Hydro Season Off to a Fast Start with the Fans - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hydro Season Off to a Fast Start with the Fans

KENNEWICK, Wash. - At the end of the month, the Hydros come to the Tri-Cities for the Rumble on the River. However, this weekend they head to Valleyfield. The race in Canada is the third of the young American Boat Racing Association season.

So far, race officials are happy with the fan turnout, citing an increased crowd at Evansville and Madison earlier this year. "This year at Evansville, it was jam packed," Miss Elam Plus owner Erick Ellstrom said. "I mean you could barely walk through the upper level."

The growing popularity is partly attributed to more relaxed regulations on the faster boats. Since the ABRA took control of the sport two years ago from HyrdoProp, the new governing body has eased many rules that were originally designed to help the slower boats compete. Ellstrom says those rules didn't work out, and with them gone, the sport has opened up.

"I think some of the things that the old league did didn't help with the fans," the owner of the Dave Villwock-driven Elam said. "So we corrected that and I think the fans are coming back. I think that having the great competition that we have is making it exciting again, and the boats are faster than ever."

Other drivers agree the sport is off to a fast start this season.

"When we race at Valleyfield, we'll have 150,000 people that paid admission," said Dr. Ken Muscatel, driving the U-2.25. "That's the way it's been there for 60 years.  Detroit is a big show, Seattle is a big show, Tri-Cities is a big show. You guys draw a lot of people in the Tri-Cities."

The Atomic Cup is July 28th through the 30th on the Columbia River.  The final day will be carried live on KNDU, KNDO, KHQ DT 6.2 and Comcast Cable in Spokane and Seattle, and Live Streaming broadcast on KNDO.com and KNDU.com.