Community Notebook: Unlimited Hydroplanes to practice Friday on Columbia River

Sport’s winningest driver Dave Vilwock coming to event

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor Published: May 16, 2022, 6:02pm

The Columbia River is about to get a whole lot louder. Four H1 Unlimited Hydroplanes are scheduled to conduct a preseason practice session on Friday. The 28-foot boats, which can reach up to 200 miles per hour, will run between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on a 2-mile oval course between the Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 bridges. Spectators are encouraged to watch along the Columbia River Waterfront Renaissance Trail between Who Song and Larry’s and Beaches Restaurant. The start-finish line will be near Beaches. Fans can also see the hydroplane boats up close and meet the drivers during a public exhibition on Thursday. That event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. along Phil Arnold Way south of the downtown Hilton Vancouver. The most notable driver coming to Vancouver is Dave Vilwock, who operates the U40 Bucket List Racing boat. Vilwock has won 67 Unlimited Hydroplane races, the most in the sport’s history. He has won 10 series championships, eight while piloting Miss Budweiser from 1997 to 2004.

Other drivers scheduled to appear are J. Michael Kelly (U8 Strong Racing), Jamie Nilsen (U11 Unlimited Racing Ground) and Jeff Bernard (U91 Miss Madison Racing). The event is directed by Vancouver resident Nelson Holmberg. He has been involved in the sport since 1979, which is the last time Vancouver hosted an Unlimited Hydroplane exhibition. “They’re spectacular to see, not just the speeds these impressive machines travel at, but also the stunning 150-plus foot long roostertail the propellers throw into the air behind them,” Holmberg said. “It’s a beautiful display of the powers of water and mechanical engineering.” The Unlimited Hydroplane season begins in June and includes events in Tri-Cities on July 29-31 and Seattle on Aug. 5-7. Prairie grad Schmidt wins GNAC titles Steven Schmidt, a freshman at Northwest Nazarene University, won the decathlon and high jump at the NCAA Division-II Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships last weekend in Bellingham.

Schmidt, a freshman from Prairie High, was named GNAC Male Field Athlete of the Meet. Schmidt cleared 6 feet, 8.25 inches to win the high jump. He scored 6,488 points in the decathlon, winning by 52 points. Young javelin thrower excels Tiffany Rose Sheldon, an eighth-grader from Vancouver, won gold in the javelin at the Catholic Youth Organization Portland Meet of Champions last week. Sheldon’s throw of 95 feet, 6 inches is among the top 10 marks all time in that meet. Sheldon, who currently attends Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, plans to attend Seton Catholic in the fall.

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