Walled Lake native Andrew Tate races down the Detroit River in the 2018 Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Hydrofest. Tate won last year’s American Power Boat Association Gold Cup with a first-place finish in the final H1 Unlimited contest.

Walled Lake native Andrew Tate races down the Detroit River in the 2018 Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Hydrofest. Tate won last year’s American Power Boat Association Gold Cup with a first-place finish in the final H1 Unlimited contest.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Hydrofest returns to Detroit River

By: Jacob Herbert | C&G Newspapers | Published August 21, 2019

DETROIT — As the calendar closes on August and the summer comes to its conclusion, the city of Detroit will have one more marquee event.

When the Hydroplane Racing League hits the Detroit Riverfront for the 103rd straight year Aug. 24-25, it will follow in the footsteps of the Detroit Grand Prix and the Rocket Mortgage Classic as large-scale events that can attract many.

Detroit Riverfront Events Inc. President Mark Weber said that it can only do good things for the city.

“It is a big part of the economic impact of the city,” he said. “With all the excitement in the city, people come down, and after the event some of them go to the casino or they go back and enjoy the rebirth of the city. It draws people down there.”

Walled Lake native Andrew Tate has been racing on the Detroit River since 2015. His father and his grandfather before him both raced on the river. While Tate is excited to be racing close to home, he also is looking forward to seeing attendees get acclimated to the city.

“Detroit has had the ability in the past couple years to showcase its growth,” Tate said. “What’s cool about this year, at least for the boat races, is we’re going to have people coming from Quebec. They may have never been to Detroit or may have not been here for 10 to 20 years. People who don’t live here haven’t seen the change, and they’ll be able to see the progress we’ve made.”

For the first time in more than 30 years, the Hydrofest will be an all piston-powered event, meaning the boats will be noticeably louder than in years prior. This year’s event will feature three different classes of racing — Grand Prix, H-350 and Jersey Skiff.

The Grand Prix drivers will be racing for the historic Presidents Cup, and the H-350 drivers will be racing for the newly implemented Spirit of Detroit Silver Cup.

Tate — who captured the last Presidents Cup in Detroit in 2017 and won the American Powerboat Association Gold Cup last year — will be racing in both the Grand Prix and H-350 classes. He said racing in his own backyard amplifies his competitive drive.

“You definitely feel the pressure with the eyes of friends and family, or people who don’t always get to see you race,” Tate said. “To have them there is always special, and there’s always pressure to perform well for people who come to support you.”

For the 2019 Hydrofest, Weber and other race organizers have tailored the event to attract more casual fans. Racegoers will be able to bring blankets, craft a picnic-like setup and enjoy the races along the riverfront. There will also be grandstand seating for those who want a more up-close and personal look at the action.

The races are scheduled to start at noon and end at 4:30 p.m. With heats running every 15 minutes, fans will be able to enjoy nonstop action all weekend long.

“We’re trying to make it a tight schedule and very action packed,” Weber said. “We have put a tight show together so that it’s nonstop, action packed, so you can come watch the race and you can get on with your day.”

When asked what makes the races a must-see event, Weber said the boats speak for themselves.

“It’s right in front of you,” he said. “To see these boats flying over the water (at) 150-plus miles per hour, it’s something that until you physically see it, you don’t necessarily get the complete wow factor.”

For more information, visit detroitboatraces.com.