Hydrofest Brings Boat Racing Thunder Back to Detroit River in August

The 2019 Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Hydrofest, the 100-plus-year-old Detroit River boat racing tradition, continues Aug. 24-25 when approximately 40 boats from three different classes of automotive-powered hydroplanes compete between the city’s riverfront and Belle Isle.
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For the first time in more than 30 years, the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Hydrofest will feature piston-powered Grand Prix boats rather than turbine-powered unlimited (pictured). // Photo by Tim Keenan

The 2019 Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Hydrofest, the 100-plus-year-old Detroit River boat racing tradition, continues Aug. 24-25 when approximately 40 boats from three different classes of automotive-powered hydroplanes compete between the city’s riverfront and Belle Isle.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the Hydrofest will be an all piston-powered event, meaning it will be noticeably louder than when the quieter turbine-powered unlimited boats were on the water.

Unlike past years when fans in attendance had long waits between racing action, Hydrofest organizers are planning to have boats competing on the 1.25-mile Detroit River course every 20 minutes.

The featured races will be run in the Hydroplane Racing League’s (HRL) Grand Prix class, which includes as many as 15 boats from the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand that are 24-feet long with 468-cubic-inch supercharged, big-block V-8 Chevrolet piston engines producing as much as 1,500 horsepower and reach 160 mph.

Also competing will be more than 20 hydroplanes from the H-350 class. These racers are 19 feet in length, feature 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet powered engines, and hit 120 mph on the speedometer.

The flat-bottomed Jersey speed skiffs and vintage hydroplanes also will be taking to the Detroit River in August.

Former Detroit Lions kicker Eddie Murray and Michelle O’Connor-Tekinski of the Hope Network will serve as the event’s grand marshals.

“Hydroplane racing is a unique event to see in person – the speed of the boats and the agility of the drivers is a must see,” Murray says. “This is a great opportunity for local families to see a very special event.”

Three-time Gold Cup winner and past Grand Prix national champion Tom D’Eath will serve as honorary race chairman. In 2003, D’Eath, who is enshrined in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, was president of the Detroit River Regatta Association and executed a sharp turn-around of the race’s financial structure and saved the event.

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