SEATTLE -- Steve David figured he had one shot -- or should that be a pass -- to beat Dave Villwock and the Spirit of Qatar in the winner-take-all final heat of the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair on Sunday afternoon.
"It was a Hail Mary," David said. "We were either going to win or get last."
On this day, the prayer was answered as David won his gamble at the start, then held off Villwock to win Seafair for the second straight year.
Villwock finished third, behind Scott Liddycoat and the U-7 Valken.com.
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David's starting gamble was devised in consult with other team members before the final heat as they came up with a strategy that caught their competitors off-guard.
With drivers allowed to fight for their lanes instead of having them pre-arranged, many pilots all day had decided to slow to a crawl as they got close to the one-minute buoy, attempting to take the inside lane by parking in it.
Four drivers did that for the final, including Villwock. David, instead, sped around the "trollers" on the outside and hit the line at close to full speed. Once safely ahead, the rules then allowed him to cut inside and take lane one since he was able to get it.
David said his plan was to "hit the entry pin at the 66-second mark wide open while they are still putt-putting. The moment I hit the one-minute (mark) I dive inside while they are still trying to figure it all out."
Said Liddycoat, who was part of the squatting foursome: "He leapfrogged right around us. That was a pretty good move on his part. I was kind of surprised he pulled it off, actually. Once you see it coming, there is nothing you can do about it. I really didn't think he would have the time to do it, but he pulled it off."
Villwock said he wanted to follow David but got stuck in the traffic of the trolling group and decided to stay there.
"I was going to do what Steve did," he said. "My plan was to do the same thing, and then everybody got in the way so I had to stop and do the crazy troll thing again, and then Steve made a great move. I was going to do the same thing, but it didn't quite work out."
Still, Villwock has often won from the outside, as he did last week in the Tri-Cities. And he initially made a move past Liddycoat, who was between David and Villwock, indicating maybe he could still catch the Oberto.
However, the Seattle course is shorter -- two miles compared to 2 1/2 in the Tri-Cities -- which David said put even more of an emphasis on getting a good start.
"Villwock has the top-end speed on me, but he couldn't blow the legs out on this water," David said.
Villwock said he thought he still had a shot to run David down. But he said the hatch on the bottom of his boat blew open, "blowing water all over the inside" early in the race. David then went wide on a turn, forcing Villwock out even wider.
Villwock said he then made the decision to ease up and let David take the win, keep his boat safe and take home a weekend-high 1,525 points to increase his boat's lead in the Air National Guard Hydroplane Series season points.
"He did a great job and got in the right place," said Villwock of David. "It was a good run."
David now has 14 career wins, nine coming since the Oberto built its new hull in 2007.
There was some good early racing in preliminary heats -- all free of major incident -- but nothing to dissuade the notion the final would come down to David and Villwock.
David said he did some experimenting with starts earlier in the day but "didn't want to show" his plan until the final.
Said Larry Oberto: "Everybody all day long had been getting up there and fighting for the same space the same way. The only way to get the advantage is to do what they were not doing. And it worked."
Happily watching it all was Art Oberto, Larry's father and the scion of the family that sponsors the Oh Boy! Oberto boat. Art Oberto has missed just one of the 61 Seafair races, and almost wasn't there Sunday.
But the 83-year-old made connections work to get back from a grandson's wedding Saturday in Philadelphia, arriving in the pits Sunday around noon.
"It was well worth it," he said. "It was all perfecct."
Indeed it was. David and the Oberto have won Seafair three times since 2007 with a boat that the family built the previous year after deciding to spend heavily to get competitive.
"We built the boat to get him one victory when he was 80," said Larry Oberto. "And now he's gotten three."
The top three finishers: U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto David 136.283 mph; 2 U-7 Valken.com Liddycoat 134.547 mph; 3 U-96 Spirit of Qatar Villwock 131.356 mph.