Oh Boy! Oberto pilot JW Myers hasn’t guided an unlimited hydroplane for five years. But he was fourth on the qualifying ladder Friday for Sunday’s Albert Lee Appliance Cup at Seafair.

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It’s been five years since JW Myers piloted an unlimited hydroplane.

“I was just at the other end of the lake for the last five years and not this end of the lake,” Myers said Friday before qualifying at the Albert Lee Appliance Cup at Seafair on Lake Washington.

What’s at the other end of the lake?

“That’s where I live,” Myers said.

Myers landed in the seat of the U-16 Oh Boy! Oberto, which is making its only appearance on the H1 Unlimited schedule this season.

This version of the Oberto is owned by the Ballard-based Ellstrom family, which has run the boat as the Miss Elam Plus and the 96 Spirit of Qatar in recent years. Last year, it was simply called Ellstrom Racing. The Oberto boat Steve David and Jimmy Shane drove to National High Points titles now runs as the HomeStreet Bank.

Myers, who is a 35-year veteran of outboard racing, was last on the hydroplane circuit in 2012, the end of a two-year run with the U-11 Peters and May.

He lands in the Oberto, which tends to get top qualifying speeds whenever it is put on the water.

Friday, putting up a gaudy number on the qualifying ladder wasn’t the goal. Before qualifying, Myers had little time to get familiar with the boat, not to mention five years of rust to knock off. The Oberto was fourth on the qualifying ladder at 134.208 mph (an earlier lap at 143 was disqualified because of a technical violation).

“There’s more boat than driver, currently,” said Myers, who has one career victory, that coming in Madison, Ind., in the Miss Elam in 2005. “… But by Sunday, I’m hoping we’re at least parallel.”

Myers replaces Jean Theoret, a Hall of Fame driver in Canada who drove the boat the last two years. Theoret had a five-year absence from the unlimited circuit when he took over.

“It was time to make a change to see if there is a better jelling,” owner Erick Ellstrom said.

The Ellstrom team has had one of the top boats on the circuit since 2001.

When the Ellstroms hooked up with career-wins leader Dave Villwock in 2005, they were a player for the national title every year. Villwock and the Ellstroms won Seafair in 2008 and 2009.

In 2013, Villwock flipped the boat and it caught on fire in Doha, Qatar.

The Ellstrom family started over and built a boat from scratch. Since that season, it hasn’t competed on the entire circuit. But it has still been fast. It was the top qualifier the last two years at Seafair, topping 150 mph.

But the Ellstroms have other interests.

They’re also involved in off-road racing, competing in the Best in the Desert Series and doing races such as the famed Mint 400.

“It’s not that we’re racing less as a family,” Ellstrom said. “We’re actually racing more. We’re just in different venues.”

That shorter race schedule also appealed to Myers, who is busy with his job selling roofing supplies.

But it might not be this way forever.

“I would bet we’ll throw this boat out there to run the full circuit again,” said Ellstrom, who might have done it this year if it wasn’t for the other racing schedule.


• Five boats hit the 130 mph qualifying mark. Shane in the U-1 HomeStreet Bank was the top qualifier in 148.975 mph. Andrew Tate in the U-9 Les Schwab Tires was next at 148.355. J. Michael Kelly was third at 146.000.

The U-21 Miss Albert Lee Appliance made it to the pits just before the qualifying started at 3:20 p.m. The boat was damaged last week at the Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities. It was the fifth and final qualifier at 132.396.

The U-440 Bucket List Racing was towed back to the dock after it died during its qualifying laps.

The U-11 Miss DiJulio and the U-99.9 Miss Rock didn’t make it out for qualifying on Friday and will try again at Saturday’s 8 a.m. testing session.

• There’s a new racing schedule this year. There will be two heats Saturday instead of just one. Heat 1A is at 11:40 a.m. and Heat 1B is 11:55 a.m. Heat 2A is at 3:40 p.m. with Heat 2B at 3:55 p.m. Sunday will have one preliminary heat before the final at 4:45 p.m.