A pair of area powerboat racing fans got to fulfill their need for speed with a ride aboard an 1,100cc Runabout on Saturday during intermission of the Lake DePue PRO National Championship Boat Races.
It’s safe to say the duo, who rode along with experienced racers in boats capable of going more than 100 miles per hour, won’t ever quite look at the races the same again.
“I was a little nervous to tell you the truth, but it was all good,” admitted Tari Floyd of Millington, who tagged along with racer Mike Thirlby for three fast-paced laps around the lake. “It was fun — fast and fun. It was so much fun really, truly.
“I have a new respect for what they do. It’s way different (that what you would expect).”
Floyd, who purchased her chance at the ride with some raffle tickets Friday, said she brought an extra pair of closed-toed shoes with her to the races on Sunday, just in case she won.
She didn’t think she had too big of a chance, however, as her husband Scott — also on hand to watch the races — had previously scored a ride-along of his own at a race last year in Oklahoma.
Now that Tari has experienced life in the fast wave, the pair of powerboat racing fans have definitely got to be the fastest couple on their block.
DePue native Dave Hoffert, who now resides in Avon, Ind., comes back every year for the boat races.
Still, he had never be
en quite so up-close and personal until the ticket a friend purchased for him allowed him to get suited up to ride with freshly crowned 1,100cc runabout champion Derek Gesler.
“You’ve got to be a little bit scared. When you’re going that fast in a boat anything can happen,” Hoffert said. “But it was awesome.
“It gives you an appreciation of what these guys do and how fast those boats really go. You don’t realize it until you’re out there. You’re in the first corner and then all the sudden you’re in the third corner. And when he slowed it down, it’s just like the boat is hitting a wall. You move forward a little bit and then you hang on because you’re going toward the next corner,” added Hoffert, who claimed victory for team Gesler/Hoffert in a near photo finish end to the exhibition.
Your humble narrator bought a $5 ticket for a chance at a ride.
Although it would have been an interesting experience (to say the least), I have to admit that I was secretly holding out hope that my number didn’t come up.
I’ve been covering the boat races for five years now, and have been skittishly contemplating a ride ever since I started. Maybe next year I’ll finally get up the courage to ask for a few moments out flying over the water. Although, from tales I’ve heard about former WLPO radio announcer Lanny Slevin’s first (and only) trip around the lake, I might just want to skip it. (How’s retirement treating you, Lanny?)
Journalism students from Northwestern University were on hand Sunday interviewing folks associated with the races as they worked on a future story about the races and Lake DePue’s environmental struggles.
The DePue Men’s Club keeps trying to spread the word about the Village of DePue’s efforts to clean up beautiful Lake DePue. For more information on environmental issues surrounding Lake DePue with the Illinois EPA, Exxon Mobile and CBS/Viacom on cleanup efforts, visit cleanupdepue.org.
The smell of racing fuel must be like sweet perfume for racer Charles Bradley, who married his lovely bride June (Perry) Bradley on Thursday on the lakefront before the start of Friday’s racing. After taking the plunge with his new bride, Bradley headed out to the water, where he finished fifth in both the 125cc and 175cc Hydro divisions. Good luck to the newlyweds!
Last but not least, recently graduated St. Bede senior Grant Bosnich was the recipient of the DePue Men’s Club Scholarship. Grant, a longtime volunteer at the races, will attend Loyola University in the fall.
Chris Yucus is a NewsTribune Sports Writer. He can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.