LEWISTON — The final two legs of Tuesday’s world jet boat championship races were canceled after mechanical breakdowns and a spectacular crash thinned the field of competitors to just a handful.
“We have so many boats that are just hanging on by a thread,” said race director Gary Labrum of Boise. “There were so many of them that we’re not going to be able to run the next leg; it seemed wise to cancel those (last two legs) and let everybody regroup.”
Labrum hoped cutting the day short would give teams extra time to make repairs so more boats can participate when racing resumes this morning with two 40-mile legs between Orofino and Lewiston.
Mark Cromie, who was in the lead after the first three days of racing, won’t be on the water today. His boat, “The General,” is out of commission following a crash at Captain John Rapids during the first leg of Tuesday’s race. Spectators said Cromie, who runs in the Unlimited class with a helicopter jet turbine engine, was set up to take a line on the east side of the river but veered right and tried to cross some rough water to the west side. He and navigator Richard Maunder hit a roller wave at the bottom of the rapid, became airborne, slammed hard on another wave and then pierced the next wave like an arrow.
“He just went up in the air like this, came down and went completely under water,” said Jane Phillips of Lewiston while gesturing with her hands. “It scared me half to death. I thought they were both dead.”
Even veteran race fans said they had never seen anything like it.
“The whole boat disappeared — gone,” said Tom McCrae of Lewiston, who raced in the championships nearly 30 years ago.
After the race, Cromie, of Kamo, New Zealand, said he made a snap decision to cross the rapid after seeing some smooth water on the opposite side. It’s a move he said works “99.99 percent of the time.”
“We just hit a green wave that was bloody high, launched it airborne about 30 feet and landed in the next wave,” he said. “Believe it or not the motor didn’t stop.”
He cut the engine as the boat floated back to the surface and was able to almost immediately restart it but shut it down again. He was pulled to shore by rescue boats. Both he and navigator Richard Maunder were uninjured and limped the boat back to Lewiston at 60 mph.
Despite being able to run the engine, Cromie said the hull, which was crumpled in several spots, is too compromised to withstand further racing.
“The hull is bloody completely buggered, really,” he said. “It wouldn’t be safe to race.”
Racer Duane Carmont of Riggins also was unable to finish the first leg.
“It seems we locked up a motor. We are waiting to be rescued,” he said while sitting at the Couse Creek boat ramp.
He said the 523 big block Chevy engine started missing on the way upriver and then oil pressure dropped before it seized. It’s the second engine the “Revelation” has lost in less than a week. Carmont blew his primary engine Friday during testing.
“It’s been our lucky week,” he said. “It’s all good. They make race parts and aluminum fresh every day.”
He and navigator Roger Derry will try to get back on the water by Friday when racing moves to the lower Salmon River.
“The boat is from Riggins so we’d like to see it run at Riggins,” Carmont said.
Only eight boats completed the second leg of the race from Bear Bar to Hells Gate Marina. Boats not able to finish are given times equal to 1.1 times the slowest boat in their class. Boats not able to start a race are given a time equal to 1.3 times the slowest in their class.
“That is the cool thing about this race, if people can get back in the water they might have a fighting chance,” Carmont said.
Racers with “did not finish” or “did not start” scores can still win their class but do not qualify for overall world champion.