1000 Islands Hydroplane Regatta: Saturday Experience

So after arriving at ten in the morning, I found a spot to sit on one of the benches overlooking the water. As the winds continually changed speed and direction, the races were put on hold. I spent the time talking to the people around me, including some of the race organizers. Unfortunately, there is only so much conversation you can make with strangers around you before it gets awkward, and I had plenty of time to fill.

It took two hours before the first heat was started. A small grouping of boats did five or six laps, and it was over. They were slowly pulled from the water via the three cranes that were set up, and then there was no movement. The winds had picked up again.

The boats were farther away than I expected, and the announcer didn’t really do the best job at letting the spectators know what was happening. As a hydroplane newbie, I didn’t know what to expect. I would have needed a lens that could at least do 400mm at an aperture of f4 or better to be able to capture the hydroplanes in greater detail, but I was able to shoot a few shots that I’m hoping to edit and publish to my Flickr account after publishing this post.

So after five minutes of racing, I had to wait another two and a half hours before the second heat. It was two thirty in the afternoon at this point and despite a light drizzle and a thick overcast, my arms were starting to turn a little red.

As the grand prix boats began their shortened race, I could feel the engines roaring. They were much larger than the boats that had done the circuit previously, and I started to get more excited about the event.

As the boats came around the final corner of their last lap, one of them, the second place person, hit a small wave, and a strong breeze and ended up flying into the air, and flipping over twice before landing upside down back in the water. Flares flew up into the air, the flags changed colours, and everyone held their breath as my camera clicked away.

The other photographer, with a larger Sigma lens was unable to capture the flip because she knew the driver, and she had an emotional reaction like most of the crowd. It allowed me to get a shot that she was unable to get, despite my lesser equipment. And I enjoyed that advantage all the more, once I found out that the driver of the flipped boat was perfectly fine.

I also realized today that if all the heats had run, I would have needed a much larger memory card. There was glare on my screen, so I couldn’t easily pick out the sharp shots from the blurry ones, and I definitely wanted to capture some shots worth keeping.

Even with just two heats, I burned through more than half of my memory card.

Once the second heat was over, boats were lowered into the water to begin the third heat. With more Grand Prix boats getting ready to race, I was excited to see how they would fair. Unfortunately, it took over an hour to get them into the water, and the winds once again picked up.

After six hours, and only two five minute races, I watched as they began pulling the boats from the water, and I gave up and went home. The races were due to end at four thirty in the afternoon, and the boats were being pulled just before four o’clock.

Tomorrow, there is another day of racing, but with my red arms, over one hundred photos to edit, weather that may not be any better, and a cost of an additional five dollars over the ten dollars I paid to watch two races today, I think I’ll pass.

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