More than 50 boats rev up for race on Lake St. Clair

Participants hope comeback will stick

By Amber Hunt • Free Press Staff Writer • July 21, 2008

AMBER HUNT/Detroit Free Press
Scott Malik, 38, and Karen Mason, 47, watch the 2008 Cintron Offshore Grand Prix boat races on Sunday.

After a decade-plus hiatus, boat racing returned this weekend to Lake St. Clair off Metro Beach in Harrison Township.

And if participants get their way, the comeback will stick.

More than 20 speedboats hit the water Sunday afternoon for the 2008 Cintron Offshore Grand Prix -- something of a throwback to the Quake on the Lake of the early '90s (not to be confused with the Quake on Oakland County's Pontiac Lake, which also was this weekend).

Julie Popp, whose boyfriend won Sunday's P3 Class -- translation: top speed of 95 m.p.h. -- for Jim Riehl's Friendly Automotive Group said organizers want to expand the event so it seeps into the St. Clair Offshore Classic.

This year's St. Clair race is next weekend and is to feature more than 50 competing boats. It's part of the city's three-day Riverfest, which St. Clair Police Chief Donald Barnum said is likely to draw some 100,000 people.

"The idea is to begin one weekend and have the fun last until St. Clair," said Popp, 35, of Harrison Township.

Dean Howard, organizer of Sunday's race, said the goal is to "make it a powerboat week in this area."

The smattering of onlookers Sunday, self-declared diehards, perched along the waterfront, binoculars in hand.

"We were always here for Quake on the Lake," said Karen Mason, 47, of Harrison Township.

The once-popular Quake went under because of finances, Howard said, but the new incarnation is put on by the OPA Racing Organization, the country's largest such group, which also has annual events in Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Tennessee. Sunday's had its share of close calls. Three boats had either flipped or tossed their occupants by early afternoon, though the only injury reported was a broken ankle.

"It can get hairy," said April Wood, 35, whose boyfriend, Andre Ducoffre, was passenger to driver Bobby Walinske on the winning Jim Riehl boat -- a 28-foot Redline.

"It's nerve-racking," Wood said, "but it's a lot of fun."

Sunday's winners are expected to be posted online today at www.harrisonoffshore.com.

Contact AMBER HUNT at 586-826-7267 or alhunt@freepress.com.