History of Racing on Display At Vintage Raceboat Regatta
31 August 2016
Ian Hicks, City Editor
The Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta will turn back the clock
even further than normal when it returns to Heritage Port for the
11th time this weekend.
Along with the dozens of restored hydroplanes which thrill drivers
and spectators alike at the regatta — which runs Friday through
Sunday and benefits Easter Seals — the event will welcome for the
first time three replicas of “Gold Cup” boats that were the
forerunners of the modern hydroplane class of watercraft. One, the
“Meri J’s,” belongs to Wellsburg resident Jon Meriwether, while
the other two, “Compulsion” and “Illusion,” will come all the way
from New Hampshire courtesy of owner Donnie McLean.
“It’s a 13-hour drive from them to get here, so it’s a really big
deal for them to bring these boats down. … We hope that everybody
really enjoys them,” said Debbie Joseph, who co-founded the
regatta with her husband, Dr. Dan Joseph, in 2006. “They’re all
relatively modern boats, but they’re built in the spirit of
Dan Joseph said Gold Cup boats are more traditional in appearance
than their vintage hydroplane cousins, which some visitors have
commented more resemble airplanes than watercraft. They function a
bit differently, too — their V-shaped hulls actually cut through
the water as opposed to typical hydroplanes which feature sponsons
that allow them basically to skim on the water’s surface.
In their heyday, most Gold Cup boats, which were popular until
hydroplanes began to take hold in the late 1940s, belonged to
industrial barons who were just as competitive in their leisure
activities as they were in business.
“In those days, what would happen is … some guy would build a boat
faster than your boat, and throngs of people would be out there to
watch a match race between the two boats,” Dan Joseph said, noting
those competitions gave rise to competitive powerboat racing in
The Gold Cup boats will give regatta fans something different to
look forward to this year, but for Dan Joseph the connection is a
little more personal. He’s been told his great-great-grandfather,
who owned a lumber mill in Pittsburgh, once owned the fastest boat
on the water in the Pittsburgh area.
“For me it’s kind of fascinating to bring that part of history
back to the area,” he said.
The Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta, presented by title sponsor
WesBanco, begins Friday with the pits at the waterfront open to
spectators throughout the day, giving visitors a chance to mingle
with the drivers as they arrive in town and get an up-close look
at the boats.
The real action begins Saturday morning with opening ceremonies at
9:45 a.m., followed by heats from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a break
for lunch. The regatta concludes Sunday with 9:45 a.m. opening
ceremonies followed by heats from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This year’s regatta also will include special activities for
children, and live entertainment during the event will be provided
by performers including the Joe Zelek Band and New Age Adenas.