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Cocktail Class Boat Racing: Small boats, BIG fun!

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by Tom Chillemi

Powerboat racing returns to Urbanna Creek on Saturday, May 18, when the Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association boats vie for The Urbanna Cup.

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Cocktail Class race boats are homebuilt, either from a kit or from scratch.

These sleek boats, home-built of plywood and fiberglass, measure about 8 feet in length and weigh between 75 and 95 pounds. There are two engine classes, 6 or 8 horsepower, with a top speed of about 18 and 26 miles per hour, respectively.

Weight is added to boats with lighter drivers so the boats weigh the same and to keep them competitive. The boats travel around markers in 2-lap heat races that last about 2 minutes each. The top finishers transfer to the final championship round, which will be run in 4 classes.

Also competing in a race will be Smith Island Crab Skiffs, which have larger engines and are longer.

Cocktail Class racing is inexpensive low-speed club racing where driver skill and boat set-up are more important than horsepower. Drivers kneel in the boat and lean toward the bow to keep the boat planing efficiently. A race video can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

Race Venue

Lawrence Fuccella of Urbanna, a regatta organizer, is expecting between 30-50 boats for the races that will be staged at the Urbanna Town Marina at Upton’s Point. Racers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Carolina and Georgia are expected. “We are going to bring together a group of like-minded people with a love of the water and small communities,” he said.

The Urbanna Creek Cocktail Class fleet formed this winter and there are 7 boats being built. About 5 other boats are being built elsewhere in Middlesex County, and at least one more is being prepared on the Northern Neck.

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Friendly racers will help each other, only until the green flag drops.

The Cocktail Class boats are adapted from a 1939 design by Charles MacGregor, originally published in “The Rudder Magazine” as an example of what could be done with a novel new material called “plywood.”

The Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association (CCWBRA) has roots on the Corrotoman River in Lancaster County and was formed in 2010 to encourage and organize family boatbuilding and racing in the Cocktail Class runabout.  The Cocktail Class races now have 90 members in 27 states and there are fleets in Canada. Visit http://www.CCWBRA.com for more information.

This new generation of race boats will line the beach the way boats used to do for the Urbanna Labor Day Regatta powerboat races, which were last held in 1966. The Labor Day races were stopped because of concerns that the creek was too narrow for the high-speed boats.

Fuccella said the U.S. Coast Guard has approved the Urbanna Cup Regatta race venue, which will be held near the town marina. USCG Auxiliary Flotilla 62 of Deltaville will send 3 boats to assist in the on-water organization.

The official event sponsor is Dozier’s Port Urbanna Town Center Marina.

Evening Concert

At 7 p.m., activities shift uptown to Taber Park for the first concert in the town’s “Music Under the Stars” series, featuring “Jumbo Lump Daddy and the Backfin Boys” performing classic rock until 9 p.m.

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Winning isn’t everything.

A race boat will be on display during the concert, and hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, funnel cakes and soft drinks will be available for purchase from the Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department of Urbanna.

Driver skill is the key to winning

Although Cocktail Class wooden boats are small, the racing is intense. Because the boats are so evenly matched, driver skill is essential in gaining a competitive edge.

The race begins with a flying start. Racers assemble several yards from the starting line and anticipate the signals. A series of tones are given at 30 seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds. The goal is to have your boat at full speed and as close to the start line as possible when the green flag drops. Cross the line too early, and the racer receives a penalty.

The boats are very light, so the way the driver leans can help or hinder speed. Drivers lean out over the bow to help the boat plane faster.

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Boats with lighter drivers have weight added to them so all boats weigh the same, which keeps the competition close.

The boats run a triangular course, and turning in a graceful arch is the art of racing. If the driver leans too far to one side, the propeller can rise out of the water, slowing the boat. The engine will rev up slightly, indicating the propeller is not pushing and the competition will gain an advantage. Try and turn too sharply, and the prop will lose forward thrust.

Position in the turns is important. If a racer tries to pass on the outside, his boat will get caught in the wake of boats in front and be pushed further out, as the competition moves ahead.

Drivers pilot their crafts at relatively modest speeds of around 20 mph, looking for any advantage as they negotiate turns.

Racing these little boats is “terrifically fun and exhilarating,” said Chris Riddick, who placed second in his first race last August. “It’s a blast, especially when you’re neck-and-neck with the competition.”

Riddick is withholding his race strategy for the first Urbanna Cup Regatta on Saturday, May 18, when more than 30 boats are expected.

Race Schedule

There will be 5 racing classes with up to 6 boats in each heat. The finals in each class will pit the top 6 boats against each other. Each class will run heats and final races that will take a total of about an hour.

  • 9:30 a.m., the Women’s Division is first on the course in 6 horsepower (HP) boats. 

  • 10:45 – 11:45 a.m., the 6 HP Heavy Division runs.

  • Noon – 1 p.m., the Open Division 6 HP will battle.

  • 1:15 – 2:30 p.m. will be the Smith Island Crab Skiffs, with their larger engines and longer boats.

  • 3 – 4:30 p.m., the Open Division 8 HP will be the finale.

Spectators can get close to the action and watch from the town marina’s long dock. Catered food by Something Different will be available at the marina. There will be a “brewery hospitality” area operated by the Urbanna Business Association.

An information brochure will be available at the town marina.

There will be no spectator parking at the marina or at Oyster Harbor Condominiums.

Find more information at http://www.Urbanna.com or http://www.CCWBRA.com, or call 832-4578.

Cocktail Class Championship 2011

Cocktail Class Championship 2011 from Gary Reich on Vimeo.

posted 04.25.2013

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