BOAT RACING’S LONGEST DAY…..2013 Bluewater 336 Enduro

What’s a boat race without some drama?  Sometimes it’s about a controversial  turn-judge call.  Other times it might be a questionable post-race tech infraction.  Or maybe there was even a scoring screw-up.  Stuff happens.

 

But the 2013 BlueWater 336 Enduro in Parker , Arizona  was a little different.  It was ‘drama central’ months before the race and then pretty uneventful on race day.  So wind back the clock and pull out those old 2012 calendars to begin the story.

 

(Overall winner, Tim McDonald, 1st in Division 2)

Last year’s Parker 300 Enduro ended  amidst controversy and acquisitions .  First there was a lingering scoring dispute about who actually won the race which wasn’t settled until several months after the checkered flag dropped.  There was in fact a scoring error discovered after meticulously auditing the lap sheets showing second place should have been first, dropping the original declared winner into the runner-up slot.  The fix, a long time coming however, didn’t seem to satisfy anyone as the final ruling came down announcing co-winners for the race.  Then, as is so often the case, racers complained about the absence of prize money distribution.  An assortment of allegations flew and reasons given why the prize purse was not paid, but none of it smoothed the turbulent under current of a few not-so-happy racers.

(2nd overall, Steve Davis, 1st in Division 4)

(3rd overall, Greg Foster, 1st in Division 5)

Boat racers in general tend to be an independent bunch.  Not surprisingly, a faction of the disgruntled decided they could do the 2013 Parker race better and plotted a course to achieve that end.  The result was the original Parker Enduro race organizer  (who was initially responsible for rescuing the tradition of the Parker Enduro from extinction back in 2006) was replaced by a new promoter who persuaded the BlueWater Resort and Casino (home base for the Enduro) to sign a contract with them for the 2013 event.

(4th overall, Kevin Taylor, 2nd in Division 2)

This in-with-the-new and out-with-the-old decision only fanned more flames which were largely played out on Internet  boating forums for months.  APBA (American Power Boat Association) who sanctions the event, approves the rules and safety, and provides insurance coverage also got dragged into the tug-of-war  fray.  Boat racers with loyalties on both sides were confronted with making a choice….move-on, support the race and participate, or stay at home and leave the equipment in the garage.  In the end, the 2013 Parker Enduro was run…..better than most expected, but not without consequences to be addressed in the future.

 

(5th overall, Todd Stone, 3rd in Division 2)

(6th overall, Kyle Lancon, 2nd in Division 4)

THE HISTORY

(7th overall, Greg Ronkainen, 4th in Division 2)

The Parker Enduro is the only marathon style race left in America.  It started in February 1963 when a couple of Parker, Arizona boat racers, Marion Beaver and Cecil Florence, liked the idea of holding an endurance event on their home waters of the Colorado River to complement the Salton Sea 500 which began a year earlier.  The Parker Chamber and local tourism committee jumped on-board and America’s longest (9 continuous hours) of one-day boat racing was born.  The Parker 9-Hour was an immediate success, attracting upwards of one-hundred entries (outboards and inboards) with its run-what-you-brung format.  In 1974, the Enduro was shortened to seven hours out of deference to the first U.S. oil/gas crisis which hit during the last quarter of 1973.

(8th overall, Greg Belda, 5th in Division 2)

(9th overall, Eric Sammons, 1st in Division 1)

For the factory teams of Mercury and OMC (Outboard Marine Corporation/Johnson and Evinrude), the Parker Enduro during the ‘60s and ‘70s was frequently a research and development lab for new products.  New engines, hull configurations, and propeller technologies were tested and evaluated in as much secret as possible.  With the outboard factories came the development of the most prominent race drivers of all-time:  Bill Seebold, Renato Molinari, Jimbo McConnell, Earl Benz, Reggie Fountain, Johnnie Sanders, Tom Posey, Barry Woods, Cees VanderVelden and the list goes on.  The inboards, not blessed with huge corporate backing like the outboard teams, more than held their own with the likes of Rudy Ramos, Lou Brummett, Bob Nordskog, Mike Wallace, Don McCormick and Mitch Lembke among others.

(10th overall, Quemene Perea, 2nd in Division 5)

But once the outboard factory teams started to disband in the ‘80s, preferring races of shorter duration and much smaller, more spectator-friendly courses (Champ Boat/Formula 1 style) the Parker Enduro was never the same.  Simultaneously, the costs of marathon racing accelerated exponentially for participants and entry lists were predictably negatively impacted.  Slowly, the decline made it unfeasible for the Enduro to continue and it was finally suspended in the late ‘80s until it was revived in 2006 with a modified format (300 miles, a shortened 6-mile lap course, with mandatory pit stops and a time-handicap LeMans style start).

(11th overall, John Soares, 3rd in Division 5)

(12th overall, Randy Lewis, 4th in Division 5)  (13th overall, Billy Mason, 2nd in

Division 1)

THE 2013 BLUEWATER 336 ENDURO

(14th overall, Randy Pierson, 6th in Division 2)

In the end, it was a good year for outboards (the first eight finishers were outboards) while the inboards were fast but couldn’t avoid mechanical problems keeping them out of contention late in the race.  The overall winner was Tim McDonald with a little co-driving assistance from Mike Quindazzi.  McDonald, the owner of Oregon Custom Marine (a prominent high performance boat dealership with locations in Hillsboro, OR and Lake Havasu City, AZ) was driving in his first Parker Enduro in an STV Mod VP style hull with Merc Offshore 2.5 liter power that he had purchased just a few days prior to the race.  Although many seemed to think McDonald was a rookie, he is far from that, having many years of offshore racing experience driving with Mike DeFries in the CRC boat and competing in 2012 in the relatively new P-1 offshore series.  McDonald wasn’t the fastest boat on the race course, but he was the most steady, consistent and trouble-free.  At the checkered flag (after completing 28 laps of a new 12-mile course) McDonald was five and a half minutes ahead of second place (1st in Division IV) Steve Davis in his ski racing Formula II Nordic Cyclone 21-footer with Merc 300 XS power (co-drivers Todd Haig and Fred Brennan).  McDonald’s official finish time was 4 hours, 37 minutes and 36.75 seconds for the 336 mile distance.

(15th overall, John Haddon, 5th in Division 5)

(16th overall, Bob and John Teague, 1st in Division 6)

The fastest outboard on the race course was the Al Stoker/Fred Bowden #34 20’ Stoker with Merc power recording speeds of just over 100 miles an hour with drivers Greg Foster and Chip Watkins alternating at the wheel.  The Stoker/Bowden entry appeared to be a shoe-in for second overall until  last lap misfortune struck and they didn’t complete the final go-round putting them in third (1st in Divison V).

(17th overall, Rod Zapf, 7th in Division 2)

For the inboards, early on it looked like it was going to be a duel between the 21’ Nordic  ski race boat of Randy Davis with Merc 1350/Six Drive power and the father/son duo of Bob and John Teague in their 30-year old GN V-driver with a Teague Custom Marine 1335 HP twin Whipplecharged engine.  These two boats were ripping the river averaging better than 100 miles an hour a lap.  The Nordic entry was , however the first to go down with a power steering pump failure that put them into the pits for a lengthy repair.  The Teague team got in 17 laps and was heading for the lead when a broken propeller blade played havoc with the prop shaft, strut and bottom of the hull.  With those two top contenders out, the never-say-quit entry of Eric Sammons in a 17’ Unlimited flatbottom surprised all the inboard hopefuls by winning Division 1 with 24 laps completed  and finishing ninth overall, best for automotive V-8 power.

(18th overall, Keith Bandy, 8th in Division 2)

(19th overall, Randy Davis, 1st in Division 7)

THE CONSEQUENCES

(20th overall, Dirk Olsen, 1st in Division 3)

The upside of the 2013 BlueWater  336 Enduro were many.  The race was run, and got good reviews from participants for organization, execution, overall safety and prize money was paid.  The downside was manifested by months of drama and bickering resulting in an entry list of just 28 boats with 25 making it to the starting line on race day.  This continues a troubling downward trend in entries over the past several Enduro races (in 2008 there were more than 50 entries).

(21st overall, Gary Hairabedian, 2nd in Division 6)

The new race course is now a 12-mile lap instead of a six.  The lengthening of the course appeared to have a calming effect on water conditions which was a plus, but only 25 boats on a 12-mile course is not a recommended formula for spectator entertainment.  More entries will be needed in the future.

(22nd overall, Mike LaPaglia, 9th Divisiion 2)

The jury is still out on whether the addition of a qualifying day is necessary to set the starting division handicaps is a plus or a minus for the event.  The creation of a ‘speed bracket’ for each class is an interesting concept, but isn’t easily understood by casual spectators watching the race.  Expecting fans to know why a boat significantly slows down before completing a lap in order to avoid a penalty from exceeding a pre-determined ‘speed bracket’ limit is probably too much to ask for the masses.

(23rd overall, Paul Fitzgerald, 2nd in Division 3)

THE FUTURE

(24th overall, John Lynch, 3rd in Division 4)

Will the drama stop?  Probably not entirely, but hopefully it will subside in the months ahead.  Boat racing is way too fragile to fragment an already too small sport.  The new BlueWater 336 Enduro organizer appears committed to running the event again in 2014 (last weekend in October).  The previous promoter continues to produce popular boat races throughout the year, and has suggested that an Enduro 300 will take place in 2014 as well (no location indicated at this time).  Who knows what the new year will bring, but less drama and more racing would be welcome.

 

 

(25th overall, Joe Masek, 3rd in Division 6)

 

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