RIVER ROARS FOR 18 YEARS
Popular and exciting event thrills crowds of 40,000
June 26, 2005
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By: Stephen Kent
It's one of the most exciting weekends of the summer. Since 1988 the annual River Roar power boat races have churned up the water in the one mile oval between the bridges in downtown Bay City.
The Bay City race is well known on the circuit as one of the most challenging courses. The seawalls on both sides of the river reflect the waves back insuring lots of chop. This week's north breeze blowing against the river current just made the water more unstable. Even so, although it often looks like the boats are flying above the water, there were few flips and no injuries. The most spectacular was when J.R. Saffold's #63 champ boat came un-stuck, went airborne and did a back flip at over 100 mph.
The races run in three classes. The SST-45's are smaller, entry level boats running stock 50 hp Mercury outboards. Top speed is about 90 mph.
The middle class is the SST-120's. These boats are the same hull size as the larger class but they run carbureted, stock V6 Mercury's at 180 hp. Their top speed is 110 mph.
The "big boys" are the Champ boats. At 17 feet and 1,150 pounds max, these boats run modified, fuel injected V6's rated at 350 hp. "But we mess with them and they are more like 390 hp", said Wally Ross, crew member of the #12 boat from P&S Diesel Service. These guys can hit 100 mph in under 3 seconds. On the one mile Bay City course qualifying laps were about 30 seconds!
A special feature this year was an 8 lap final for the "super tunnel lights". These inflatable boats are something you could own yourself. For racing, the light weight means that a two person crew is needed to manage the weight.
On a windy, choppy course like the Saginaw River, things got a little exciting. On one turn the second crew member, who happened to be the wife of the driver, was thrown out of the boat on the far turn. Another boat caught the wind and did a back flip throwingboth crew members into the river.
Fans also love the Bay City race because there's not a bad seat in the house! The East side of the river and Wenona Park is reserved for the VIP tents and has some great viewing. Many people like the West side better for the bleachers, the park, and having the sun at their backs.
Both sides of the river have one thing in common: you are very close to the action. The boats pass about fifty feet from the seawall. You can almost feel the spray and you feel the roar as much as hear it.
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Steve Kent and his family have lived in Bay City for 40 years. He is VP of Technical Services at MMCC which produces MyBayCity.Com. Kent is active in many Bay City civic organizations.
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