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Ohio River Great Place To ... Fly

August 18, 2013
MIKE MYER , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Flying is something most reasonably sane people believe ought to be done up in the air. Many of these same folks would agree that the proper place for a boat is in the water.

Someone always has to break the rules.

A few hundred of them will be coming to Wheeling again this year, during Labor Day weekend.

They're owners, drivers, crews and families of old, restored racing boats who think the Ohio River is a great place to show off their antiques. They will be at the Heritage Port from Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 for the annual Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta.

One reason the regatta has become very popular is that proceeds from it support the local Easter Seals center. If you've ever been there, you understand the wonderful work Easter Seals does with children.

But most people who want to support good causes do so by holding dances, festivals, concerts, etc. Dan and Debbie Joseph and the many volunteers who stage the regatta every year do it a bit differently.

They let people go fast - very fast in many cases - on the Ohio River. Actually, that isn't quite right. More accurately, the old raceboats fly over the water rather than in it.

There's a reason they're called hydroplanes. Most of the boats are designed aerodynamically so that once they get up to speed, they're flying as much as anything. In a perfect run, only the boat's propeller and small areas of its sponsons are actually touching the water.

What's "up to speed?" Well over 100 mph for many of the boats that are coming to Wheeling.

The local event is among the most popular in the United States for owners of the old boats. As usual, Wheeling does it better than many other places, and that has paid off. A record number of boats may attend this year's event. Nearly 50 already have registered.

Thanks to many local businesses, including primary sponsor WesBanco, the regatta is free. It won't cost you a dime to sit at the Heritage Port and watch men and women who appear to be intelligent and well-balanced do crazy, loud things out on the river.

By the way, raceboats such as those you'll see Labor Day weekend aren't legal for actual races sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association anymore.

The APBA says they're not safe enough ...

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