While the roar of jet boat engines on the Peace River near Taylor isn’t uncommon, the timing will be somewhat different this year with the announcement that the Peace Region will host the 2019 World Jet Boat Championship from July 12 to 21. Even better news is that Taylor will feature the last two days of racing and cup presentation on the weekend of July 20 and 21.
Besides racing boats from the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, and Brazil, at least three local drivers have said they plan to be there including Fort St. John’s Gord Humphrey, fresh off a big win May 18 in St. Maries, Idaho.
While he’s excited about July’s event, he says it will mean re-tooling his team’s schedule.
“We’re going to miss a race, the first race of the U.S. circuit in Riggins (Idaho),” said Humphrey. “The only reason we’re pulling out is it’s a rough race and the boat is working very good. We don’t want to sacrifice a hit with the dates so close to worlds.”
Poised for success
Humphrey is coming off a year where he and navigator Jason Palfy finished second on the international stage; that outcome, however, could have easily been first had it not been for one particular race, the World Marathon in Mexico. He said, at one point, the boat had a two or three minute lead and first place.
“We did have a fuel control issue. One leg we dropped ten minutes,” said Humphrey. Unable to make up the lost time, the 17-year Unlimited class driver had to settle for runner-up.
Looking ahead to the Worlds this year, however, he’s confident of a better position on the podium.
“I believe just the preparation we’ve done on the boat, the boat’s working very good...it’s very happy,” said Humphrey. “We always talk about how do we make the boat go fast, but can you make the boat go faster, and is it happy going at that speed?”
Under the right conditions, and peak performance, speeds in the Unlimited class can top out at nearly 240 km/h.
The real unknown factor, however, with the July dates, will be the level of the rivers that the boats will race on – the Athabasca, Wapiti, Smoky and Peace. In the case of the annual Taylor Flats 200, traditionally held on the Labour Day weekend, river levels are usually ideal; a heavy rainfall in June or drought-like conditions between now and mid-July could change that.
Humphrey’s main concern, though, is with the Wapiti, south of Grande Prairie. “We could possibly see very low flow (in July). It could be challenging, to say the least.”
He points out that when the boats reach the Smoky River, it could be the complete opposite. Low water, though, does not mean that the race would necessarily be shifted nor does it mean that a jet boat is set up differently. That decision, he says, is based on whether the race is upstream or downstream and a single or group start.
The worlds are set to open July 12-13 in Whitecourt, with racing continuing July 14-15 in Peace River, July 17-18 in Grande Prairie, and the finale July 20-21 in Taylor.
Volunteers are still needed for the final weekend in Taylor. If you can help out, please contact the Peace Country River Rats through their Facebook page.