More than 40,000 attend powerboat festival of speed in Sheboygan, Wis.
Photo Credit: Tommy Gun Images
Big crowds and plenty of Wide Open action were featured August 11-13 at the Mercury Racing Midwest Challenge, a festival of speed on the water in Sheboygan, Wis., celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the founding of Mercury Racing. The event featured three classes of offshore racing on Lake Michigan and Formula One tunnel boat racing in Sheboygan Harbor.
“This thrilling weekend of racing was a fitting capstone to the Mercury Racing anniversary,” said Mercury Racing General Manager Stuart Halley. “Combining P1 Offshore and F1 Powerboat Championship tunnel boats in a single event made for a tremendous show for everyone, and a showcase for every facet of Mercury Racing power.”
Total visitors over a four-day period were over 43,000, peaking on Saturday with just over 15,000 people, according to Visit Sheboygan, with total visitor spending estimated at more than $4.7 million for the Sheboygan Area Tourism Zone.
Many of the racers used to competing in Florida welcomed cool Wisconsin weather, despite a few typical Midwest thunderstorms. More than 40 race teams participated with competitors from around the world traveling to Sheboygan, including Australia, Italy, Sweden, Canada and Norway. Conditions on Lake Michigan ranged from very rough to simply challenging. A highlight for tunnel boat racing fans was an appearance by legendary driver Bill Seebold, an original member of the Mercury Factory Racing team that dominated the sport in the 1970s, a winner of more than 60 world and national championships, and an innovative boat builder. On Friday in the pit area, Bill Seebold was surprised on his 82nd birthday by the presentation of one of his restored Bud Light championship race boats, a project undertaken by his son, Tim, and partners John and Michael Schubert.
“It was an honor to present him with this boat,” said Tim Seebold, Managing Director of the Formula One Powerboat Championship. “My dad still comes to many of the races, and actively mentors some of the younger drivers coming up in the sport. The Sheboygan event was fantastic. The fans seemed really engaged and combining Formula One with the offshore classes made for a thrilling weekend.”
Seven thundering UIM Class 1 World Championship offshore catamarans battled the sometimes rough Lake Michigan conditions, with driver Darren Nicholson and throttle Giovanni Carpitella in 222 Offshore Australia winning on Saturday and coming in second in Sunday to score enough points to clinch the 2023 championship with one race left on the season schedule.
“The two days of racing, with more than 30 boats competing, all with the latest Mercury Racing equipment, was a highly competitive and entertaining spectacle,” said Azam Rangoonwala, CEO of Powerboat P1. “Sheboygan mayor Ryan Sorenson, as well as the entire city, were extremely accommodating and the venue has the potential to become a long-standing powerboat racing event site.”
Weekend Racing Results
F1 Powerboat Championship 200APX Challenge
All boats powered by a Mercury Racing 200APX competition outboard.
UIM Class 1
Darren Nicholson/Giovanni Carpitella – 222 Offshore Australia
Hugh Fuller/Rich Wyatt – dfYoung
Myrick Coil/Tyler Miller – MCon Racing / Monster Energy