VALLEYFIELD, Que. - Ogdensburgs Bill Vielhauer Jr. owned the dominant boat in the 350 Hydroplane class and the most consistent boat among all classes in the unprecedented panorama of racing at the 75th Valleyfield, Quebec Regatta over the weekend.
The racing schedule was the largest ever at the prestigious regatta which drew crowds of 40,000 Friday through Sunday continuing its claim as the Indianapolis 500 of boat racing.
And it would be safe to assume that Vielhauer, his crew and driver Brandon Kennedy experienced a whirlwind weekend that none of them will ever forget.
Consistently running 80 miles per hour and higher Kennedy pilotted the former World Championship boat Last Minute Again to three firsts and one second in four qualifying heats and blasted away from the field in the finals.
Aftrer the 350 Hydro class finals Kennedy, who lives in Bare, Del., invited his girlfriend to join him and Vielhauer on the podium and proposed to her.
When she accepted the crowd of 40,000 predictably went wild and later roared as Kennedy drove his fathers Grand Prix boat Shameless to the checked flag in the showcase event finals averaging over 93 mph.
Brandon (Kennedy) drove really smart and It was just a special day for him, said Vielhauer.
And for Team Vielhauer
Last Minute Again exploded into prominence in the 350 Hydro action after struggling with massive mechanical problems at the Brockville Regatta the previous weekend.
Paul Barber built me a new motor at his shop in Stittsville (Ont.) and it just has enormous power. Bert Henderson drove the boat for me in Brockville but the motor had so much power that it broke the prop, the struts and the bottom of the boat, said Vielhauer.
Paul Barber did just a great job. We have raced against each other for years but we are great friends. He jokes that he spends more time working on my boat than his and he played a big role in our success at Valleyfield.
The wholesale repair work on Last Minute Again began on the Sunday of the Brockville Regatta weekend and was not completed until shortly before the first 350 heat at Valleyfield on Friday.
Members of Vielhauers crew: Nick Vielhauer, Bill Vielhauer Sr., Chris McCradie, Lisa and Kazia Vanderwall worked tirelessly and were aided by Ogdensburg boat building wizard Bob Sovie, Bills brother and fellow racer Tom Vielhauer and a member of his crew Charlie Soulier and mechanic Ralph Mattice of Hull.
Brandon Kennedys dad is a machinist and he finished drilling out the struts just before the first heat. We put the boat in the water and took second in the first heat and then won the next three, said Vielhauer
We had a new prop delivered to Valleyfield and it worked awesome. In the finals the boat just took off like rocket. Once Brandon (Kennedy) got the inside lane there was nobody that could stay with him.
Looking back on the weekend Vielhauer called it a true Cinderella story.
When you win three straight heats like that in boat racing you almost expect something to break. But nothing did and it just a great weekend, he said.
My crew worked so hard and it just unbelievable the way so many people stepped up to help us out. That is the way it is in boat racing.
The 350 Hydro Class also featured two other local drivers in Bills brother Tom, who now lives in Syracuse, and Derec Smith who lives in Oswego.
After placing third in two qualifying heats Tom Vielhauer took fifth in the consolation finals and Smith took sixth in the consolation finals. Smith also took sixth in a qualifying heat.
Smith entered the Valleyfield Regatta in third place in the season point standings after coming away with scoring honors at Cornwall, Ont. where he ran first, second and second in three qualifying heats.
RICHARDS RACING WELL
Leanna Richards of Ogdensburg, who entered the regatta leading the season point standings in the 1.5 class, bounced back from a disappointing showing in the qualifying heats to place third in the finals.
In three qualifying heats she drove Lll Crush to third, seventh and ninth place finishes. Richards enjoyed a stellar start to her season as the scoring leader at the weather-shortened Cornwall Regatta where she won three qualifying heats and at Brockville where she placed second, first and first in three qualifying heats before placing seventh in the final.
In Grand Prix action Ogdensburgs Joe Sovie drove Bad Influence to third, fourth and fifth places in three qualifying heats.