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Boat racing enthusiast turns professional


Boat racing enthusiast turns professional
posted Sun, 09/23/2012 - 12:45pm

GENEVA — Imagine you have never played golf but go to a professional
tournament, think “this is the sport for me,” buy a set of expensive clubs
and try to make it on the PGA Tour.

Pretty far-fetched, right? Well, that isn’t exactly Don Burshnick’s story,
but it’s not that far off.

Like thousands of other people, Burshnick — a resident of the Broome
County community of Maine — was a spectator at last year’s HydroBowl on
Seneca Lake.

This year he’s back — but as a competitor, not a spectator.

What makes Burshnick’s tale all the more interesting is that until he took
up powerboat racing, he had never raced a motor vehicle of any kind.

“I wanted to race something,” Burshnick said before he competed Saturday
in the second annual HydroBowl. “I’m 51 years old and I knew I wanted to
race at some point, and this interested me. So I said ‘hey, let’s try it

Burshnick came to Geneva last year to support and help Ohio powerboat
racer Tom Newman, a customer of Burshnick’s business, Alpha 1
Technologies. At the end of last year’s event, Newman and his crew asked
Burshnick for his help next season, but Burshnick had other things in

“The guys asked me if I was going to come back here and help out, and I
said ‘well, I’d kind of like to drive,’” Burshnick recalled. “They said
‘sure, we’ll get you hooked up with the APBA (American Power Boat
Association) and we’ll get you a boat, a license and you’re ready to rock
and roll.’”

So Burshnick bought a boat (he declined to say how much he paid for it,
only that it was “expensive”), Newman and his crew helped him modify it,
and he took it from there.

His first race was in June in Michigan, and he has raced several times
since then leading up to the HydroBowl.

Not surprisingly, as a rookie he isn’t exactly tearing up the circuit, but
he isn’t embarrassing himself either.

“Pretty much as a rookie, I’ve been mandated to stay on the outside and
stay back a little bit, but I’ve gone up and played around a little bit,”
he said. “I have 10 heats under my belt and they just pulled my rookie
status, so I can run with the big boys now.”

Burshnick credits Newman and his crew, including Jim Fischer, Chris Owens
and Tony Black, with helping him learn the ropes. He also praised his
wife, Pat, for her support and his crew chief, Phil Pszypko.

“Tom is one of those guys who loves to tinker with stuff. He basically
gutted the whole inside [of my boat], put a new dash in for me, did the
steering linkage — the whole nine yards,” he said. “Without Tom, I would
have never been able to do this.”

Burshnick said racing powerboats is everything he thought it would be —
and more.

“As a spectator, this type of racing looked like an incredible challenge.
It’s still a learning experience and I have to mind my Ps and Qs because
there’s a lot of stuff that goes on out there I still don’t know about,”
he said. “It’s more than what I hoped for and it’s a lot more than what I
expected. It’s totally different from driving a car, no doubt about it.”

After an inauspicious start due to weather that canceled Friday’s
activities and delayed racing until Saturday afternoon, the HydroBowl was
in full swing yesterday and concludes today near Lakefront Park.

The event is sponsored by the Empire State Boat Racing Association and is
part of the Mid-American Championship Hydroplane series. Racers come from
all over the United States and Canada, including some from the Finger
Lakes area.

cutline ... Don Burshnick of Maine, Broome County, came to the HydroBowl
on Seneca Lake last year as a spectator. He is back this year as a