I’m not a reporter. I’m a writer who allows herself to focus on a few small things and tell you my observations, my interactions, my thoughts. So it was with the 2012 Lucas Oil Madison Regatta. Except for a few lucky gentleman’s bets on my favorite, Miss Madison, hoping to the very end that she would win, my interest in the outcome of the race waxed and waned.
I’ve usually that way when I watch professional sports, too. Who wins isn’t as appealing as what takes place while everyone makes an effort. (Okay, unless it’s hockey and the Pittsburgh Penguins.) At the regatta, I loved watching the action, hearing the cheers and commentary from spectators around me, and making my fair share of rounds among the vendor stalls for souvenirs, with repeated trips to my favorite Lemon Shake-Ups stand. But let’s face it. Mostly, I live in my head, and my mind is not the most trusted source for a play-by-play.
So it was for the final race of the regatta. Stats were whipping through the air around me, as frenzied as the wind. As the storm threatened to end the event and whitecaps budded on the water, chatter on the overlook was excited: “Yes, yes. Miss Madison is the leader. If the race doesn’t go on account of the rain, Miss Madison wins as the points leader.” And from another, “Well nobody wants that. It’s better to run the race and win it fair and square.”
I was distracted by strange plane banners in the sky. The first one seemed normal enough: “GREAT JOB MADISON REGATTA TEAM H P.” But the second was more intriguing:
What? Who was Crystal and what was up with her hair? And who would pay money to fly that over the regatta crowd? “Who’s HP?” I asked Kurt. “Maybe it’s not a who, but a what” he replied, having seen only the first banner. “You know, abbreviating ‘Great job Madison Regatta Team HydroPlane.” I thought that seemed reasonable, until I applied it to the nice hair sign. “No. I think maybe it’s someone’s initials, because it doesn’t make sense to say “…nice hair hydroplane.” Of course, maybe it was some really specially sculpted hair.
As I wondered about Crystal’s Hair and who *HP was, others speculated on whether the drivers had already missed their window. But boats were still going “on the hook” and getting lowered in, and the spectators who didn’t disappear at the first set of high-powered gusts now clung to the fences to watch how it all turned out.
Others pestered the Miss Madison crewman for answers when he stopped by the overlook, but I was already floating away. While the world around me was churning in anticipation, something in the air or in just watching those crowds put me in reverie again. This time, the daydream was of stealing an unlimited hydroplane.
I don’t know what other women think when they see those powerboats. Maybe they’re hot for the drivers, like that kid from Graham Trucking. Or maybe they’re after the power, like the early test runs of that Degree Men boat. But me, well, I just wanted to drive one. I mean really, really drive one.
I’m not sure why I pick on the Graham kid so much. Maybe it was the giant picture of his head grinning down from the side of the truck that first day on Broadway, the one I blogged about in Part 1. Maybe it’s the larger-than-life persona he seemed to have at the parade.
Whatever the reason, the daydream takes hold. I imagine konking Jimmy Shane on the head just as he’s about to climb into the cockpit. I have suddenly become an expert martial artist, because I land some pretty sweet roundhouses on his crew and end with a flying scissors to the neck on a particularly big dude. I scramble across the top and flop into the seat, exhausted but happy. (Is it a cockpit, like an airplane? If not, it should be.)
Shouts from the riverbank, but in a sput-sput-sput-vrrrrrrrrr I’m off. (Okay, so maybe my takeoff sounds more like a vintage hydroplane.)
I see everything in flashes from a combination of Madison, the movie, and Fast and Furious. There is a button to push when I’m ready to turn on the juice, but I wait for the right time. If I could fit into the cockpit and take myself seriously, it would probably look kind of cool.
But in my mind, it always looks like this.
I feel the wind whipping my hair into knots, stinging my face. Suddenly I’m wearing goggles, like Snoopy as the Flying Ace. I lay the Peters & May to waste. I catch the Spirit of Qatar on a turn at the west end of the course and pass her on the last lap, heading back toward the bridge.
I imagine Jimmy’s and his crew, all recovered enough to watch from the shoreline. “She drives with more balls than you do!” I imagine the kid taking flak as I fly through the water. Suddenly, a crewman over the mic from the shoreline tells me to Slow down. Slow down! because I’m taking these laps way too fast for the building whitecaps from the incoming storm. I laugh high and loud, hit the nitro…and lose control and wipe out at the bridge.
I didn’t say it was a good daydream.
I focus on the real race again, in time to watch the Spirit of Qatar, which was slow to get on the hook and in the water, slip past everyone to take home the cup. I’m not very superstitious, but I couldn’t help but wondering if Miss Madison’s lack of the name “Miss Madison” anywhere easily readable, jinxed her. Nah. Things just happen, right?
In the “real world” of facts and figures, Spirit of Qatar’s driver, Dave Vilwock, beat out hometown favorite Miss Madison and her driver Steve David. The best place to get the data is on one of the Madison news sites, the H1unlimited website, or the Miss Madison site.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a video clip of hydroplane racing. I don’t think I could become a regatta groupie, and I’m too clumsy to be part of the pit crew. But I definitely loved it enough to want to be a spectator again.
*P.S. The initials HP, for those of you not local, stand for Herb Parker, 2012 Madison Regatta President. Crystal is one of the regatta staff as well. You can find a photo of them both riding together in the black convertible in Saturday’s photo blog.