With the races coming up this weekend, townspeople wondering what it’s like to participate in a jet boat race might just want to ask their own local seven-time world champions.
The jet boat races are coming to Hay River this weekend, and with them the promise of excitement and a swollen town population as people stop through to watch the first leg of the race. The races in Hay River will take place from July 1-2 and will be kicked off at the Canada Day Parade, where the jet boats entering the race will also be a part of the Canada Day procession.
“That will probably be one of the longest parades in Hay River,” said one organizer Donna Lee Jungkind. “There will be around 60 boats in the parade so it’s pretty exciting.”
But for Hay River’s own seven-time jet boat World Champions and race organizers/sponsors, and the only champions who have also won in all four continents, for navigator Russell and driver Spencer King, the excitement is all out on the water in their faithful 13-year-old boat.
“I’m not a golfer. I never liked hockey, but I’ve always been a racer,” said Spencer. “What better place can you be than the water? If you look at a map at where we live and work, there is so much water around us. You can explore all of the territory and so many places you wouldn’t normally have access to.”
There are six different classes in jet boat racing all determined by speed, and racers will be entering from the territory, Alberta, British Columbia, Mexico, New Zealand, and the U.S.A.
King said that no matter what class a racer enters, they could still come out a champion.
“To win, you have to finish each leg on your own power,” said King. “It’s probably not likely that we’re the fastest boat now, but we can only try.”
The races have not been held in Hay River since 2001. King said they tried to organize a race in 2004 but water levels in Hay River were too low. For many jet boaters, King said that once breakup passes it’s the time to emerge from cabin fever.
“If you think about it, the river is frozen from November to May,” he said. “When you spend half your life on the water and half the year on ice, the spring is an exciting time.”
The races start at 9 a.m. this Saturday at Fisherman’s Wharf. Boats will head north onto the lake, round an island, then head up river towards Escarpment Creek.
After a lunch break the race will start up again at 1 p.m. and boats will head back towards Fisherman’s Wharf.
“There are more places for people to watch along this route,” said King. “It covers all the different facets of our water.”
The events that surround the first leg of the race in Hay River include registration from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Friday, and the Canada Day Parade at 10:30 a.m.
The boats aesthetic appeal will also be put to test during a show and shine on Friday from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Races begin on Saturday at 9 a.m.
King said he the festival wouldn’t have been possible without the many key volunteers who devoted their time and skills.
“We’re hoping that Hay River will have a great time with all the racers we’ve brought to them,” said King. “I used to skip school to go boating, and got caught, but it was worth it. This is all worth it.”
For more information, visit the town of Hay River’s events calendar on their website at www.hayriver.com.