Vintage Raceboat Regatta this weekend in Wheeling

WHEELING – White knuckles, sweaty palms and adrenaline, and that’s just the spectators at the annual Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta where raceboats going faster than 120 mph will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Heritage Port off Main Street in downtown Wheeling.

No admission is charged. Proceeds benefit the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center.

Boats will be old-style hydroplanes not used in modern racing for safety reasons. Modern raceboats have safety features including closed cockpits for drivers.

The hydroplanes have open cockpits where drivers sit unsecured as they bounce along the waves at high speed.

Dozens of vintage raceboats of the type that set numerous speed records during the sport’s heyday at New Martinsville and other races in the Ohio Valley will churn up the Ohio River. The race is in its ninth year and the event is close to setting a participation record.

“Right now we have 53 boats registered, which is really great. That’s a super number for us,” regatta organizer and co-founder Debbie Joseph said.

Although most of the raceboats come from out of town, more local entries are in this year’s regatta than ever before.

In addition to the Josephs, Dave Kappel and the Glasgows of Triadelphia, who are regulars, the regatta will welcome new local boat owners Jim Gardill of Moundsville and Jon and Jeannette Meriwether of Wellsburg.

To get more local people involved, Joseph said the regatta for the first time will feature boats for sale.

“If somebody comes down to the regatta and they might be interested, there are seven or eight boats that will be listed for sale,” Joseph said. “They could talk to the boat owners while they’re here, see the boat up close and if they’re serious about the boat, possibly take it out for a drive.”

Proceeds from the regatta benefit the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center on National Road. Since its inception in 2006, the event has raised more than $40,000 for the center, which provides therapy to children with disabilities.

The event will again feature the Sea Quest Kids program for youngsters of all ages to learn about boat building and safety and take their boats on the river during breaks in the action.

Another attraction will be live music from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Parents can bring their kids to the waterfront beginning today, though they can show up any time during the event to participate.

Opening ceremonies will begin at 9:15 a.m. each day Saturday and Sunday and heats will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a 90-minute lunch break at noon. Live entertainment will be held during the breaks and as a concert begins 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The event’s title sponsor, WesBanco, will present a Family Fun Tent with face painting, balloons and other activities for children on Saturday. The Ohio Valley Hillhoppers will stage a remote-controlled airplane show during breaks.