clear view of the races from the bleachers.
"A boat coming at you at 140 mph is pretty neat," Baker said. "If that doesn't get your blood flowing, you've got ice tea for blood."
Baker, who has been racing for more than 25 years, said the boat races are much like NASCAR, with high speeds, bleachers and adrenaline rushes. Each race is five miles long and takes four laps.
Every year, a portion of the profits from the race are donated to a different cause. This year, a donation will be made to the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center.
In addition to the races, there will be a section for children that will include face painting, clowns and more. There will also be vendors selling food and beverages. No coolers are allowed.
At the end of the day, Thunder on the Narrows is more than a simple boat race, Baker said. It's a family event. It's about families having a good time watching fast boats.
The gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The races begin at noon and continue until about 4 p.m. each day. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and younger. The Kent Island Yacht Club is at 117 Yacht Club Drive in Chester. For more information, call 410-643-5851 or go to kentnarrowsracing.com.