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Urbanna hosts biggest race for small boats

Lawrence Fuccella of Middlesex leads the pack at the start of the 6-horsepower Open Class race. Next to him is Kim Granberry (#7) who would finish second. The remaining racers, above from left, include Russ Bowler (#40), eventual winner Chris Riddick (yellow helmet), Ian Millington, who placed third, and John Milby. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

In just over three months the Urbanna Creek Cocktail Class Fleet went from inception to a fleet of at least 10 boats. All but one of the small power boats were built by fleet members, who started their projects on February 1.

The enthusiasm of these racers continued on May 18 during the first annual Urbanna Cup Regatta when boats and drivers from Urbanna won 3 of 4 classes in the races governed by the Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association (CCWBRA). See results below.

The Urbanna Fleet showed its mettle in all three divisions of the 6 Horsepower (HP) Class capturing 6 of the top 9 places, including first place in the Women’s, Heavy, and Open 6 HP categories.

Photo by Daniel Brinkley

Only in the 8 HP Class did visiting seasoned drivers hold their own against the newly-minted Urbanna racers, said Curt Bluefeld, commodore and official “Grand Poobah” of the CCWBRA. “Despite the rain, the regatta came off without a hitch due to the hard work of the Urbanna Cup planning committee and the CCWBRA race committee,” he said.

There were 38 drivers from 8 states in the inaugural Urbanna Cup Regatta. Some came from as far away as Connecticut, Arizona and Georgia.

In addition to the Cocktail Class racers, boats from the Smith Island Crab Skiff Association held a demonstration race for a completely different, but exciting, perspective on small-boat, low-speed racing in the traditional Chesapeake workboat tradition, said Bluefeld. 

The Urbanna Cup Regatta had 33 boats, the most ever entered at a CCWBRA race, said National Fleet Captain Frank Stauss, who came from New Jersey to race. It also was the largest number of drivers and the largest spectator crowd for a race in the series, which started in 2010 on the Corrotoman River in Lancaster County.

Growing Sport
Tom Bishop, of Hanover, who has a weekend home in Middlesex County, said building the race boats was a group effort and the enthusiasm has spread. “When we started we didn’t know it was going to be this great,” said Bishop, who took first place in the 6 HP Heavy Class in his boat Double Cross. “It’s going to grow. I know of people who want to build one . . . they’ve already named their boats.”

Kendall Webre, Double Cross, and Shannon Haley, Pickled Tink, gave the men a run for their money, placing 1-2 respectively in the ladies’ race. Photo by Micki Clay

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 HP, with a top speed of about 18 and 26 miles per hour, respectively.

Kendall Webre, an Urbanna native, won the 6 HP women’s class driving Double Cross. “I was nervous about entering,” she said.

The throttle cable broke doing Friday’s practice and Webre only got 20 minutes of practice. She almost flipped Double Cross as she chased Middlesex resident Shannon Haley in Pickled Tink. Webre hit a wake that sent the boat up and leaning, but she saved it. Webre won all 3 heats and the final. This was the first Women’s Class in the CCWBRA races. 

Upside Down Club
Webre’s husband Anton, who built Double Cross for Bishop, flipped it upside down during the 8 HP races, which ended his day.

Racer Morgan Friday was following Anton Webre at the time. “He caught a wave just right, or should I say wrong, and rolled the boat upside down right in front of me. It’s not every day you look up and see a propeller in front of you where a boat should be!”

“The races were very fun, I have spent many hours as a 12-year-old in my old home-built speed boat ‘racing’ jet skis,” said Friday, who grew up in Urbanna. “I was very happy to have the chance to participate in an actual race. The races have a ‘rolling’ start which was exciting to watch and took a while to get used to.”

Photo by Tom Chillemi

Chris Riddick of Urbanna who won the 6 HP Open Class in The Urbanna Oyster Shooter, practiced the critical rolling start, driving flat out with one hand, and looking at his watch so that he would be at the starting line on plane when the starting horn sounded.

Leading at the first turn is an advantage and allows a driver to avoid the boats stacking up in front of him. “You don’t want to hit anyone or make mistakes,” Riddick said. “You are inches from someone else’s propeller.”

In the Open 8 HP Class, Riddick was following a boat when its engine came loose. The driver held the engine with one hand to keep it from sinking, and the race was stopped temporarily.

“The 8-horsepower boats are a different animal. They’re faster, and the guys out there are more aggressive” said Riddick. “It takes more skill to keep the prop from cavitating.”

Cavitation is when the prop doesn’t bite into the water, and forward thrust is lost.

Bishop explained that builders experimented to find the best degree of “wedge,” which refers to the angle the engine is tilted, so the boat will plane best. “It’s a little science and whole lot of experimentation,” he said.

Bishop credited boat builders John Milby in Old Fashioned, and Riddick with leading the way in the boatbuilding process. “If they made a mistake, we didn’t make the same mistake, said Bishop. “Everybody learned from whoever went first. It was like a village building a boat.”

One of the race organizers, Lawrence Fuccella, who built and raced Brass Monkey, told the Urbanna Town Council the races were “an overwhelming success.” The event promoted Urbanna as a place for families to visit, and the races are sustainable, he said.


Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 05.22.2013

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