SEATTLE -- A few months ago, it looked like the hydros would be on hiatus in Seattle this summer.
Financial issues forced the longtime sponsor of the annual Seafair unlimited hydroplane races, Chevrolet, to withdraw as prime backer.
The future of the Lake Washington competition at Seattle's annual summer festival looked bleak.
But just before this weekend's event would have been canceled, two Seattle-area enterprises -- Albert Lee Appliance and Duke's Restaurants -- stepped forward to keep the tradition alive.
Dave Villwock appreciates that.
The driver of the U-96 Spirit of Qatar will be seeking his third consecutive Seafair title when qualifying begins today.
Villwock is 370 points behind rival Steve David, driver of the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto, in this year's national high point standings.
The point battle would be much tighter except for a penalty that dropped Villwock from first to fifth place at the Columbia Cup on July 25.
Villwock is one victory from Chip Hanauer's mark of 61 career race wins.
That's one below the circuit record held by the late Bill Muncey.
One boat from the circuit is questionable for Seafair.
Ken Muscatel's U-25 was seriously damaged in an accident at the Columbia Cup in which Muscatel bent the steering column and damaged the pedals in the cockpit.
The right side of the boat was damaged beyond repair.
The crew has been working around the clock at a boat-building house in Pacific in an effort to get the U-25 ready for Seafair.
"It's a monstrous job," Muscatel said. "It's like halfway building a new boat."
Muscatel said if the boat is completed on time to race this weekend, there may not be time for it to be painted.
The unlimited hydroplanes will have qualifying sessions throughout the day today and Saturday morning.
Preliminary heat races are Saturday afternoon and Sunday before the championship heat on Sunday afternoon.
That's on the water. In the air, the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels will again be providing their air shows over Lake Washington this weekend.
In addition to the unlimited hydroplanes, the smaller unlimited light class will compete for the Graham Trucking Cup.
Kayleigh Perkins, winner of last year's unlimited lights race at Seafair, also won at the Columbia Cup.
On Saturday morning, she is scheduled to take the Oberto for a test drive in hopes of eventually driving in an unlimited competition.