Tastin’ n Racin’ keeps bringing in new hydroplane fans and keeps old ones hooked

June 7, 2011

By Laura Geggel

During his early years in the 1950s and 1960s, Steve Compton would tie a wooden boat to a string, attach the string to a stick, and run up and down the west side of Lake Sammamish, watching his little boat hurtle through the water.

Steve Compton takes Duke Moscrip, owner of Duke’s Chowderhouse in Seattle, for a ride on Lake Sammamish during Tastin’ n Racin’ last year. By Julie A. Sparrowgrove

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have any professional sports in the city,” Compton said. “During the summer, the big event was the hydroplane race.”

All these years later, Compton is still involved with hydroplane racing. He and his crew are participating in the 15th annual Tastin’ n Racin’ celebrated on Lake Sammamish at the state park.

After graduating from Redmond High School in 1970, the Sammamish resident got involved with limited boat racing, a degree of hydroplane racing that is not as large, fast or as expensive as unlimited racing, such as at Seafair.

Compton worked with hydroplane repair crews. His family’s company, Compton Lumber Co., allowed him to flex his woodworking muscles, so he could easily fix boat hulls.

Marriage and children put hydroplane racing in the backseat. Compton worked at the lumber company and raised his two sons with his wife, Mary Compton.

A visit from a customer changed his life, or at least the way he spent his free time. In 2002, Vashon Island resident Stuart Jones came to Compton Lumber Co. with a long list of supplies needed to build a hydroplane.

Compton wanted in on the project, and offered to supply free wood if he could be part of the hydroplane partnership. Jones agreed, and soon Compton entered Vashon Unlimiteds LLC with Steve Payne, Larry Fuller and Rob Wheeler — all four of them owned the boat, Miss Thriftway, modeled after Compton’s favorite boat from 1955.

The group and their friends began building the boat in January 2003, working on it every Saturday for more than four years until it was ready to launch in June 2007.

“The boat ran great,” Compton said. “This is a very powerful and a very fast boat,” going up to 140 mph.

The most challenging part, ensuring that Miss Thriftway’s thousands of parts work properly, is worth it for the thrill of taking her out on the water, he said.

Though the group doesn’t race at Tastin’ n Racin’, this is the fourth year it will take Miss Thriftway out on the water during the vintage show.

“Our purpose is to maintain the history of the hydroplane sport,” Compton said.

The people behind Vashon Unlimiteds LLC represent only one of several dozen boats that will show their motors at Tastin’ n Racin’. Larry Garcia, a 1976 Issaquah High School graduate, has participated in the race since its early days.

“We’re just absolutely hydroplane addicts,” he said. “Hydroplane racing in Seattle has been around for a long, long time.”

He owns two boats, including co-owning the GP-99/Cowgirls Espresso NW. Last year, the team placed seventh in the nation and second in the region, and Garcia said he hopes to do even better this year.

He invited the community to the race for the atmosphere and the excitement.

“Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked,” he said.

If you go

  • Tastin’ n Racin’
  • 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 11
  • 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 12
  • Lake Sammamish State Park
  • 2000 N.W. Sammamish Road
  • Tickets: $10 adults; $5 seniors (65-plus) and juniors (6-16); 5 and younger is free
  • Buy tickets online at www.tastinracin.com.

MGD Hydro Happy Hour

  • 3-8 p.m. June 10
  • Free admission (Friday only)

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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