EXCERPTS FROM DISCUSSIONS WITH DAVID COES
Updates to this section coming soon. Lots of stuff going on in the GNH class; new boats running in both Region 4 and 3. Ulimited Lights may be moving "east" and some GNH's will be traveling west to run in selected UL races. Eventually expect to see some GNH's move into UL "full-time." Stay tuned........
The Race Season 2005
The racing season has started!! The first race of the year was the Eastern Divisionals which were held on March 18-20, 2005 in Morgan City, Louisiana. It sounds as though it was a great success. I think that perhaps the only drawback is that it occurred so early in the season and that the season has started so early. Normally Testing is held in the middle or late April timeframe, with the race season not really kicking off until May. Most racers thrash and barely make the first several races as is, so those who had little to do on their boats over the winter, or managed to get an early start from last season have the jump on everyone else.
The next race down the road is going to be Portsmouth, Virginia and the GNH's will be put on as a class and national points will be awarded. In the past, the two local GNH's (myself and Danny Ramsey GNH 3) and a NM or two have participated in the Invitational, primarily as a exhibition so this will be a substantial change. This year, there should be a "new" GNH joining us, as Ken Brodie has sold his GNH to a local couple (the Coan's), so we now will have 3 local GNH's. Ken will be racing primarily UL with a larger boat. In addition, this is a major scheduling change for Portsmouth, as usually the race is held at the end of the season. The change is certainly a welcome one in my opinion,especially for those of us in the area. This means we will now start the season with a "home" race, have the Summer Nationals (Hampton) in the middle of the season (August), and end with Clarksville in October.
We now have 3 GNH's in the Tidewater area in Region 4 and 3 GNH's in Region 3 for a total of 6 GNH's. There is also one additional National Modified that is dual registered as NM/GNH in Region 4 and one additional in Region 3. We'll have to see who is able to make it to the Regional races this year!!
The races we now have available to us in the Region 4 is pretty decent:
A bit of a ride up the road to Region 3 gives us:
Add in two long drives:
This makes for a pretty decent race season as long as I don't hurt the boat. Of course hurting the boat will change everything. Time is almost more important than money when it comes to getting the boat repaired after tearing her up. If we could all work full time getting the boat ready again after breaking her, it would be one thing however, this is a luxury that most of don't have. The final issue is getting the time to thrash on the boat prior to the race to get her ready, and then be able to take the time off from work to drive to and from the race.
The Demon Chaser Racing Program 2005
I started upgrading my racing program in earnest at the end of the 2004 season. I purchased the new air helmet and had new ear molds made. We are currently in the process of fabricating new hinges for the engine cowling and making some minor cosmetic changes to the top of the boat. I have some adjustments to do to the brackets holding my oil sump system to the engine and have to replace my engine rails in the engine compartment of the boat. I have always run a fire system in my boat and I have just removed it and am getting ready to re-plumb and replace it. (I want to make sure it works if I ever need it!!). I have to re-caulk and re-seal my bottom hatch and do a general checkout of my entire steering system. Since we went through the boat very carefully last season, I really shouldn't run into a whole lot of issues to deal with.
The biggest purchases I have made are a used Ford F-600 hauler with a toter on the back and a 40 foot gooseneck trailer with a 12 foot workshop on the front. The real issue is getting the time to get the hauler which is currently in Texas, and the trailer which is in Alabama. The trailer currently has an observation deck on the back which I am going to cut off and replace with my tilt boat cradle. It's going to take a little work but it will really be nice when I'm finished. The trailer will be built with the capability of carrying a larger hydroplane should I end up getting a bigger boat to run out west.
Since my boat is pretty much ready, my major costs are simply "race" (to include traveling and lodging) expenses. My major expense is gas, both towing and race gas, and, as we all know, it has been going up. It generally costs me between $1500-$2000 per race depending how how far I have to travel and whether the race is a two day or three day race. At approx $10 gallon (and 10 gal/heat), race gas for 4-6 heats runs between $400-$600. Then factor in 8-9 miles per gallon towing and at $2.00 - $2.75 or more per gallon, just getting to the race and home again becomes pretty expensive.
As one can see by looking at my schedule, I plan on making two (long) trips out to the midwest this year. Fortunately these two races offer substantial tow money so a large portion of my traveling expense will be defrayed. I've come to the conclusion that I cannot afford the time away from work, nor the expense it takes to travel if I can't get reasonable tow money. I can pretty much handle the Region 4 races, and I'm willing to support the Region 3 races on my own "dime" but as far as driving 17 hours or more one way to a race (which I've done in the past), it's just not do-able at this time. Maybe when I'm retired!! No one is looking to get rich racing (if they are they need to get their head examined!) but it's great when we can get a little help to defray the costs.
And on a personal note......
My last few months have been very busy. I was working out of town for the month of January and started having problems with one of my knees again. I had surgery at the beginning of March (another one!!) and am still recovering from that and a couple of other medical problems. I'm already working out and expect to be fully recovered within 2 more weeks. I had expected that work was going to take me back out of town fairly quickly but it looks as though that is not so imminent now.
So.... the big thing is getting the odds and ends done on the boat to get ready for the Portsmouth race. As long as work stays steady and nothing terribly unexpected rears it's ugly head, I don't anticipate any real problems, time-wise.
Well, ran into a small setback already-- had to go into the hospital for surgery and get my gall bladder removed on Tuesday, March 29th). So now I'm at home recuperating for a few days. Fortunately very little has to be done on the boat, BUT.... it's stuff like this that causes "time" problems and ends up making getting ready to race a "thrash." The month of March as been pretty tough-- two surgeries and I've been laid up every weekend. Kinda tough to get anything done!! Oh well......
Snatching DEFEAT from the jaws of VICTORY
This first race of the season for me (Portsmouth) has been like all the rest. No matter how well I think I am prepared, I am always working right up to the last minute. Checking and re-checking radio systems, air systems, wing/pedal mechanisms, throttle pedal/cable, sealing the hatch, checking the seat belts, timing/clocks, steering system, fuel pump, electrical system, bearings/seals on strut, intermediate strut, shaft log seals and bearing, etc., etc. I found a cut in my antenna wire and removed and replaced it. Then it's off to running around and filling air tanks, obtaining race fuel and other miscellaneous tasks.
This year, I felt pretty prepared as we had repaired my engine rails and reconfigured the brackets which hold the dry sump system to the front of the engine (Thanks Igor!!). The new system is about 3.5 inches shorter and the drain system to the overflow tank was nicely routed to the outside where it is easily accessed and used. Installing and removing the engine is truly a "one person" job now. Absolutely phenomenal!!
As I do before the first race of each year, a couple of days before the race, alone in my shop, I settled into my cockpit, strapped in, closed the canopy, started my clocks and periodically worked the wing. Then I went through my "blowover" procedures with my eyes closed-- canopy, steering wheel, hand to centerline and down to belts, knees up in prep to somersault out.
On Saturday, the weather was actually pretty decent although the wind was blowing a bit and it threatened to rain. I was craned into the water and was happy to see that all my new seals appeared to be keeping the water out of both the cockpit and engine compartment. The 5 minute gun fired and I headed out.
The course at Portsmouth is a 1 mile, 5 lap one, and I always have trouble making the transition from the typical 1 and 1/4 mile, 4 lap courses. I need to be at the one minute pin (directly across from the start/finish line) at about 20 seconds (from "0"). This allows me to adjust as I am coming around turn 2 (the top turn), depending on which lane I am in. In this case, I was approaching the one minute buoy at approximately 1 minute and 17 seconds. Certainly way too soon, so I headed across the infield to burn up some time. The goal was to hit the front stretch at about 50 seconds, head around the turn at medium speed (burning 30 seconds) and be at the one minute pin at the expected 20 second mark, give or take a few seconds.
Great plan-- poor execution. I headed across the infield and "lost" the start/finish buoy. The rules are that you MUST come out on the front stretch between the start/finish buoy and the entrance (orange) buoy going into turn one. It is easily to miscalculate and get on the wrong side of the turn entrance buoy. This is a big "no-no" as it puts you into the safety zone which is an automatic disqualification. So... I was scanning frantically for the start/finish buoy. I could see the bulk of the crowd (and knew they would be behind/around the clock), and I knew the clock was in a direct line with the buoy so I keyed on the crowd and finally located the buoy. I could see that I was down range of it, and up range of the turn buoy so I headed out onto the front stretch and turned down into turn one. The only problem was that when I lost sight of the buoy, I literally had to slow down to a crawl to get my bearings. When I finally got out on the front stretch going into turn one, the clock was not at 50 seconds; it was at 37 seconds--- and I was way late.
I roared up the backstretch with the wing at full positive life, trying to get the boat to fly. As I rounded the apex of turn two heading to the start I could see that the other boats were already at the start/finish line. I was approximately a quarter of a lap behind. As I hit the start/finish line, the other boats were heading into turn one. I was in hot pursuit and the boat was handling beautifully.
I think that I managed to catch the lead boat around the beginning of the third lap, in the first turn. I wasn't counting the laps as I was concentrating on my driving, the other boats and my gauges. Rather, I was looking at the flags as I went into the corners and saw the caution flag when one of the other boats went down. The flag I was waiting for was the white one (signaling the last lap) and finally I saw it.
Rounding the final turn (approximately 400 feet) from the finish I was out front and running beautifully. I quickly checked my gauges and saw that everything was in order. I was holding a tight line on the buoys which is a hard left on the steering wheel. I then went to ease the wheel to the right and it didn't budge. I kept trying to work the wheel but to no avail. I had no choice; I cut the engine and coasted (at high speed) into a turn buoy.
As soon as we got in, we were able to "recreate" the bind in the steering system by moving the rudder into an extreme position. I took the boat back to the shop and immediately identified the problem. The housing (which contained two of the steering pulleys) was starting to fail. Under load, the lower pulley was placed in such a way that it distorted slightly and the bottom of the pulley was digging into the hull of the boat. This caused it to bind and the cable was unable to rotate around it properly.
By midnight we had all the old hardware out and I was organized and ready for an early start the next day. Steve (Lewis) and Bill (Gwyn) were over at Henry's (Lauterbach) shop and I met all three of them there with the boat early the next morning. When you have the experience and talent of these guys, there simply isn't anything that can't be accomplished.
We had the system almost finished when we got word that the race was called because of weather (wind). Although disappointed I didn't get to race again, I was grateful for two major things: that I didn't have a steering failure while "in traffic" with the real possibility of hurting someone else, and that I will have the time to get the steering system done correctly and safely prior to the next race.
The boat was handling and running great and I am looking forward to getting everything in order for the next race. See you then!!
OK-- I think the caption says it all. But we'll get to that in a moment. On my trip up to Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, from Hampton, Virginia, I was reminded of the lines from the Bruce Springsteen song "Soul Driver"-- "Rode through 40 nights of the gospels' rain, black sky pourin' snakes, frogs and love in vain....." Out of the 9 and 1/2 hours it took me, 8 and 1/2 were through torrential rain and high winds. On top of that, the new cover for my boat tore, and I was starting to think that perhaps the weather was going to be like this for the entire weekend. About an hour from the race site however, the skies cleared, the sun shone brightly and the weather was absolutely beautiful.
I checked in and learned that I owed $100 for the buoy I had hit a couple of weeks before at Portsmouth when my steering jammed. It must have had a delayed reaction and finally deflated. Oh well, I just happy that the steering hadn't jammed at a different time and someone had gotten hurt. Henry (Lauterbach) and Steve (Lewis) re-worked the whole system, fabricating and installing a new housing, pulleys and heavier cable. Gotta remember to get the buoy though-- nice memento for the shop wall!! (Along with the broken prop which cost me 2 years and trashed my boat).
I grew up about 45 minutes north of Lake Hopatcong, so I felt like I was really racing in my home town. My mother still lives in the house I grew up in and I was looking forward to seeing her. I spent the night at her house and rose early the next morning. I arrived at the race site to set up my tools and prepare the boat. It generally takes me less than an hour to get everything ready and this day was no exception. I had plenty of time to study the race course and watch the other boats run. Since the race got started a bit late, the GNH's were only going to run one heat, which would be the final.
When the race started, I immediately came up on plane and headed out onto the course. I started relatively slowly as the one minute pin and buoys marking the outside of the course seemed to be a bit small and I anticipated having a bit of trouble seeing them. Surprisingly, I did not have any trouble at all seeing the course so I immediately came up to speed.
I have two count-down timers and two count-up timers and I take timing marks from a number of places on the course. On my first lap, at one particular point I had a 14 second timing mark. Later, on two marks subsequent to that, I registered 17 seconds and 23 seconds respectively. I wondered if I had moved out a lane or two which would have accounted for an increase in time but certainly would not have accounted for the difference between 14 and 23 seconds. I concluded I was having throttle problems (which I had experienced at a different time), perhaps due to a bent throttle cable guide.
In addition to the timing issue, my handling in the turns seemed to be getting worse. I wondered if my new steering cable was stretching. At any rate, the clock was counting down and I passed the judges stand/starting line at 1 minute and 12 seconds. Normally I need to be in the first turn at approximately 45 secs so I knew I needed to take some time off the clock. As an aside, at the driver's meeting we received a paper listing the general racing rules. A point of importance is that it was noted that we could enter the infield from both the back stretch and the front stretch, while only being able to exit from the start line buoy to the entrance pin to turn one.
Normally the rules state that one can enter from the backstretch and only exit from the start line buoy to the entrance pin to turn one. With the addition of being able to enter on the front stretch, miscalculation of time is virtually impossible. For example, being early (1:12) going into turn one would normally entail my having to go all the way around the turn and then entering the infield from the back stretch and exiting out the front, to come around the turn again. This would burn way too much time off the clock. With the rules the way they are, I entered the infield from the front stretch, milled (turned around) and exited back out the front stretch.
By now, I was acutely aware I was having an acceleration problem. My clock was reading under 40 seconds left (which meant I had taken too much time) and I couldn't seem to get up on plane. My gauges indicated that everything else was OK; my oil and water temperatures were normal as was my oil pressure. Unfortunately I was watching the other boats simply get smaller in the distance. To give you an idea of just how slowly I was going, the other boats were at the start/finish line as I was just entering the upper turn, or turn 2.
In addition to the acceleration problem, I had to get off the gas as I was sliding outside drastically; my skid fin simply wasn't holding me in the corner. I decided to continue to run so that we would at least have a group of boats running on the course. At one point, coming down the front stretch and in full view of the judging stand, I had a boat that was running just ahead of me and to the outside, inexplicably cut directly in front of me and go into the infield. Quite surprising. The referee black flagged (ended) the heat a short time later. Apparently there were numerous issues going on, with several boats broken down and the boats spread out all over the course. Only two boats started on time and together. All of us seemed to be having problems of one kind or another.
As soon as I got back to the pits, I saw what my problem was. I didn't have a throttle problem; I had a crack on the nontrip portion of my boat and I had a tremendous amount of water in my boat. This would explain both my acceleration problem and my handling issues which became progressively worse the longer I was out on the course.
To say the race was a disaster would probably be an understatement; it was terrible. Somehow after the first lap, I developed the crack in the boat which accounted for the additional (water) weight and poor performance. I was well aware of the time and where I was on the course. I made good use of the rules and milling procedures and would have had everything timed just right had the boat performed the way she normally does. So... shoulda, woulda, coulda......other than having a boat full of water that accelerated like a slug and handled like a pig, I would have performed well. On Sunday, the GNH heat was cancelled as the rest of the boats developed problems which simply decimated the field.
The brightest part of the weekend was visiting with my mother. She will be 91 years old in 3 months, has never seen my boat and never been to a hydroplane race. My brother Don, who was in town for a couple of weeks, was able to bring her to the race site and she was able to witness the whole debacle. I only regret she wasn't able to see the boat, and the class, perform like I know we can.
The boat is cleaned up and the engine has been removed and is ready for it's check out. Hopefully by the weekend the hull will be upside down and we will repair the damage we know about. After that, a thorough and careful inspection is due and we will go from there. I have not made a decision as to which race I will be participating in next but as soon as that decision is made, an announcement will be made on this site. Stay tuned!!!!