Two boats took nasty flips, but not the Miss Budweiser, which Chip Hanauer piloted to the 1993 Columbia Cup title.
Hanauer survived what he called "the most violent five laps of my career" to win his sixth straight unlimited race and his second straight Columbia Cup.
"I'm real tired," Hanauer sighed after winning all three of his heats and leading from start to finish in the final.
"I can't describe how violent it was out there. My vision was blurred. You combine rough water and a fast race course, and it's dangerous. It was like a long Brahma bull ride. I can't believe the boat is still in one piece."
Miss Circus Circus and The Tide were not so fortunate on a day of turbulent water and, at first, gray skies and rain that had fans bundled into jackets. The rough racing conditions produced the Circus flip and The Tide's roll.
Rescue sleds were busy all day fetching shattered bits of broken hydroplanes as kids scrambled to collect the remnants.
Just before Heat 1A at 11:30 a.m. the Circus Circus was accelerating to catch the field after having trouble getting started. Suddenly, the front of the boat went straight up into the air, where it hung like a paper airplane and then crashed back onto the Columbia on its bottom.
Driver Dave Villwock slightly reinjured his left knee and bumped his nose, but declined a trip to the hospital and spent the rest of the day watching from the Neil F. Lampson pits.
The Circus Circus hull was shattered. The team may race its other hull in Seattle next weekend.
"The boat launched and hung there for a while and didn't come back down," Villwock said. "I don't know what happened. It shouldn't have gone over at that throttle setting." Villwock was traveling about 180 mph when he went airborne.
The Tide's flip wasn't so spectacular, but the boat landed upside down. It was towed back to the pits on its top, but driver Nate Brown also was uninjured and joined Villwock for an afternoon in the pits.
Damage to The Tide was not considered serious, and the boat should be able to race in Seattle.
"I hit a roller from the Bud and Winston and went up," Brown said. "The canards couldn't hold it. I'm fine. I'm more upset that I hurt the boat, but it should be OK."
As usual, the race also had its share of controversy. Winston Eagle driver Mark Tate was penalized a lap in the final heat for hitting a buoy, moving him from second place to sixth.
Tate said the water was so rough he wasn't sure he had hit the buoy.
"I received a checkered flag for second and was told by the URC on the radio I was second," Tate said. "Then they told me I hit a buoy. I had to cut in front of Chip across the infield to take another lap."
Tate's penalty allowed the Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and driver Mike Hansen to finish second.
Steve David drove the Miss T-Plus, which was the trailer boat in the final heat, to third.
Hanauer, the defending champion, has now won six unlimited races for four different sponsors on the Columbia River. He averaged 138.165 mph around the two-mile course in the 10-mile final.
Hanauer and the Miss Budweiser are running away with the national points race. The Bud has 10,995 points, while the Winston Eagle is second with 7,731.