Hydroplanes thundering toward Dyes Inlet

The fourth annual Silverdale Thunder hydroplane races are Aug. 15-16, with a beer garden and live music kicking off the action Aug. 14. - File photo 2008
The fourth annual Silverdale Thunder hydroplane races are Aug. 15-16, with a beer garden and live music kicking off the action Aug. 14.
— image credit: File photo 2008

With speedometers rattling well into triple digits, hydroplanes will roar and roostertail through Dyes Inlet next weekend.

The nation’s top hydro talent is set to return to Kitsap for the fourth annual Silverdale Thunder hydroplane races Aug. 15-16.

“From the races to the music to the beer garden, it’s going to be a great event,” coordinator Johnathan Miller said. “It is designed for the community, for families to enjoy.”

Sanctioned and sponsored by the Unlimited Lights Hydroplane Racing Association, the two-day racing event begins with qualifying runs the morning of Aug. 15, continuing with additional heats and the finals Aug. 16. The racing pits will be open to the public during select times, giving fans an opportunity to get an up-close look at the boats, meet the drivers and collect racing souvenirs.

Kayleigh Perkins, who drove the UL-72 Miss Boat Electric to first place in the Unlimited Lights race at last year’s Silverdale Thunder, headlines a lineup that also includes Bremerton’s Eric Christensen and Belfair’s Bud McKay.

The 21-year-old Perkins, a resident of Black Diamond, has climbed to hydroplane stardom since winning Silverdale Thunder’s Unlimited Lights race in 2007, her first ULHRA-sanctioned victory.

She won the Unlimited Lights race at last weekend’s Seafair, a race Miller called “the show of the show,” and she leads the ULHRA standings with 5580 points, nearly 2,000 points ahead of second-place Greg Hopp (3,850). Hopp has finished second to Perkins at each of the past two Silverdale Thunders.

With victories in Arizona, South Dakota, Montana and Tri-Cities prior to the Seafair triumph, Perkins has won all five ULHRA races on the 2009 circuit. She would need victories at Silverdale Thunder and September’s circuit-concluding Victoria Express Strait Thunder in Port Angeles to secure a circuit sweep.

“Her accomplishments have happened so fast,” Miller said. “She’s become a rock star overnight and she got her start at Silverdale Thunder. So it’s pretty cool.”

Perkins and the Unlimited Lights boats won’t be the only ones racing at Thunder. G-class, 8-cylinder Lighter Than Lights and 4-cylinder Lighter Than Lights races also are scheduled.

Unlimited Lights boats are lighter than G-class boats, with hulls ranging from 20 to 26 feet in length. G-class boats have supercharged engines and are 25 to 28 feet long, weighing between 2,800 and 4,000 pounds. The 4-cylinder Lighter Than Lights boats are the smallest.

Windy conditions on the first day of last year’s Thunder resulted in races being postponed until Day 2, so Miller is hoping for calm conditions this time around. Rain can be a factor as well, but with hydroplanes traveling in excess of 150 miles per hour, wind is the biggest concern.

“It was a windy mess,” Miller said of last year’s event.

Live music — including the bands Coldnote and The Tonze and soloist Kaylah Durbin — as well as a beer garden highlight the weekend-long festivities, which kick off at 5 p.m. Aug. 14. with the first-ever Silverdale Thunder boat show.

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