Thursday, August 23, 2018

Get Hip to Hydrofest

Have you ever heard of the Detroit hydroplane races? The annual riverfront competition has been taking place on the Detroit Riverfront every summer since 1904. The event features a variety of racers in different hydro vehicles that compete to see who has the fastest vehicle and the best driving skills. In fact, the hydroplanes reach similar speeds to those of NASCAR, with the added risk of being on the water. But, instead of trying to describe this crazy sport to you, we reached out to one of the best racers in the game to hear more about the sport from someone who was born and raised to race these beasts. Check out our interview with Andrew Tate and head to the bottom to get all the details on this weekends races.

HID- How did you get into hydroplane racing?
Andrew Tate- "My great grandfather, Joe Tate, Sr., started racing inboard hydroplanes in the 1930s under the governing body of the American Power Boat Association. Boat racing has been a part of the Tate family ever since. My grandfather, Joe Tate, Jr., and father, Mark Tate, both drove various hydroplanes throughout their careers. My mother, Sandy, who is originally from California, met my father on the APBA circuit while she was piloting her boat, "Country Girl." I grew up around the races, following my dad and his career. When I was 11 we purchased a Junior Stock Hydroplane, which my younger brother, Brent, and I took turns driving."

HID- How fast does a hydroplane really go?
Andrew Tate- "There are hundreds of different "classes" or "types" of hydroplanes varying in size and speed. The biggest and fastest class would be the Unlimited Hydroplane, which is capable of reaching speeds over 200 MPH at the end of a straightaway. In Detroit, I'll also be driving a Grand Prix hydroplane, which will go about 150 MPH."

HID- What's the scariest part about driving one of these things?
Andrew Tate- "I guess that depends on who you ask, but my answer is simple: as a driver, you have to understand the risks involved before you get in the boat. Things happen quickly at 200 mph, and anyone who is scared while piloting a hydroplane doesn't belong in one."

HID- How often do you have to train to enter a race like this?
Andrew Tate- "Every spring before the start of the season we have a "test session" on the Columbia River in Tri-Cities, Washington. The test is essentially a gauge for the teams to understand how their off season changes have affected the performance of the boat. Unfortunately, we don't really get too much practice prior to the actual races. Shutting down a body of water large enough for a hydroplane to operate safely is a logistical nightmare. Like me, a lot of my competitors race different kinds of boats throughout the year to stay sharp. As silly as it sounds, the Formula 1 game on my PS4 helps with hand-eye coordination and reaction time. I also can't recall the last time I was beat in a go-kart."

HID- Where does one store a hydroplane?
Andrew Tate- "Fortunately for me, I don't own one. Which means I don't have to worry about the $1 million that the machine itself costs, or the bill to rent a storage unit big enough to hold a 7,000-lbs boat. The Unlimited teams typically own their own shop where the boat can be stored, maintained, and, hopefully, upgraded between races. The boat I drive--the U-9 Delta Reatrac--is based out of Enumclaw, Washington."

HID- These hydroplanes spread a lot of water when they are racing, how do they determine who won in a close race? Is there a camera playback or something?
Andrew Tate- "Each boat is equipped with multiple Go-Pro cameras that are used by race officials during and after the race to assist in making calls in scenarios where a second look might be required. The officials also have a birds eye view thanks to the latest in drone technology, which has really helped make their jobs easier."

HID- What brings you back to Detroit to compete every year?
Andrew Tate- "I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, so thankfully, I don't have far to go. My father and great grandfather also had the opportunity to race on the Detroit river, and watching them compete in front of family and friends was really special for them as it is for me. There's a rich history of hydroplane racing on the Detroit River that goes back over a century. The Gold Cup, which will be awarded to the winner of Sunday's final heat, is the oldest trophy in Motorsports. Between carrying on a legacy, racing in front of loved ones, and the prestige of the event, it would take a lot to keep me from participating in the race here every year."

The hydroplane races will kick off this Friday at 5 p.m. If you would like to come out and see these hydro vehicles hit speeds of 200 plus miles in person you can get some tickets to attend here.


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