Charley Wiggins, Dad Return To The Unlimited Ranks
GADSDEN, Ala. – There was never a doubt that the 46-year old rookie H1 Unlimited Hydroplane owner/crewchief Charley Wiggins had boat racing in his blood. His father Milton started out in Pro Outboards when he was 18 years old, and started his son racing at the age of 14 in the American Power Boat Association Inboard Category. From then on, Charley moved up the racing ladder with aspirations of one day getting a ride in an unlimited hydroplane.
In 2000, the U-6 Miss Madison team made the call. The team offered Wiggins the driver's position. His dreams were coming true — until his first race.
"We were racing in Evansville," said Wiggins. "I qualified as a rookie driver and was ready to race."
The inaugural race was going well for Wiggins until lap three of the third heat. The escape hatch broke, and water barreled into the cockpit. The break was not big but when you are traveling at speeds of 130 mph even the smallest of holes can make the rushing water feel like a wall.
"The water felt like it crushed my legs. I thought both of my legs were broken," said Wiggins. "almost as if someone had hit the back of my legs with a baseball bat. When I was checked out, I found out my legs were just badly bruised. "
Wiggins was back in the cockpit for the hometown Madison race one week later, and two weeks later it was the APBA Gold Cup in Detroit. At both races Charley not only piloted the Miss Madison but was also racing the family's Unlimited Light boat – UL-10 Earl's Performance Product.
In the UL final heat, Wiggins' boat went airborne, crashing down into the Detroit River and bringing out the red flag. The rescue boats raced to his aid, hurrying Wiggins back to the Bill Muncey Memorial Pits Care Center.
Fortunately the injuries were minor, but for Wiggins….
"That's when I said enough is enough. I had already been beaten up by the Detroit River's rough water and then flipping the Unlimited Light boat was just too much for me. After 17 straight years of racing, I was burned out. I wanted to take a break from racing."
Nate Brown took over the driver's seat in the Madison but boat racing remained in Wiggins' blood. He and his father continued to be active in boat racing, most recently as owners of the Grand Prix boat, No. 18, High Pressure.
Now fast forward to 2015. Charley is once again getting ready to return to the unlimited ranks with his father at his side. And almost as if it were a repeat from the year 2000, Charley and Nate are trading places. This time, Charley and his father Milton are replacing Nate as the principal owner of an unlimited hydroplane.
Charley and Milt purchased the U-17 Our Gang Racing Team Unlimited Hydroplane from Nate Brown in January. In the sale, the new owners took delivery of the boat, truck, trailer, turbine engines and all the support equipment
The Wiggins family quickly called veteran hydroplane driver Cal Phipps to pilot the boat, but that was just the start of the journey back into unlimited hydroplane racing. Now they are working on the tough part, getting the newly numbered U-27 ready for the 2015 H1 opener in Madison.
"The boat is in pretty good shape," said Charley. "We just had to do some routine maintenance, get familiar with the systems but nothing major."
The biggest project for the team now is building various molds. "We are currently working on the front and rear wing molds so we can make replacement parts if necessary."
"We have about 75 percent of the work completed, and if we were told to load up the boat next week and get ready to race, we could do it," added Wiggins.
The entire sport of Unlimited Hydroplane Racing is thrilled of the prospect of having the U-27 on the H1 circuit, but nobody is more excited than Charley himself.
"My Dad and I followed the unlimited teams and races all my life," said Wiggins. "I love the technology; I love the racing, and I have the opportunity to be back in the sport with my Dad again. It doesn't get any better than this."
The H1 Unlimited Hydroplane season begins with the Madison Regatta, July 3-5. Testing will take place on the Ohio River on Friday with racing on Saturday and Sunday.
For more information on the Madison Regatta, the U-27 team and all of Unlimited Hydroplane Racing, go to http://www.h1unlimited.com. For more specific information on the U-27 racing team go to www.u27hydro.com and www.facebook.com/u27unlimited .
May 13th, 2015