54 YEARS OF HYDROPLANE RACING ON SAN DIEGO'S MISSION BAY
Six teams expected to race for the last trophy race of the season
By Owen Blauman
Known as the birthplace of California, the San Diego region has its own particular brand of laid-back coolness. With more than 70 miles of sun-drenched coast, inviting ocean, and a year-round daily forecast of 70°F it is no wonder H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series fans throughout the country visit Mission Bay for the annual powerboat race.
Celebrating its 54th year and one of California’s largest on-water festivals, HomeStreet Bank San Diego Bayfair presented by Nissan Titan is returning to Mission Bay, September 14-16, 2018.
Six of the world’s fastest race boats are scheduled to attend.
The newly crowned 2018 national champion U-9 Delta/Realtrac race team and its driver, Andrew Tate (Walled Lake, Mich.), last year’s Bayfair winner are expected to go deck-to-deck with Jimmy Shane (Maple Valley, Wash.) in the U-1 Miss HomeStreet.
The 28-year-old Tate and his team have a preeminent position over the other race teams. His season began in June in Guntersville, Alabama, with an impeccable race weekend. He had a weekend sweep --top qualifier, winner of every preliminary heat and the Lake Guntersville HydroFest final.
Tate's near flawless season continued with him winning four out of five championship finals, being the top qualifier at two races, and winning 12 out of 17 preliminary heat races in 2018.
He clinched the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series National Championship last month after winning the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Gold Cup.
Tate said, "The Jones Racing team has accomplished everything we set out to do in 2018. The National Championship and the Gold Cup have been decided, but we plan to finish strong in San Diego and bring home the Bill Muncey memorial trophy.”
The H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series six-race season ends this weekend at Bayfair and the humble Tate said “it’s been a dream season that unfortunately has to end.” He continued, “At least we’ll be in beautiful San Diego with friends, family, and some of the greatest race fans on earth.”
Tate’s chief rival, Shane, a five-time national champion who drives the Miss HomeStreet is expected to pressure Tate for Bayfair’s Bill Muncey Cup trophy.
In his 11th year driving an H1 Unlimited hydroplane, Shane, 32, is the only other driver to win a winner-take-all final this year, winning in the team’s hometown of Madison, Indiana.
He has the most career wins out of the weekend's field with 17 race victories.
Mid-season his team christened a new race boat and has raced it as their primary hull for the last two races. Shane modestly says the new boat is “meeting expectations” but since its launch, the boat has turned the heads of fans and his competitors.
In the race boat’s first two races it has been top qualifier and finished first in eight out of nine preliminary heat races.
“I need to do my part as driver and have a penalty-free weekend in the upcoming San Diego Bayfair race. If I can do that, then I believe the boat and team will be sitting on the top of the podium at the end of the weekend,” Shane said.
Shane’s team is led by crew chief Cindy Shirley, the sport's first woman crew chief since 1975. Shirley took over in the off season, becoming the first woman to lead a H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series team to a winner-take-all final after her team won the 68th annual Indiana Governor’s Cup.
The rookie crew chief has been with the team for several years as a crew member said she is delighted “to end the year in San Diego which should have the best weather in a year that has seen it's share of weather delays.”
The racing season has been plagued with poor weather, resulting in the postponement of several preliminary heat races at the Lake Guntersville HydroFest and the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealer’s Gold Cup trophy race.
“This first season has been a learning process and the team feels we are now much more in sync than we were at the beginning of the season,” Shirley said. “I feel like we have our old stride back."
Another team to watch is the U-11 Reliable Diamond Tool present J&D’s driven by Tom Thompson. Currently in third place in the high points chase, the Mission Bay race is very sentimental to Thompson.
“It is where I started driving an H1 Unlimited hydroplane and is always one of my favorite race sites," Thompson said.
The team sustained damage at the most recent race. Thompson said, “The team has been working hard getting the boat back together after the damage.”
The U-11 race team owned by Shannon and Scott Raney (Bothell, Wash.), now in their eight season. This season's campaign has been their most successful season to date.
“Sitting third in points and looking for that first win, San Diego would be a great place for that to happen, Thompson said.
Other teams expected to appear, U-21 PayneWest Insurance driven by Brian Perkins (North Bend, Wash.), U-99.9 CARSTAR presents Miss Rock driven by Aaron Salmon, and the field is rounded out by Dustin Echols (Sultan, Wash.) in the U-440 Bucket List Racing.
The 2-1/2 mile racecourse is surrounded by sandy beaches and is one of the fastest on the racing circuit.
“The fans have a great place to watch a very fast race course and they are going to see some very good racing. We are coming, watch for us,” Thompson said.
Dan Welch, his wife Lori and daughter Piper from Phoenix, Arizona, are some of the fans that travel from out-of-state to attend Mission Bay’s weekend festival and powerboat races.
Dan Welch said, “You can’t beat the excitement generated by hydroplanes traveling 200 mph across Mission Bay. Pictures and videos don’t do it justice! There is no other place in the country where you can sit in a beach chair with your sun block on and watch racing like this.
His 17-year-old daughter Piper agrees. “Going to the hydroplane races in San Diego is the best of both world’s. You get the beauty of the beach and Mission Bay, and the excitement of the races. I can’t wait.”
The weekend festivities are not just for out of state. Brian Lahlum from nearby Chula Vista, California, is another fan who looks forward to the annual festival.
“Boats, beer and now BBQ on the bay. Bayfair is so much fun, I can’t wait to get out each year and watch the fastest boats in the world here in my hometown,” Lahlum said.
Tickets are available at sandiegobayfair.org
SCHEDULE - HOMESTREET BANK SAN DIEGO BAYFAIR presented by Nissan Titian
H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series
Friday, September 14, 2018
9:00a-10:00a H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing I
12:15p-1:15p H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing II
2:40p-3:40p H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Qualifying
Saturday, September 15, 2018
9:45a-10:45a H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing III
12:20p-1:20p H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing IV
3:25p-3:40p H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 1A
3:55p-4:10p H1 Unlimited Hydroplane PreliminaryHeat 1B
Sunday, September 16, 2018
8:45a-9:45a H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Testing V
11:15a-11:30a H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 2A
11:45a-Noon H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 2B
2:05p-2:20p H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 3A
2:40p-2:55p H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Preliminary Heat 3B
4:10p-4:30p FINAL HomeStreet Bank Bill Muncey Cup
ABOUT H1 UNLIMITED HYDROPLANE RACING SERIES -- H1 Unlimited hydroplanes are the fastest racing boats in the world and their races are sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association. With deep history, the 115 year-old sport‘s majority of hydroplanes are powered by turbine engines that produce 3,000 horsepower, allowing the H1 Unlimited hydroplanes to reach speeds of nearly 200 mph, producing a massive 60-foot tall, 300-foot long wall of water called a roostertail behind them. With very few restrictions, these majestic hydroplanes race in front of shorelines packed with fans on bodies of water throughout the United States. For additional information on the 2018 H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Series, visit the series website at H1Unlimited.com, visit on social media on Facebook’s ‘H1Unlimited’ and Twitter ‘H1Hydroplanes’or download the ‘H1 Unlimited’ app from your app store.
ABOUT THE SAN DIEGO BAYFAIR -- San Diego Bayfair has a 54-year rich tradition in Mission Bay Park. The first race was staged in 1964 thanks to the foresight of the late H1 Unlimited hydroplane racer Bill Muncey, then a San Diego resident. Muncey was the driving force behind Bayfair and getting the racecourse and East Vacation Island pits designed into the development of Mission Bay. The design and master plan was approved by the City of San Diego in 1958. That set in motion the creation of the racecourse between East Vacation Island and Fiesta Island. (Neither island existed until a massive dredging project formed them.) The shorelines were curved to accommodate a 2.5-mile oval course and beaches were sloped to dissipate waves from motorboats and hydroplanes. The 2.5-mile racecourse was later named after Muncey’s death in 1981. Over the years, more than 5 million people have enjoyed the races on Mission Bay. Bayfair has grown from just a hydroplane race in 1964 to an event that features several classes of boat racing and BBQ competition.