Regatta Continues at Heritage Port

From Staff Reports

WHEELING?- Boat racers from three countries will be putting on a show – at speeds up to 120 mph – again today at the Heritage Port in Wheeling. Despite predictions for rain in the area, Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta officials say the boats will run today.

“If it just looks like rain, come on down,” advised regatta Co-Director Debbie Joseph. She explained owners of the 48 raceboats at the event are eager to run, even if it’s between raindrops. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 9:45 a.m., with raceboats set to begin running at about 10 a.m.

Sunny skies and a large crowd were present for the regatta on Saturday. Joseph said the event went smoothly and safely. Saturday’s action began with runs by about half a dozen people who had never driven raceboats before.

The youngest was Kim Morsheimer, 16, of Honeyoye, N.Y. She comes from a family of racers.

The regatta isn’t only Memorial Day weekend activity going on in the Wheeling area. For example, Fort Henry Days continues today at Oglebay Park’s Site 1. Visitors to the park can take in the sights, sounds and smells of the era through period music and dancing, battle reenactments and various living history demonstrations.

The Wheeling Symphony Orchestra’s annual “Music Under the Stars” concert at the Anne Kuchinka Amphitheater is set for 7:30 p.m. today with fireworks to follow. Also at Oglebay Park today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the Woodcarvers’ Show at the Pine Room.

At the regatta, hydroplane race boats from the past, many restored to like-new condition, are the event’s main attraction. Some boats running in Wheeling will be remembered by those who attended the old New Martinsville Regatta years ago. Though the old boats are fast, they differ greatly from modern racers, which include a variety of safety features such as enclosed cockpits. Vintage boats have open cockpits in which drivers sit unsecured.

An annual event, the regatta often attracts racers from throughout the eastern United States and Canada. This year, however, an Australian contingent was present, too. However, a substantial number of hydroplanes running in Wheeling have local owners and drivers. Eight operational boats and three vintage craft used for display only have Ohio Valley owners.

Admission to the regatta is free and, during the lunchtime break, the pit area is opened to the public. Free raceboat posters are provided and many drivers are pleased to autograph them. In addition to the raceboats, the regatta features many other events, including concessions, crafters and activities for children.

With WesBanco as its chief sponsor, the regatta, now in its 9th year, benefits the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center in Wheeling. During the event’s first eight years, it donated $42,450 to Easter Seals.