Whitewater jetboat racing series

Whitecourt Race

by Karissa Gall

In the forground there is a women standing ankle deep in the water with a checkered flag at the finish line.  On the lake a boat is speeding past.

Red Deer-based racer and race sponsor Dale Whiteside at a finish line in Grande Prairie. — Photo by Frank Mignerey of Salmon River Photos.

If you ask Dale Whiteside, owner of Red Deer’s Outlaw Eagle jet boat manufacturers and major sponsor for the Whitewater Jetboat Racing championship series, the races in this seven-stop series are more like marathons. “It’s more marathon racing,” said Whiteside, who has been racing for 16 years, involved with the series for eight, and will be driving his own 23-foot Eagle Performance boat with a 1400 horsepower GE turbine engine this summer. “The U.S. group have called it whitewater racing, but it’s more marathon racing where we’re racing over a distance.”

He said the style of the series allows a wider range of racers to experience the white water of Rocky Mountain rivers in a competitive, point-series setting. “It kind of evens the playing field for the guys who don’t have so much money,” he said. “If they’re doing everything right they can still be there with the guys who are throwing a huge amount of dollars at it. Drivers’ skill and the endurance of the boat are some of the things that come more into play. It’s kind of like rally car racing in a boat. ”Whiteside said “hopes are up” for an increase in the number of race team registrants this year. “Things look really good,” he said. “There’re a lot of new guys building new stuff. We’re certainly hoping to see upwards of 40 to 45 boats at the races.”

Whiteside said he also expects to see a sizeable crowd of spectators at each stop on the series, especially the race that will take place in Whitecourt, a three-hour drive from his hometown.  “The Whitecourt race is probably the best for spectators,” he said. “There’s a circle race we do there right in front of the crowd where they have grandstands. They have a good venue set up for that sort of thing. And with the race being in August, usually the water levels are quite low and clean. It’s usually just a really nice time of year to be there.”

Peace River Race and Peace Fest

Whiteside has a soft spot for the race that takes place in Peace River, Alberta. “Peace River probably has one of the better weekends,” he said. “Their Peace Fest weekend happens at the same time, so there’s a lot of other stuff going on that weekend as well. Of all the races, the Peace River race is my favourite.” Scott Leitch of the Peace River Boating Association, who is helping to organize the Peace River race and will be navigating for Darren Weaver on one of his turbine-powered boats, agrees. “I would recommend the Peace River race to watch,” said Leitch. “The Peace River race is unique in the fact the we race up and down the Smoky River to Watino and back. The Smoky River is notoriously famous for bending and even sinking boats.

“There is a lot of riverbank to sit on in town and watch the circuit races,” he said. Leitch said that having the Peace River race on the same weekend as annual alternative music festival and fair Peace Fest brings a lot of people out to watch the race.

“Many people will watch the race, then take in Peace Fest,” he said. “A lot of the racers and their crews will also take part in the event. On a hot day the banks will be lined with spectators.”

This summer the 16th annual Peace Festival and fair will take place on July 12 and 13 and will feature local artists the Odds, Hollerado, Fefe Dobson and the Sam Roberts Band. For information on the race series, contact the Peace River Boating Association.

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