1986 Powerboat Race off of Sodus Point

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At the time it seemed like a great idea. Lets bring the fastest powerboats in the world for an International Race doing several 17 mile laps between Sodus Point and Ontario on the Lake. Organizers expected a crowd of 175,000 along the shore including 70,000 to watch from Sodus Point. Sodus Point would become the powerboat equivalent of Watkins Glen. These folks race on the ocean off of places like Miami, Florida and Point Pleasant New Jersey so how bad can it be racing on the Great Lakes? Perhaps a rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s Edmund Fitzgerald would have been a reminder that the Great Lakes can be very temperamental.


The anticipation and expectations were running rampant as race day approached as the following 2 page article in the August 10, 1986 edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle illustrates:


Page 1


Page 2


September 3, 1986. Race Day. The town is giddy with excitement. The Park has been roped off. A big bandstand has been set up for Nick and the Nice Guys to give a show. Locals have set up hotdog stands and are hawking popcorn and peanuts. Jacks Driftwood has bought an extra 200 cases of beer. The whole town is filling up with race spectators who have been bussed in for the race. But there is a problem: The Lake Ontario waters off of Sodus Bay are rough. The race should be cancelled but all of those tickets have been sold so the decision is made to start the race. The boats roar off of the starting line to the applause of the crowd and then:




And as quickly as it started, the race ended with tragedy narrowly averted………Visions of Watkins Glen forever gone……. It became the race that just wasn’t meant to be. A number of locals ate popcorn and peanuts all winter long that year……………..


Thirty years after the race, they still talk about it on the news:




Photo courtesy of Jennifer Qu

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Qu

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Qu

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Qu

Team Apache washed up on shore after sticking the wave. Photo courtesy Tom Plantz