Day 1 action yields a number of champions
DEPUE — Racing began Friday afternoon at Lake DePue to begin the 35th anniversary of the PRO National Championship Boat Races.
Calling the action from the lakeside, as he has for all 35 years, is Ray Rodda, a former racer himself.
Rodda currently resides in Carmel, Ind., but is eager to return every year.
“I always look forward to coming back,” Rodda said. “I grew up in DePue, moved (to) here when I was a kid, so it’s always a homecoming to me.”
The conditions were warm, overcast and calm when racing started at high noon, but the sunshine and wind increased a bit as the afternoon wore on, causing racers to ease into the first turn off the front straightaway, which saw a few spills in the day.
In the C Racing Hydro class, defending national champ Devin Huff of Michigan won the first heat, but Kyle Deptula of Springboro, Ohio, won the second, and Jack Campbell of Indiana captured the checkered flag in the third.
Deptula placed third in the first heat and was second in the third, his points combining to become the first title winner of the day.
Bradley Dygert of Bristol, Ind., defended his title in the 125cc Runabout, while Ralph Cook of Utica, Miss., won the 850 Modified Runabout.
“The 850 Mod was a new class we’ve invited this year,” Rodda said. “They always put on a good show.”
The K-PRO Hydro class, which features drivers ranging in age from 9 to 17, saw its championship won by Cooper Thompson of Fort Pierce, Fla. Thompson also received the “honor” of being tossed in the water to commemorate his first title at Lake DePue.
Rodda commented on the performance expected from the machines when racers make their journey around the three-quarter-mile course.
“The big 700 Runabouts go up to 100 mph, and the RPMs can be as high as 14,000-15,000,” he said. “Spread your thumb and little finger as far as you can, and that’s how wide the propellers are, so they get a run out of them. They are haulin’.”
Family celebrations were in order as Tara Cook joined her father, Ralph, in the championship ranks, handily winning the OSY-400 title, though her ride got rougher as mid-afternoon approached and the breeze picked up.
“The first one was the smoothest, but none of them were really hard,” Cook said. “I love it (here), it’s my favorite race course.”
Cook, like Thompson, also got a toss into the lake to mark her first title at Lake DePue, but her day was not done yet, still set to compete in the 350 Hydro Modified.
The 35th anniversary PRO National Championship Boat Races, sponsored by the DePue Men’s Club, continue at Lake DePue through Sunday.