By Michaela Christensen
GENEVA — Nearly 100 powerboats with roaring engines will be speeding across Seneca Lake this weekend for the annual HydroBowl in front of a large crowd of spectators at the Geneva Lakefront Park.
This is the second year that Geneva will be hosting the HydroBowl and event director Melia Koerner said racers were excited to return to Seneca Lake this year.
“Racers refer to it as fast water, meaning they get good speeds on the water,” she said.
And it’s good for the city, too.
“We have a $3 million impact,” said Koerner. “Geneva has become a name well known already among hydroplane racers and the spectators that travel to the races.”
This year will bring more vintage boats and additional activities for spectators, as well as a VIP tent for veterans and a kids area where there will be big water balls, kayaks and toy boats.
The event is conducted by the Empire State Boat Racing Association and is part of the Mid American Championship Hydroplanes (MACH) series. Racers come from all over the United States and Canada but there are a number of local participants including teams from Honeoye Falls and Canandaigua.
Hydroplanes are sleek-looking vessels that can reach up to 150 mph. At full speed, their special design allows them to lift slightly above the water, so they are basically skimming across the surface. Though, they do kick up plenty of spray behind them and their large motors are very loud.
One of the most popular spectacles at the event is the entry and exit of the boats into the water. A giant crane is used to lift the boats and deliver them in and out of the lake.
For spectators, a good seat will not be hard to find. Look for a location along the straight away side of the course just left of the starting line or the clock. Anywhere between there and the first turn is a good spot to place your chair because that’s where all the action happens.
The length of the race is about five miles but the size of the course varies.
Before the race takes off, there will be a 5-minute gun to signal that it’s time for the boats to leave their pits. This also gives the boats’
engines time to get up to the right temperature for the race. Before the one-minute gun goes off, the drivers will be jockeying for the best pole position, but after that gun goes off the drivers have to maintain their lanes and positions.
Unique to hydroplane races is the “flying start.” As many as 12 boats will be “flying” across the starting line of the race at full speed. The turns will be marked with large orange buoys and the starting line marked with two checkered buoys on either end of it.
The long plume of water behind the boats is called the rooster tail. The water up in the air makes it difficult for the officials to see what is going on in the turns, as well as the drivers.
This is an important factor for a driver changing lanes. They must not cross toward the inside lanes, without being at least four boat lengths or one rooster tail ahead of the boat they are passing. When a driver crosses a rooster tail, the driver is totally blinded by the spray of water on the cockpit. This powerful rooster tail can cause a boat to go airborne and fly over backward or do a barrel roll flip.