2011 Madison Regatta

Madison Shortens Race Course To Accommodate Bridge Construction

When the boats hit the water at Madison next year, they will be entering unchartered waters. Literally.

For the first time in the 60 year history of the Madison Regatta, the race course will be shorter in length than ever before. Since 1950, the Unlimited hydroplanes have raced on a 3 mile course, or the current 2½ mile oval. A new and different challenge faces the Unlimited fleet heading into the 2011 season opener in Madison.

Unlimited Historian Fred Farley tells us that since the Unlimiteds first raced on the Ohio River in Madison, the course was 3 miles in length. That lasted from 1950 until 1966.

In 1967, the current 2½ mile circuit was instituted. Fred Farley tells by email response, “This was in line with a national policy, initiated by Lee Schoenith and Phil Cole, to enhance spectator viewing areas. The rationale being, when the turns are closer together, the spectators have a better view of the race.”

With the Madison-Milton bridge construction in progress until the fall of 2012, the current course will be interrupted. For the first time ever, the boats will not race under the bridge. Farley continues in his email, “The race course for the 2011 Madison Regatta will have to be shorter on account of the bridge construction project. As to what size that the course will be in 2011, that has not yet been determined.”

Go3 Racing Team owner Ed Cooper says it will definitely change the way the course is run. Cooper was raised in Madison, and has 25 years as an owner racing his team on the Bill Cantrell Memorial Race Course. Stints with the Miss Madison and My Gypsy teams give Cooper a unique view of the Ohio river. “The dynamics will certainly change with a shorter course. Teams will have to take in account changes in gearing for the shorter straights, as well as new turns on both ends of the course.” The first turn will be about where the Lanier Mansion is located, and turn two will be somewhere before the bridge construction. The location of the start/finish line will also come into play with the shorter straight-a-ways.

It could be an interesting challenge for the teams and drivers heading into the 2011 Unlimited season.

[Reprinted from Thunderboat, January/February 2011]