WILDWOOD CREST — This weekend might be the only time of year speeding is encouraged as powerboat teams from across the U.S and Canada reach speeds up to 140 miles per hour at the Wildwoods NJ Governor’s Cup Hydrofest.
The races take place on Sunset Lake Saturday and Sunday and the event has steadily grown since it began about a decade ago.
Organizer Ann Fitzgerald said the racing weekend drew around 3,000 when it started and crowd estimates now are at 18,000 to 20,000.
“It’s a very exciting event. It takes a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding to see it grow,” Fitzgerald said Thursday.
The races, each four laps long, feature hydroplane and flat-bottom race boats that travel along a one-mile oval course, with boats reaching speeds between 80 mph and 140 mph.
Fitzgerald said teams from across the country are expected to race, along with spectators from Canada, New England, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Fitzgerald said 85 powerboat teams will compete in the event, which is sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association. Top prizes include the New Jersey Governor’s Cup and this year’s Eastern Divisional Championships.
Borough Commissioner Don Cabrera said the event is a boon for local businesses.
“This is kind of the last shot in the arm for local restaurants and other businesses,” Cabrera said of the winding down of the island’s tourist season.
Cabrera said it is also one of the few events that takes advantage of the Sunset Lake location.
“It has grown tremendously,” he said, crediting Fitzgerald and the event’s volunteers for helping it run smoothly.
The event is planned about a year in advance and is timed to the arrival of high tides.
Racing begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. In addition to the races, there will be a six-block long area of vendors with powerboat racing merchandise, craft vendors and food vendors.
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