A Trip to Nottingham
Updated: Apr 3, 2019
Tony Lombardo, Mike Akerstrom, and Todd Anderson drive their red, white, and blue hydros in the UK.
The U.S. A-Team arrived at The National Watersports Center in Nottingham England Thursday for the OSY-400 World Championships. The team spent the day setting up their pit area where their three hydroplanes underwent the vigorous pre-race scrutineering process and when it was completed all three were deemed fit for UIM competition. On Friday’s testing day the team arrived to high winds and occasional showers but the British organizers were undaunted and the test day went off as scheduled. After short 8:30am drivers briefing the one hour open test session went off as scheduled at 12:25 pm. The # 8 O’Connor hydro driven by Westford, Massachusetts’s Iron Mike Akerstrom was flying high into the stiff wind and was also experiencing steering problems. Crew Chief Bob “Crowbar” Cronin immediately sprang into action with a set-up adjustment and a quick fix of the steering problem. After the adjustment the boat looked solid on the water even into the stiff wind and the team was satisfied with the speed and handling of the craft. The #11 Kamp Kurz Kruzer driven by Todd Anderson seemed quick and although the experienced pilot was having trouble in the rough corner everyone else seemed to be having the same problem so after a brief discussion the team decided to leave things alone and hope for more favorable conditions on race day. The #92 “Left Coast Ghost” driven by California’s Tony Lombardo looked fast and stable although a shim was pulled off the transom when steam was seen puffing from the water outlet hoses. The team then rolled the three hydros back to their pit area and will now await tomorrow’s qualifying rounds and heat one and two of the world final. The team would like to thank Bob O’Connor Jr. for building the teams two newest beautiful hydroplanes and the red, white and blue paint schemes were certainly turning heads all day in the pits. Team Captain Billy Allen would also like to send out a big thank you to Adam Davies of InExpress Shipping for the masterful job of getting their container to the race venue without a hitch.
A beautiful, sunny seventy degree morning greeted the U.S. A-Team upon their arrival at the National Watersports Center in Nottingham for day two of the OSY-400 World Championships. After a morning of watching the patrol boats chasing several swans off the race course the day of racing started off with a round of time trials to determine the all-important starting positions for heat one of the world final. The outlook for the U.S. Team seemed promising when American Mike Akerstrom ended up missing the pole by only a hundredth of a second when he screamed his Brand new O’Connor hydro to a second place starting position with a time of 54:74. The coveted pole position was won by Poland’s Cezary Strumnik of Lock Haven Cooler bobbing fame in a time of 54:73 on the long, narrow circuit. The third spot was gained by defending World Champion Rasmus Haugasmagi in a time of 55.09. The fourth spot went to American Tony Lombardo in a time of 55:83 also driving an O’Connor built hydro. Veteran UIM driver and past world Champion Miroslav Bazinski from Slovakia rounded out the top five in a solid time of 55:94. With only 1.21 seconds separating the top five, the first heat final was shaping up to be an ultra-competitive contest. The third American, Todd Anderson suffered mechanical difficulties and could only manage a 9th place time of 58:08 of the 15 starters.
Cold water was soon thrown on the Americans when the starting rope bit rope man Jimmy Cummings sending Akerstrom to the first turn in last place. When the spray had settled out of turn one it was the speedy Estonian Rasmus Haugasmagi leading up the backstretch with Poland’s Strumnik hot on his tail. Slovakia’s Bazinski held third with Lithuanian Ginteras Marcinkus in fourth and American Tony Lombardo holding fifth. The pack rounded the course unchanged with the exception of Akerstrom who was seen driving like a maniac as he clawed his way through the rough water. When the checkered flag flew ending heat one Akerstrom had gained the sixth place spot and was actually breathing down the neck of fellow American Lombardo.
After the mandatory one hour break between heats the fifteen finalists’ one again lined up on the jetty for the start of heat two. The Americans were once again disappointed when Lombardo’s engine failed to start on the first pull sending HIM to turn one in last place. The top finishers were once again Haugasmagi, Strumnik, Bazinski and Marcinus with the Estonian Annika Suuk taking 5th and hometown hero and professional stage comic Luke Hugman from The UK in 6th. American Akerstrom finished in 7th. It was now rough water specialist Tony Lombardo’s, turn to storm through the pack to an impressive 8th place finish with American Anderson in 9th. With Haugasmagi now in the catbird seat with 2 heat wins the Americans are looking for a little better luck on Sunday.
The final two heats of the OSY-400 World Championship started with a one hour open test session at 10 am which saw many of the competitors sitting in their respective pit areas willing to skip the testing and let the chips fall where they may. One entry which didn’t hit the water was defending world champion Rasmus Haugasmagi from Estonia. The champion was definitely in the catbird seat with two heat wins under his belt heading into heat three. The only serious challenge to the Estonian up to this point was Poland’s Cezary Strumnik who had gained the pole position during qualifying and seemed to be the fastest boat on the course. The amazing starting acceleration to turn one by Haugasmagi had previously put him to the first turn buoy with an astonishing ten boat length lead on the rest of the pack. At precisely 12:25 the red light expired to start heat three and once again the speedy Estonian was off the jetty like a rocket and around turn one with a hefty lead. Strumnik was once again gaining on the leader and after two laps the water turned choppy and the Polish pilot was forced to the inside lane and nearly made the pass but Haugasmagi stuck tight to the pins to take the heat three win and thus secured his third World Championship in as many years. Poland’s Strumnik also secured the Silver medal with his third consecutive second place finish and the two headed to the inspection tent for the post-race technical scrutineering process. Slovakia’s Miroslav Bazinski finished third. Lithuania’s Gintaras Marcinkus took fourth and crowd favorite Luke Hugman from the host country rounded out the top five. The American trio of Mike Akerstrom from Westford, Massachusetts, Tony Lombardo from Concord, California and Todd Anderson from Westlake, Illinois all moved up one spot from their starting jetty positions finishing sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.
At precisely 3:00 pm the red light expired starting heat four and the 13 remaining finalists sprung off the starting jetty for the final time. With the absence of Haugasmagi and Strumnik the Crazed Slovakian Miroslav Bazinski was out of turn one with the lead and sped up the backstretch followed by a tight pack of mad dogs in hot pursuit. They stormed into the one pin turn where American Akerstom pulled a fantastic dive to the inside picking up two valuable positions emerging in the third spot followed by England’s Hugman. The two then engaged in a fierce three lap battle until Akerstrom found himself some clear water and secured himself comfortably in the third spot and was actually reeling in Lithuania’s Marcinkus when the checkered flag flew concluding the fourth and final heat. With the heat win Bazinski secured himself a third place Bronze Medal final finish. The fourth overall spot went to Marcinkus and Akerstroms third in heat four thrust him to an overall top five world finish. The two remaining Americans, Lombardo and Anderson concluded their world championship run in eighth and ninth respectively putting all three Americans in the top ten. The U.S. A-Team would like to thank Race Director Tony Cossington, Pit Forman Rabbit, Technical Director Nigel and the rest of the U.K. race organizers for putting on a spectacular and well organized World Championship event.
Unity Flagstaff Reporting