Wild day at Evansville hydroplane races: Three boats flip in first three heats - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Wild day at Evansville hydroplane races: Three boats flip in first three heats

U-5 gets lifted out of the water after being towed back to the pits U-5 gets lifted out of the water after being towed back to the pits
Boat slips off the hook and goes into the river Boat slips off the hook and goes into the river
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Jeff Bernard in the U-5 unlimited hydroplane took the lead from the starting gun and was trying to hold off a charging Dave Villwock in the U-16 when he got caught in Villwock's roostertail going into the far turn.  He rode the wash up in the air and blew over.

The race was stopped as rescue crews went out to bring Bernard out of the cockpit and back to shore.  Reports were that he was conscious and being checked out.

Track announcer Mark Allen said the boat is designed to ride on top of the water.  It doesn't know the difference between the river and the roostertail.  When it hit the roostertail, there was enough volume of water to lift the U-5 and it traveled right up the roostertail as if it were skimming over the river.  With enough lift and air, the boat blew over.

It turned out that both the U-5 and the U-13 with J. Michael Kelley had jumped the gun and were assessed one lap penalties.  At the time of the blow-over, more than half the race had been completed so it was certified as an official race.

Heat 2A

  • 1. U-16 Dave Villwock
  • 2. U-6 Steve David
  • 3. U-13 J. Michael Kelley
  • 4. U-5 Jeff Bernard DNF
  • 5. U-25 Ken Muscatel DNS

When there's an accident on the course, officials review the video to determine what happened and whether any penalties or fines are justified.  However, after the initial review, they certified the race and results as official.

It happened again in Heat 2B.  Jean Theoret in the U-37 was leading the pack when he did a 360 and landed on the tail, crashing down hard on the deck right-side up.  Theoret was able to shut the engine off and pop the cockpit.

Theroret had about a roostertail lead over Jimmy King in the U-3 when he went airborne after the exit pin of turn two.

Greg Hopp in the U-100 had led the field across the start-finish line, giving up the lead to Jimmy King in the U-3 out of the first turn.  Theoret charged past Hopp coming out of turn two and then took the lead from King on the second lap.

Heat 2B

1. U-3 Jimmy King
2. U-100 Greg Hopp
3. U-10 David Bryant
4. U-37 Jean Theoret DNF
5. U-1 Mike Allen DNF

But it didn't end there.  When the U-5 was being hauled back to shore, it somehow slipped off the hooks on the crane and dropped into the river.  Everybody's OK.

It happened again in Heat 3A. The third flip in the same place on the course, coming through turn 2. This time, it was Mike Allen in U-1. Allen was able to spring the cockpit open and get out on his own power and stand on the deck waiting for the rescue crew to get their. He appears to be OK, but the boat was damaged.

Jimmy King in the U-3 started the heat by leading the field across the start-finish line, but Steve David in the U-6 took it on the back stretch. It appears the new U-6 has more speed coming through the turns, which David is able to sue to slingshot his boat into the straight-aways.

David had started to stretch out his lead when Allen went over and the heat was shut down.  Race officials later determined it was an official race.

Heat 3A

1.  U-6 Steve David
2.  U-3 Jimmy King
U-1 Mike Allen DNF
U-25 Ken Muscatel
DNS U-5 Jeff Bernard DNS

In Heat 3B, Villwock took some air in that same turn where three boats flipped, but was able to pull the boat back down. Theoret's crew did a remarkable job to get the U-37 back together after the flip in Heat 2B.   Compared to the earlier heats, this one was calm.

Heat 3B

1. U-16 Dave Villwock
2. U-37 Jean Theoret
3. U-100 Greg Hopp
4. U-10 David Bryant
5. U-13 J. Michael Kelley

The strange day continued in the Provisional Heat.  Only two boats made the call, the U-13 with J. Michael Kelley and the U-5 with Jeff Bernard.  Bernard was forced to shut his boat down on the course and return to the docks, leaving Kelley alone on the course to take the checkered flag.

Provisional Heat

1. U-13 J. Michael Kelley
DNF U-5 Jeff Bernard
DNS U-1 Mike Allen
DNS U-25 Ken Muscatel

Kelley will run as a trailer in the finals.

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