After building the boat for 10 years, the U-99.9 Go Fast Turn Left Racing team just wanted to get its unlimited hydroplane on the water.
The problem was there was this big hole on the bottom of the boat.
The boat, which will run at Seafair this weekend as the U.99.9 CARSTAR powered Miss Rock KISW, has been a longtime project for Greg and Brian O’Farrell. The team was understandably excited to race it at the Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities, but during testing Friday the escape hatch opened and was torn off by the water.
Boat racing is a family, and normally teams help out when a part is missing or broken. But the new boat had a hatch different from the boats around it. Divers even emerged empty-handed when searching the bottom of the Columbia River.
“There was nobody to beg, borrow or steal one from,” Greg O’Farrell said.
That turned out to not quite be true. Veteran boat racer Mark Evans had the old boat from the Ellstrom team, which ran last as the 96 Spirit of Qatar, sitting in his shop on Lake Chelan. His brother Mitch Evans was at the race and got in touch with his brother, who had an employee drive it to Kennewick.
Driver Brian Perkins did the remaining grinding and fiberglass work to get the replacement hatch on the boat — 15 minutes before Heat 1A.
And so the boat hit the water and acted as a boat typically does when it’s right out of the box.
“It was a handful at first,” Perkins said. “It didn’t want to do what we wanted it to do at first.”
The weekend turned out OK as the boat qualified for the final and took sixth.
This weekend the Maple Valley-based team takes over the Miss Rock sponsorship after running as the Albert Lee for a decade. The boat that ran as the Miss Rock last year was sold to the Graham Trucking team after owner Stacey Briseno died en route to the San Diego race in 2018.
The O’Farrells started building the boat when the unlimited hydroplane circuit raced in Doha, Qatar, with the thought that maybe the boat could stay in the Middle East. That race went defunct in 2014 and work on the boat slowed.
It’s had several notable names to help build it: former Miss Budweiser crewman Dale Van Wieringen, veteran boat builder Ron Jones Jr. and Miss HomeStreet crew chief Mike Hanson.
The team has the old boat, the U-21, as a solid backup, but O’Farrell said he’d like to sell it, so another team will get involved in the sport. Just as the O’Farrells did 11 years ago when they bought two boats from Fred Leeland.
Greg O’Farrell will tell you his first boat was the one he dragged behind his bike, as did so many kids in Seattle growing up.
Perkins, who works for his family business Perkins Glass, grew up watching as well, but never thought he’d have the opportunity until his family bought a smaller class of hydroplane.
He got his first shot at the unlimiteds with a San Diego team, Freedom Racing, in 2007 and did three races. When the O’Farrell brothers bought the boat before the 2010 season, he went along for the ride.
And perhaps with a new boat, the smaller team will get a shot at competing with some of the better-funded boats.
“I think it could be very, very fast,” Perkins said.
- The U-440 Bucket List racing, based out of Snohomish, won’t race at Seafair. It damaged the drive train and gearbox in Tri-Cities and couldn’t get replacement parts in time.
- The U-3 Go3 Racing, the only piston-powered boat remaining in the turbine fleet, headed back to Evansville, Ind., for repairs after racing in Tri-Cities. The boat’s propeller threw a blade, causing plenty of damage.
You can’t tell a boat without a program
Here’s who is racing this weekend at the HomeStreet Bank Cup at Seafair:
Driven by Andrew Tate, the boat is the defending national champ and Seafair champ, having won last year on a penalty.
U-6 Miss HomeStreet
Jimmy Shane has the Miss Madison team poised for another national title. He lost the Seafair title last year on a penalty.
U-7 Boitano Homes
This former Miss Budweiser hull is no stranger to Seafair, but this is the first time owner Dave Bartush and driver Bert Henderson have brought it to Seattle.
U-11 J&D’s presented by Reliable Diamond Tool
This team switched drivers before the Columbia Cup, and Jamie Nilsen will take the wheel for his second run at Seafair.
U-12 Graham Trucking
J. Michael Kelly is coming off a win at the Columbia Cup, and this boat has always done well at Seafair.
U-98 Graham Trucking American Dream
Rookie Corey Peabody drives the former Miss Rock boat. Rob Graham bought it and will run a two-boat team.
U-99.9 CARSTAR powered Miss Rock KISW
Veteran driver Brian Perkins got his first ride in the new boat last weekend at the Columbia Cup.
U-1918 Oberto Super Salami
Jeff Bernard landed in the seat of the former Miss Madison boat that won eight national titles.