The boats are in town. The hospitality tents, scaffolding, and judge’s stands are in place. The cranes are in the pits and everything is a go for HydroFest, the return of hydroplane racing to Lake Guntersville.
More than a dozen hydroplanes from H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Racing and Grand Prix World were lined up Thursday morning at Guntersville High School. Despite the heavy rain, fans and media turned out to see the boats before they went on a parade through town to settle into the pits.
Tom Thompson, driver of the U-11 Reliable Diamond Tool Presents J&D’s U-11 said he’s excited about racing in Guntersville. He has family just down the road in Boaz. The is the first race of the H1 Unlimited season. “We’re anxious to get started,” he said.
Brian Perkins drives the U-21 DarrellStrong.com presents Payne West Insurance. The U-21 has been in town for the past few days and turning heads. "We're getting a great reception," Perkins said.
The biggest concern for the weekend appears to be the weather. The event is rain or shine and as long as there isn’t lightning or high winds, it should be fine. “The boats will run in the rain,” said Katy Norton with the Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “If we have lightning or high winds… we would have a delay,” she said.
They also have plans in place just in case weather turns really bad and they would need to get people indoors. They have transportation standing by and locations where they can take people.
Charley Wiggins owns the boat that is Alabama-based. The U-27 Greater Gadsden presents Chase Building Group has the shortest drive. While the other boats come from all over the country, they are just down the road in Gadsden and they know the lake. “The Guntersville course, being on a much wider body of water than the Tri-City, Washington and San Diego 2-1/2 mile courses should provide either a smoother course or it could produce a much rougher course if the winds come from the west-southwest directions,” Wiggins said.
“We are excited,” said Jimmy Shane, driver of the U-1 Miss HomeStreet. Shane and his boat tested on Lake Guntersville last year and put up some amazing speeds. “Last year I was fortunate to test here and there must’ve been 5,000 people just for the exhibition,” he said. “ I can’t wait for our fans in the Southern region of the country to see Miss HomeStreet and nother H1 Unlimited hydroplanes all racing together, deck-to-deck.”