August 8th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

It was a corn-doggy sunny Sunday afternoon when I went to the Seafair hydro races.

Took the light rail to the Othello station, then a free shuttle bus to the southern end of Genessee Park. That got me to a lot of people milling about at fast food and military-recruiting booths.

Inside the admission gates, initially, were more of the same. Then approaching the lakefront you got the bigger sideshow attractions, such as the Seafair Pirates.

One of these attractions was a daylong demonstration of something called “Hyperlite,” a water skiing experience using ropes and pulleys instead of a tow boat. (Yes, that was my excuse to ask you to say “tow boat” five times fast.)

Oh yeah, there was that highly publicized intermission act, which newbies increasingly mistake for the star attraction. It’s loud. It’s fast. It’s shiny. It’s simple to “get.”

But for Seafair’s steadfast true believers, it’s not the big thing.

This is.

The combination of subtlety and power, of quiet water and loud machinery, of stillness and speed, of steamlined curves and pure aggression, of hand craftsmanship and industrial might.

Here’s the Graham Real Ventures boat. It’s one of the “Unlimited Lights,” the smaller class of boats that raced on Seafair Weekend. Yes, I know “Unlimited Lights” is an oxymoron derived from a misnomer. (The bigger boats have long been under various size and horsepower restrictions for safety’s sake.)

But they’re still fast and exciting. And because they use piston engines, they generate the kind of noise that old timers like me find comforting, not annoying.

Above is the boat of Kayleigh Perkins, the only female driver in this past weekend’s lineup.

And this is her boat after it flipped over in the air during the lights’ championship heat, the only accident of the day. (She got out of the boat safely and was apparently fine.)

With Budweiser’s departure from the circuit, the Oberto beef jerky-sponsored team has been the team to beat in recent years.

But it wasn’t the only boat out there.

I happened to be positioned near a group of loyal Oberto fans. Would they find themselves satisfied at the end of the championship round?

Why yes, they would.

As for me, I sunburned through my shirt and had to have a long nap once I got hope. And it was completely worth it.

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