As the sun slowly settled on the waters of the St Joseph River at the American Legion Post in Constantine, MI on Sunday afternoon, Jeff Williams of Ford City, PA contemplated the results of the previous few days, "I wanted to get Nate a good ride but I never thought we'd actually win it!". Jeff is proud owner of the newly crowned National Champion entry in the 350 Modified Runabout "350CCMR" class in the American Powerboat Association (APBA). Capable of speeds approaching 65mph, Jeff's boat was piloted by fellow Three Rivers Outboard Racing Association (TRORA) driver Nate Mitchell of Columbus, OH to the national championship win on Friday, June 23, 2017 at the APBA Modified-PRO National Championships competing against participants from all over the country.
Jeff noted the decision to put Nate in the driver seat for the national championship was discussed with wife Mary Williams on the way to the race. "Team MJ" as they are sometimes referred had originally planned to have Nate race the boat at the upcoming Kittanning, PA Riverbration event in August, but after testing at Constantine on the day before the national championship the pieces came together. Nate, having successfully driven other stepping stone classes over the previous 3 years, was new to this particular class and the addition of the movable exhaust pipe on Jeff's 350MR entry. Nate explains, "The exhaust pipe on Jeff's modified motor can be moved in and out during the race to improve acceleration and top speed - it added another dimension for me to think about when I typically just think about throttle and steering."
APBA outboard racing is completed in 2 heats on a sprint format of 3 or 4 laps on closed courses of roughly 3/4 to 1 mile in length. Nate won his first heat after passing 3 other boats during the 3 lap race, and narrowly avoided disaster in the second heat. "The second turn was rough all day due to wind on the open end of the course and the waves from all the other boats was just making it worse," said Nate, "On my second lap the propeller broke free of the water in the turn and the back of the boat got loose and I nearly stalled it out". With experienced hands Nate was able to make the necessary adjustments to get the boat moving and brought the boat across the finish line. The combined totals from the two heats were enough to secure the championship.
When asked about what was next, Jeff and Nate were already discussing plans for additional events later in the summer and both are planning to be at Kittanning, PA for the Riverbration event scheduled for August 18-20, 2017. "The Kittanning race was great last year," said Nate, "it is a great river location right in the downtown, the local support was fantastic and the entire street festival and concerts after the race made it a really fun weekend."
For more information about APBA outboard racing, visit www.apba.org, or contact TRORA at www.trora.com or via Twitter at @3RiversRacing
Photos courtesy of Kelsey Bennett - Used with Permission