Pair of boats flip at Columbia Cup

Tri-City HeraldJuly 28, 2013 

Water Follies race fans got a second air show on Sunday.

And that’s not good.

Two unlimiteds flipped during the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup, and while both drivers came out of it OK, the boats did not.

J. Michael Kelly said he thought he could drive his 37 Miss Beacon Plumbing back to Lampson Pits during Heat 2B.

This was after he flipped the boat three times, end over end in the west turn during the first lap of the race, landing the boat right-side up.

“Until I got out of the boat and looked at things,” Kelly said. “It’s pretty torn up. It just got away from me. There was nothing I can do. I hit a roller, honestly I don’t know. It happens. I was racing hard. We had speed on those guys (95 Spirit of Qatar).”

Dave Villwock, who is a consultant for the 37 team, thought the propeller sheered off.

“It was caused by a propeller break,” he said. “There are no bolts or anything on the back of the boat. When the prop breaks like that, the back end settles in to the water, and the boat is lifted up.”

Villwock met with the entire 37 team about an hour after the flip, and after he had examined the boat.

“This one is easy to fix, really,” Villwock said. “We could butcher the thing here, and get some stuff off of it. But we’re going to go back to the shop in Seattle.”

Jane Schumacher, who owns the 37 with her husband, racing legend Billy Schumacher, said the team will be ready for Seafair next weekend.

“We’re going to get it done,” she said. “We need to get back to Seattle today so we can have that extra day.”

Kelly was battling Kip Brown in the 95 Spirit of Qatar for second position when the flip happened.

“I don’t think he got into a roostertail,” Brown said. “We were side by side in the straightaway. I don’t want to see any of my friends get hurt.”

Greg Hopp in the 14 Miss DiJulio and Brian Perkins in the 21 Go Fast, Turn Left boat may have had a better view of things from behind.

“He was up high enough that I had enough time to get out of there,” Perkins said.

“Me and Perkins were having a great race back there,” Hopp said. “All of a sudden I saw this big orange boat way up in the air.”

- Photos courtesy of Matt Watkins

Hopp did a great piece of driving to get out of the way.

“Brian changed lanes to the outside, and I just went to the far outside,” Hopp said. “I saw the boat land right-side up. But it looked like when it hit the water it may have broke in half.”

Later in the day, during heat 3B, replacement driver Kelly Stocklin was driving the 100 Central Coast Airbrush in the back of the pack when things went awry on the Pasco side of the course.

“It was pretty rough back there and I didn’t think I was going that fast,” Stocklin said in a phone interview Sunday night. “It hit a combination wave that launched the boat up, in a way the boat won’t come back down. What got it up in the air was the water was pretty rough.”

Stocklin had a little back pain and was taken to the hospital. He was treated and released and said he’s OK.

But he feels bad about the boat.

“I didn’t really do them any favors,” Stocklin said about the 100 team.

Stocklin got a call from Nate Brown, team manager for the 95 Spirit of Qatar, on Sunday morning, asking him if he’d like to drive the 100.

The team’s regular driver, Ryan Mallow, had posted on Facebook on Sunday. The post stated:

“After a lot of time thinking I’ve made one of the hardest decisions of my life today. This morning I resigned as driver for the U-100. I want to thank all of my supporters and fans who have had my back the last couple years, but the direction of this program is headed in a different direction than I had envisioned, on many levels. There is a lot more I could say, but it won’t change anything. The support from key people in this sport, regarding this decision, has been overwhelming and positive and I feel I am making the best decision for my racing career.”

Stocklin consulted his wife, who gave him the OK.

“This young man has been driving it, and it seems like he’s a little disappointed and frustrated,” said Stocklin on Sunday night. “He made a choice not to drive it anymore. This can be a frustrating business. So I understand how he felt. But that left them without a driver.”

The team has stated it will be using the 99 hull in Seafair next week, and Stocklin said he’s been asked to drive it.

“They said ‘You weren’t do anything wrong,’” Stocklin said. “I said let’s just wait a day.”

Stocklin said that even with all of its problems, the Columbia River is still a great track.

“It’s a great race course, and you can go really fast,” Stocklin said. “But I didn’t play my cards quite right, and the rest is history. All you are doing when you’re up in the air is going along for the ride.”

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