HYDROPLANE RACING: ‘Thunder’ rolls on despite rain

By Jay Skurski
The Tonawanda News

NORTH TONAWANDA — A few rain drops couldn’t stop the return of hydroplane racing to the Niagara River on Saturday.

Thunder on the Niagara, the first hydroplane races on the river in the past five years, kicked off around 1 p.m.

While the weather and some debris in the water delayed the start of Saturday’s racing, drivers were eventually able to get in their boats and out on the course at Gratwick-Riverside Park.

About 45 boats raced in the 1-liter modified, 2.5 stock, 5-liter, national modified, pro stock and KRR classes.

Race organizer John Krebs, commodore of the Niagara Frontier Boat Racing Association, was pleased with the turnout, especially considering Saturday’s weather and the fact the event is in its inaugural season.

“That’s not a bad amount,” he said.

Vehicles and trailers with license plates from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere carried in boats with names like Just Crazy, Drag N’ Fly and Sonic Wave.

Indianapolis resident Scott Blackwell made the trip with his wife, Amy, and two young children. After spending a day at Niagara Falls on Friday, Blackwell was ready to race Saturday.

“It’s a pretty nice course,” he said. “I’m impressed by how clean the water is.”

Because of the delay, only the 1-liter modified final was run, with Niagara Falls resident Dan Kanfoush taking the win. The other finals will be run today, starting at 11 a.m., before the regular day of racing goes off.

Grand Island resident Walt Hughes took in Saturday’s racing action from a prime spot on the river’s edge. He said it was nice to see the races back in the area.

“It’s cool to have racing back,” he said. “It’s just too bad the weather didn’t cooperate.”

Krebs said the event had a few first-year glitches, but otherwise ran smoothly. The U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and Erie County Sheriff’s Department were among the organizations that had vessels in the water to direct other boats away from the course.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Carly’s Club of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Funds raised for Carly’s Club support childhood cancer research to find cures, and social-support activities for children and families served by Roswell Park and Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. A $2 minimum donation to Carly’s Club is requested, but otherwise, the event is free.