SEATTLE -- In 22 years of racing unlimited hydroplanes, Dave Villwock has learned a thing or two about Seafair.
What's critical, he's learned, is to go all out right away.
Villwock blew away the field with a qualifying lap in the first session that others couldn't touch at the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair on Friday.
His qualifying speed of 155.888 mph in the U-96 Spirit of Qatar was more than 7 mph faster than the closest boat.
Qualifying resumes with a third and final session at 10:50 a.m. today before the first heat race begins at 2:40 p.m.
"Traditionally in Seattle, the first session is it," said Villwock, who's won 10 times at Seafair, including the past two races.
It's all about the calm before the storm.
Villwock said the water was choppier in the sunny late afternoon session than the first one that began just before noon under cloudy skies.
But instead of pointing to the weather, he pointed to the boats across Lake Washington.
Hundreds of boats of all sizes lined the log boom across from the Stan Sayres Pits on Lake Washington. Typically, those numbers tend to increase as the day goes on, creating a wake that racers can't ignore.
Hydroplanes' waves hit the boats and bounce back.
That's why Villwock knows to push the limits early.
"The more popular we are that year, the more boats out there on the log boom, the rougher it gets," Villwock said. "Yep, the more fans, the rougher. That's OK. That's a good problem."
While a strong start left Villwock feeling confident, national points leader Steve David seemed out of sorts.
David's U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto team came to Seattle with 4,754 points -- only 370 ahead of Villwock's U-96 -- with only one race remaining after Seafair.
David stepped out of his boat Friday and expressed concern about the boat's lack of power and the racing team's focus.
Greg Hopp and the U-100 Lay's Kettle Cooked overtook David in the second session and moved into second place with a speed of 148.701 mph. David, a two-time defending national points champion, had the third-best speed of 148.640 mph, followed by J. Michael Kelly (148.026) in the U-7 Graham Trucking.
David wondered if the racing team's time spent on preparing for Kayleigh Perkins' test run in the Oberto might have played a role in Friday's struggles. Perkins is getting a chance to run test laps for the first time at 8:30 a.m. today on Lake Washington in the championship boat.
"Today sucked," David said. "We are not on our game. I think we've been messing around so much worrying about media and crap like that ... on all this getting somebody in the boat tomorrow that we've really got to focus on a race boat. We have got to put together a race boat before tomorrow because we do not have one right now."
He questioned the timing of Perkins' test run but said he wouldn't recommend canceling it.
"No, we made that promise and we're going to live up to that," David said. "These guys are good enough that they can overcome that. We've just got to get them refocused on the goal here to win this race and win the points. We'll get through her thing in the morning then get on it. But we've got to have the setup ready for tomorrow."
David said a new engine might be the reason for the lack of power.
"These guys are real good," he said of his team. "I know they're going to figure it out."