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Wind unpleasant for boat races

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Powerboats compete during the F2 Powerboat Championships as part of the Three Rivers Regatta on Friday, July 4, 2014, on the Allegheny River.

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Friday, July 4, 2014, 9:33 p.m.
 

The wind that helped make the day so pleasant for spectators at the Three Rivers Regatta created dangerous conditions for powerboat racing Friday on the Allegheny River.

However, despite two qualifying heats not running as scheduled in the afternoon, river conditions settled enough by evening to allow the North American Championships and F2 Superleague final races to go on.

Ashton Rinker, 29, of Riverview, Fla., won the North American Championship in the SST120 motor class, and his brother, Robert Rinker, 27, won the SST200 class as well as the F2 Superleague Final combining both classes. Each race was 10 laps.

“It was somewhat manageable,” Robert Rinker said of the conditions when racing finally started at 7 p.m. “It's still kind of a guessing game in those turns. You go in, look for the best lines and pray there isn't a roller just past it.

“We were able to kind of go low and slow once we got out front, keep the boat settled on the river so it doesn't pop and get crazy. It still did a couple times on me, but I think that's where we got it on the other guys — we were able to carry speed into the turns a little bit further without letting off the throttle and keeping the boat on the water.

“That was the main key, just settling the boat early.”

The boats are capable of going from 0 to 100 mph in less than four seconds, and top out at 130 mph on the straightaways. Drivers experience four-plus G forces in the turns.

Ashton Rinker, who competed in both the 120 and 200 championships, said conditions were rougher in the 120 than the 200, which was held just minutes later. He had raced in Pittsburgh twice before, but this was his first win.

“There's nothing better than my brother winning the 200 and me winning the 120,” he said. “It felt great to hold that checkered flag, plus in one of the roughest places you can race. It takes a lot of skill and time to get to that level, and we're there.”

Earlier in the day, the wind direction and currents created swells that made conditions unsafe.

Qualifying heats were scheduled to run at 2 and 4:30 p.m., but the only thing drivers were able to do was a bit of drag racing to entertain crowds that lined the North Shore and the Point.

“These boats, they can run on rough water, but when it's the real long swells, it has the tendency for the boats to kind of launch off of them and stuff into the next one,” said Terry Rinker, father of Ashton and Robert and a former multi-year Three Rivers Regatta champion.

“We know a lot of people come down here to see the races prior to the fireworks, and we want to put on a show for them, of course.

“But you have to balance safety against putting a show on, and we don't want anybody to go to the hospital or anyone to tear up any equipment unnecessarily.”

During an F1 race in 1998, a boat crashed into the crowd near Three Rivers Stadium, injuring 24 people.

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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