DEPUE — This weekend’s boat racing at Lake DePue may go by a new name this year, but it will be same game when it comes to national-class competition.
The Lake DePue National Championship Boat races will take to Lake DePue for the 29th consecutive year sponsored by the DePue’s Men’s Club, bringing thousands of race fans to the tiny Bureau County village. The races were formerly known as the APBA PRO National Boat races, but a change in affiliation this year brought about a name change.
Bryant said that the U.S. Title series, the governing body for the DePue races, left its association with the American Power Boat Association in favor of the National Boat Racing Association, in part due to insurance purposes.
“We’re going to have the same races,” Bryant said. “They told us we could name the race anything we wanted and we feel the best racers in that class are going to be here. It is in our opinion a national championship so were going to call it Lake DePue National Championship Boat Races. It’s going to be a great week of racing.”
There will be national championships on the line in 18 different classes. Racing begins at noon Friday at Lake DePue with competition in the OSY 400 Hydroplane, C Racing Hydroplane, K PRO Hydroplane, 125cc Runabout, 700cc Runabout, C Service Runabout and 500CC Hydroplane divisions.
DePue native Paul Bosnich III is the defending champion in the 125cc Runabout.
A year ago the DePue Men’s Club frantically fought against low-water level on Lake DePue that had the annual event in jeopardy until DePue and surrounding communities rallied around a damming project. This year, Bryant happily reports the water level is rising, thanks largely to having a 100-foot barge sunk to dam up the Illinois River channel.
“It’s looking good,” Bryant said. “We did get the dam in and we’re trapping quite a bit of water. We are pumping trying to maintain the water that is here and maybe raise it some more. We had a couple leaks here and there, but we got it tied off on both sides. We’re not losing any water and we should start gaining some.”
While there is nothing written in stone what the level has to be, Bryant said, the capsule racers like to have five-feet of water.
“That’s what we want. We’re close. I think we’re at four and a half to five feet,” Bryant said.
Bryant is still amazed how DePue was able to save last year’s races, but didn’t doubt they could pull it off.
“We weren’t sure we could get that water in there not having any experience at it, realizing we had such a larger area. But it all worked out,” Bryant said. “I’m very proud of all the people that helped us. It was a very humbling experience I think for our little village having everybody from all over the area pitching and helping us.
“It was a real nice thing to be a part of it and everybody likes to be a part of success stories. It just turned out to be something really neat for our town. It’s always rewarding when you see so many people jump up to support your cause.”