1989 Budweiser Columbia Cup

Fans Lose Prime View Spots For Tri-City Hydro Races

KENNEWICK — The insurance company that provides coverage for next weekend's Columbia Cup hydroplane race is requiring new safety measures to reduce the risk of injury to spectators if a hydroplane skids off the race course.

The Indiana-based K and K firm is asking that fans be kept 50 feet back from the river on the Franklin County side, upriver from the dikes, and off a 1,000-foot section in Columbia Park at the upriver turn. Both sites are prime riverbank perches.

Spectators also will have to stay on level ground, 8 to 15 feet from the water, and hydroplanes will have to be 100 feet farther from shore than last year because this year's new two-mile course is narrower than previous 2.5-mile ovals, said Ken Maurer, Tri-City Water Follies director.

The course was changed to reduce speed, but better boat technology is keeping speeds high.

Qualifying runs for the Columbia Cup unlimited boat race are next Friday. More qualifying runs, races of smaller boats and a water-ski show are scheduled for next Saturday as part of the annual Water Follies celebration. The final hydro race is Sunday.

"There have been no examples of an unlimited hydroplane injury to any spectator during the long history of hydroplane racing," according to a statement from the Water Follies office. "However, a smaller race boat did veer off course and run into a crowd area in Philadelphia last year, causing injuries. This accident prompted the new safety regulations on the part of the insurance company."

The insurance company provides $5 million in liability coverage for each race and charges Water Follies $21,000 a year, said Maurer. It is under contract with the American Power Boat Association for all association racing events, he said.

(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, July 22, 1989)