NEW MARTINSVILLE - Records are sure to be set when New Martinsville hosts a new quarter-mile American Power Boat Association-sanctioned record run event Sept. 29-30.
New Martinsville has not seen powerboat activity on the Ohio River since 2003, when the New Martinsville Regatta was discontinued. That event was started in 1938 and became a favorite race for participants and fans in the area, many of whom want to see boats speeding along the straight stretch of river once more.
Sam Winer of New Martinsville, owner and manager of Powerboat Superleague, along with his wife Sherron, said he got a call from some former racers in New Jersey who wanted to resurrect the old record runs that had preceded the regatta from sometime in the 1940s to 1978.
Boats similar to these will be running for records Sept. 29 and 30 on the Ohio River in New Martinsville in the New Martinsville Quarter-Mile Records Challenge. The new quarter-mile distance will guarantee records set during the event.
After some discussion, it was decided the city would host quarter-mile races against the clock, which is a distance that has never been done before. Races previously were 1 kilometer in length.
The new distance will guarantee records will be set by the first boats running in each of the three categories. There could be as many as 30 boats competing in a total of 25 classes.
Sherron Winer said organizers would like to see 10 entries in each category. She noted as of Aug. 1, the event is 99 percent funded and she hopes the needed 1 percent will soon be forthcoming to assure other planned activities can be done.
"The community is very excited," she said. "There is a lot of enthusiasm. The committee is a good blend, and the business people on the committee have put their money where their mouth is. The community has begun to wrap itself around this idea. I must commend the committee for embracing the event. We haven't heard anything negative yet."
The committee, made up of all volunteers, includes members of the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce, Wetzel County Convention and Visitors Bureau, New Martinsville Riverfront Development, business owners, Wetzel County Commission, city government and others from the community.
She pointed out several former regatta drivers have expressed interest, along with some new ones. Among those already committed to attend are Larry Lautterbuch of Maryland, a well-known driver who holds a number of championships.
Also, father and son drivers Rob and Terry Rinker of Florida, defending champions in two classes and members of the Hall of Champions, will take part, along with Ed Hearn of Indiana, a record holder with 23 nominations to the Hall of Champions.
"This will bring back a lot of memories for some," Sam Winer said. "For the new drivers, it will be a novelty. We should get some of the hot shots in the country. We will also have some newer drivers, which will be coming from all over the country, and there will also be some women drivers.
"It's been an interesting project," he continued. "I think we'll get some of the fastest boats."
Both Winers noted the best way for drivers seeking consideration for induction into the Hall of Champions to earn recognition is to win a national championship or break a record. The New Martinsville course is the holder of 63 national and world records.
"This gives them a chance to get their name in a record book," Sherron said. "That, in turn, gives them a chance to go in the Hall of Champions. This will give them a leg up. There have been more records set in New Martinsville than anywhere else."
The New Martinsville Quarter-Mile Records Challenge is APBA sanctioned and insured and will use APBA-approved officials and electronic timing equipment.
According to Sam Winer, who will serve as race director, some boats will utilize the city boat ramp while the large boats will be put into the water by crane.
There will be a flying start, from behind the city fire department, and boats will be clocked when they pass a second scanner at the WesBanco property south of the county courthouse. A Powerboat Superleague primary Rescue and Safety Unit and race-designed safety boat will be on duty during the event.
Powerboat Superleague is the nation's and APBA's oldest professional racing circuit and has be conducting such events around the country for 26 years. However, the Winers will be doing the New Martinsville event as a labor of love and will not get paid for their work.
"They want to do something for the community and give back," said Deanna McConaughey, treasurer of the event committee.
While the main attraction will be centered on the river, other family entertainment, food, racing memorabilia and children's activities are planned throughout the city. Boats could begin racing for records at 7 a.m. each morning, depending on fog and river conditions, and could run until 7 p.m. each evening.
It was pointed out the event will be held on the last weekend of September, which was the same weekend the former regatta was always held. Organizers said the benefit of this weekend is cooler temperatures, good water level and less competition with other races.
"This will not be a one-year thing. We expect to come back, Sherron Winer said.