Boat racers have an illness.
No matter what they do, sometimes costs be damned, they have to race.
But it takes money to race, and to do so most drivers need to have a full-time job elsewhere that can at least help feed their passion.
Only one guy, U-96 Spirit of Qatar driver Dave Villwock, has been able to make the driving gig his full-time job.
And one other driver, JW Myers, is trying to make it his full-time job.
Myers sold his roofing business and has become an owner, with Scott and Shannon Raney, of the U-11 Stevenson Roofing Presents Peters & May.
“It wasn’t like I dreamed to own one,” Myers said. “But when the situation unfolded like it did, and I had a chance to do it with Scott and Shannon, I jumped at it. I can’t imagine working with anyone else.”
Other drivers have incredibly professional and busy lives who squeeze in the boat rides.
Guys like Dr. Ken Muscatel, who drives the U-25 97 Rock and works as a Clinical, Forensic and Neurosychologist.
Muscatel specializes in forensic and neuropsychological evaluations, and has been used as an expert witness and evaluator many times in criminal trials — including a murder trial in the Tri-Cities in the past week.
Then there’s Steve David, the defending national high points champion who drove the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto to the title the last three years.
He’s the CEO of Florida Professional Companies LLC, a holding company for eight real estate companies that employs 300 people.
“We take care of asset management, property management, and we just did the Bank of America (Return of Assets),” David said.
In addition, David is sought out as a speaker for state conventions in real estate.
“I cap those at 60 a year,” he said.
David also has his own holding company that manages his assets — properties he owns.
In fact, the range of jobs the entire fleet of drivers have runs the gamut.
Here they are, in alphabetical order:
-- Jeff Bernard, the driver of the U-5 Graham Trucking, inspects oil drill pipe in North Dakota - even though he makes his home in the Seattle area.
“I get there every few weeks,” he said.
-- Kip Brown, the U-17 Miss Red Dot driver, is a service writer for an automotive maintenance and repair business, Morgan Motors LLC, in Issaquah.
-- Mark Evans, the pilot for the U-57 Formulaboats.com, has been a freelance contractor in Chelan, working on various projects.
"I just completed a dock," he said. “Another guy brought me a 1957 T-Bird to restore. I work on my four-seat hydroplane. Just call me an entrepreneur.”
Evans also works with his brother Mitch in his company, Evans Marine, which services boats for the wealthy set around Lake Chelan.
-- Greg Hopp, driver of the U-100 Beacon Plumbing, still works at Boeing.
“I’m the lead for the wings for the 767 group,” he said.
-- J. Michael Kelly, the 88 Degree Men pilot, works commercial construction as a carpenter.
“I’ve been doing it for 11 years,” he said. “I was doing high-end homes, but I’m now in commercial. I work for a company, and it’s an hourly job.
“The owner loves hydros, so I’m able to get time off,” he said.
-- Then there’s Scott Liddycoat, driver for the U-7 Valken.com, who builds Featherlite Coaches as an assembly lead in Suffolk, Va.
“Luckily my boss is understanding,” Liddycoat said. “He did a lot of racing. When I got the job offer he said ‘You’ve got to do it while you can.’”
-- Brian Perkins works in the family business at Perkins Glass in Seattle, a business that started in 1906.
“This (hydroplane racing) is my summertime job,” Perkins said. “My sister Kayleigh and I are fifth generation at the store.”
It is helpful that mom and dad both support their children in racing, following them around the country.
-- Mike Webster teaches health and physical education to kids in grades 7-12 back in Pennsylvania.
“It’s my ninth year, they know what I do and they’re pretty into it,” said Webster of his students. “My school principal is pretty forgiving when I have to go to Doha and San Diego (during school time).”
He makes up the time later.
Webster said he uses his trips around the world to teach his students.
“My message to them is that if you work hard enough, great things sometimes happen,” he said. “But it takes a lot of hard work.”
-- Jon Zimmerman has been an auto mechanic for 32 years in a Burien shop.
Like most of his peers, he found a way to get into racing.
“I started as a kid in Seattle watching the races on all three TV channels,” he said. “I got hooked on the model boats.”
And he worked his way up the ladder to bigger boats - the whole time using his main job to help pay for what he really loves to do.