Captains race tiny boats in big-time competition, on Westmoreland Casting Pond

Discover why skippers from all over the Pacific Northwest converged on this historic Southeast Portland body of water – for what they say is their best day of racing during their season …

Brad Lewis from Tualatin works with Southeast Portland native Bill Amick to get his watercraft, the U-77, ready for the next race on Westmoreland Casting Pond.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Again this year, the “Electric Radio Control Unlimiteds” (ERCU) held their Portland Regatta at the Westmoreland Casting Pond a few weeks ago.

“The Pond is the perfect venue for our 1/10th scale models of unlimited hydroplane race boats,” extolled Nelson Holmberg, the event’s Race Director for the club. “The water is shallow enough to stay calm, and the casting pond is the perfect size and shape for scale powerboat racing. And, it works out really well for both the competitors and spectators.”

Nelson Holmberg, race director Electric Radio Controlled Unlimiteds, counts down the final seconds to the start of the next race on Westmoreland Casting Pond.

Even though rain threatened throughout the day, many enthusiasts – many of them from the Seattle area – were on hand, testifying to the ideal racing conditions they find, year after year, at this Southeast Portland pond, Holmberg commented as he turned to count down the next race, assuring that the competitors jockeyed their boats into the correct starting position.

It’s all up to Captain Bill Amick to guide his model “unlimited” around the course, and to victory.

Local racer enjoys competition
Getting his boat ready for a race, we met Westmoreland’s Bill Amick, as he wired a freshly charged battery into his “Spirit of Dayton-Walther U-77” model hydroplane craft.

No newcomer to model boat racing, Amick said 2010 marks his 30th anniversary of beng involved in model remote controlled boat racing. “When I was going to Llewellyn Elementary School, I’d come to Westmoreland Park and watch guys running their boats on the pond. I made up my mind that this was something that I was going to do.”

After finding out that the boats and radio gear were expensive, Amick got an after-school job. “I went to work for Stephie at the Kienow’s Market – it’s now the QFC. I got enough money together, and went down to the hobby store in Milwaukie and bought my first radio boat – and never looked back.”

In the past, he ran 1/8th scale “nitro” craft using a combination of white gas and nitro-methane fuel. “But, I also like these electrics. With the new batteries and powerful motors, they really go.”

About his hometown race course, Amick had high praise. “I’m so glad that the City finally fixed up Westmoreland Casting Pond. This is the perfect place for this; it adds so much to Southeast Portland for so many reasons.”

The U-77 puts on speed during the race.

Competition heats up in the cool water of the Casting Pond.

The race begins
As the race director counted down the start of the next race, Amick’s partner, Brad Lewis, lowered the U-77 into the pond. Seven drivers, remote-control radios in hand, clambered up onto a 5-foot high scaffolding, giving them a good view of the race circuit, situated in the southern half of the pond.

Because the electric motors which drive the boats are uniform “stock” engines, and all of the craft are powered by 14.8-volt lithium polymer battery packs, winners are solely determined by the design of the craft and the skill of their drivers.

As the race began, the boats picked up speed, some of them speeding up to 50 mph and shooting up “rooster tails” behind them.

Although the U-77 didn’t take first place, Amick was still all smiles. “It just doesn’t get any better than this.”

In the next heat, three racers speed around the course.

Event to return in 2011
Holmberg said to expect that this, one of the earliest sanctioned Portland Rose Festival events, to return next year. “Growing up in this area, I love the Rose Festival. And, this location is ideal. We always have a number of visitors who come by to watch the races, and to learn more about scale boat racing from our members when they tour our pit tents.”

The ERCU, founded in 2003, is world’s largest fast electric scale hydroplane club. To find out more, visit their website CLICK HERE.

Look at this racer go!

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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