Weather hampers boat racing at the lake
By GEOFF STOUTE
MORGAN CITY — Powerboat racing at the Atchafalaya Eastern Divisionals went on this weekend on Lake Palourde, it just wasn’t as much as organizers had hoped.
Saturday’s action was nearly a washout as rain in the morning, then, for much of the day, winds and water conditions kept racers from hitting the aqua speedway.
When boats finally were able to be put in the water around 5 p.m. — seven hours after the scheduled start of the race — one boat was damaged during a warm up lap.
Conditions were much better Sunday as numerous races were held under sunny skies.
“I was not happy about the rain, absolutely, but we did get a full day of racing in (Sunday) … I can’t stress enough what we see off the bank in the water is not what is happening on the backside of the race course. When we were afraid to put the boats in, we were afraid of just exactly could have happened (because) one of them spun out. You don’t realize that lake on the backside is choppy, and because it’s choppy” race officials have to use a lot of caution,” said Marie Siracusa, commodore of the Morgan City Powerboat Association, who put on the race.
Mike Weber, chief referee of the race, who works with the American Powerboat Association’s inboard racing, said that while officials want to put on a show on the water, they also must consider is the water safe enough to race in.
“When you got championships on the line, people are going to race hard,” he said. “So if I put them out there, they’re going to race. I got to look at it that way. I can’t say, ‘Well, it’s kind of rough, they’ll go out and take it easy. That ain’t gonna happen. They’re going to go out and race.”
During the lone heat of the day Saturday, a boat driven by Kevin Kreitzer hit a patch of water in a turn, lifting the boat and spinning it around before it landed backwards in the water, tearing some of the wood off its fins, Greg Kreitzer, the boat’s owner said. The boat also suffered a crack, he said. He also said his brother, the driver, was not injured.
Weber said driving too hard in the conditions maybe as well as rough water could have been factors in the mishap.
Greg Kreitzer’s boat was repaired for Sunday. Unfortunately, it was damaged again Sunday in what he said were more calmer waters.
The damage, he said are a part of racing.
“It was a fun weekend,” he said. “We got some heats in. We tore some stuff up.”
While Saturday didn’t have a lot of racing, Siracusa noted they were able to keep people onsite because of the live music they had as well as the fireworks later in the evening.
This weekend’s event also featured a fairground with rides.
On Sunday, Weber said that despite some unfavorable weather reports, things worked out.
“Perfect weather,” he said. “We had great water. We had a nice crowd here. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the boat count we would like to see, but with the boats that we had, we ran a fair amount of races, and I think we put on some excellent racing, some really good shows and (it seemed) … the fans were excited by it and interested and happy. We had a lot of people in the pits after, which is always fun to get the kids around the boats and let them see them up close. They seemed to have a good time, so that’s the bottom line.”
While there was racing, Siracusa said the race was short some of its expected participants because of damage they suffered in another race a week before.
In addition to modern boats, this weekend’s event also featured vintage boats, including one that was a Wickens F-Class. Tim Settle, of Brookville, Ohio, said the boat has been in his family since his father bought it in about 1961.
While he kept it in storage, thinking it was a locally built boat, he said he took it out and had it restored after an American Powerboat Association historian saw it and explained to him its history, which included setting a world competition speed record in 1948.
Nearby Saturday sat the “Miss Peg.”
In addition to its owners, Jack and Nancy Hines of Dayton, Ohio, others there to check the boat out included Damon Buntin King of Tampa, Fla., whose father, William “Wild Bill” Buntin ran the boat years ago, and Larry Farris of Baton Rouge, son of one of its past owners, Lawrence Farris.
King came to Saturday’s event to watch the boat, which her father, a hall of fame racer, had once competed in, run in the water again.
The Hineses purchased the boat and Jack Hines began restoration of it in 1999.
“The engine’s been water tested, but the boat has never been water tested,” King said Saturday morning.
Hines, who attended a reunion for the New Orleans Powerboat Association last week, said he stayed the week and wanted to run it at this weekend’s events, which it did run in.
“It seems kind of fitting it would go in the water down here the very first time … It lived its whole live between Baton Rouge and New Orleans,” he said.
Larry Farris, who actually raced the boat in Lake Palourde in the late 1960s, was impressed by the restoration of the boat to its original form.
“When Jack picked it up, it was a mess,” he said. “That’s love and care he’s put into it.”