SEATTLE, Wash. - "I've said before, in the beginning there was the Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria, and the Oberto," joked Steve David, driver of the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto hydroplane. The boat's 18 year old, but David's still getting great performance - including today's second place in Seafair Heat 1-B, just seconds out of first.
The aging boat makes it a challenge, especially in a field with four former Budweiser hulls. "We gotta get everything out of it every time, " he said.
Still, David's topped 150 mph more than once this year in qualifying runs. "Not bad for an 18 year old boat," he said.
It's been an interesting year for the Oh Boy! Oberto team - and that's putting it mildly. In Tri-Cities, WA at the Atomic Cup, David came within inches of death when the U-13 flipped in front of him, up and over the top of the U-6 - coming within inches of crushing the cockpit - before smashing into the back of the U-6.
"I knew it was pretty close - nothing you could do - it just happens too fast. We had no place to go. You can't turn left, you might turn right into him. You can't turn right, that's where he's going," said David. You just ride through and hope..."
A boat pushed J. Michael Kelly and the U-13 out in turn one. "He went right to avoid that," David said; "and he smacked us pretty bad. Pretty loose on the back stretch. He just lifted in the wind."
"Our initial collision may have precipitated that (the flip)."
David told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "I was literally 10 feet from being dead. These cockpits are designed to absorb the impact of birds, basically. A seagull traveling 500 mph can hit the cockpit and it'll withstand that, but I don't think it'll do well if a 7,000-pound boat hits it. I'm lucky. Period."
And that wasn't the first close call this season. In David's homeport of Madison, Indiana, the U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto hit something in the water, did a 360, and nearly smacked into a patrol boat.
The U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto and U-3 Master Tire were battling for position going into the first turn...
"We were right on the mark," Steve David, U-6 driver, told WORX Radio. "I had to beat Jimmy to the turn to have any chance." But the U-6 hit something in the water at the turn pin, shearing off the rudder. Said David: "(We had) no control whatsoever."
The boat did 360 degrees in the air and nearly clipped a patrol boat. "Totally in God's hands," said David. "He's got other plans."
After watching videotape of the incident, David said, "Wow" and summed things up. "I'm here tomorrow," he said.