America’s U.S. A- Team Slugs their way to a UIM Bronze Medal at the 2012 UIM W
Updated: Apr 3, 2019
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Kriebstein Germany, a sleepy little country town outside of Dresden, exploded to life with the roar of over twenty five outboard engines when the OSY-400 World Championships began last Saturday on August 4th 2012. Among those adding to the excitement and the group who had traveled the longest distance to participate was America’s U.S. A-Team. The team, consisting of Administrator Rachel Warnock from Pewaukee Wisconsin, Pit Boss Dudley Smith from Delaware Ohio, Photographer Dave Recht from Palo Alto California and Team Captain / Driver Billy Allen from Quincy Ma. were the only team on hand to represent The United States at this IOC Recognized International Event.
The event featured entries from all corners of the globe. The eclectic mix of nations would be vying for the coveted top three podium positions. On Saturday morning, the tension was as thick as the foam on a German Lager as the crews readied their charges for the first of two official timed practice sessions which would be held at nine o’clock. When the one hour session was completed, defending World Champion Sten Kalder from Estonia had posted the fastest lap time with a 1.05.74 lap followed by fellow Estonians Annika Suuk with a 1.05.75 and 2010 Silver Medalist Rasmus Haugasmagi posting a 1.06.04. Next was Slovakia’s Peter Stefanovic with a 1.07.01 followed by the only American entry of The U.S. A-Team’s Billy Allen running a lap time of 1.07.07. Poland’s Cezary Strumnik rounded out the top six with a time of 1.07.24.
One hour later, in the second timed practice, the American team seemed to uncork some hidden magic as Allen posted the fastest lap time of the two sessions when he ripped off an amazing 1.03.67. The American was followed by the two young but experienced Estonians, Hagausmagi with a 1.04.74 and Kalder with a 1.05.97. Two Polish drivers, Michael Sweirczynski and Cezary Srumnik followed with times of 1.07.01 and 1.07.07 respectively. This gave Allen the pole position for elimination heat B of the two elimination races which would be held later in the day. These elimination heats would be used to whittle the field down to the fifteen finalists.
Later in the day, in elimination heat A, the Estonians again showcased their consistent speed when Hagausmagi and Kalder raced to the first two finishing positions and posted the heat times to beat of 5.05.74 and 5.09.01. In heat B, with the American sitting in the pole position, the red light expired signaling the start but a hiccup on the jetty got Allen to the first turn late and out of the big sweeping corner in second place. Another fast Estonian, Annika Suuk led the field. After a tremendous two boat dual in which they left the rest of the pack behind, Allen finally overtook Suuk going into the corner on lap two. The American then used the remaining two laps to stretch out a sizable lead and post the only tour of the circuit under the five minute mark when he blazed to a remarkable 4.59.88. This impressive time would give Allen the fastest heat of the weekend and secure the all important pole position in heat one of the four heat feature final to be held on Sunday.
After a Sunday morning of more high tension combined with mandatory breath alcohol tests for all drivers, the fifteen finalists were on the jetty and ready to start heat one. With the American sitting in the pole position and another fourteen rabid dogs lined up to his right, the red light expired- the starters tugged with all their might and the pack of power plants exploded to life as one. With the scream of two cycle engines combined with the roar of the crowd reverberating through the Kriebstein Valley, the fifteen fastest OSY-400 Hydroplanes in the world rocketed like missiles to the first turn. At the entrance buoy of turn one it was the Estonian Hagausmagi leading the pack with the American Allen in second on the inside and Defending World Champion Sten Kalder in third as the riotous group rounded the corner. At the end of turn one Hagausmagi hugged tight to the exit pin forcing Allen to jump his wake and go to the outside. As the tight pack went screaming by the starting docks Allen again crossed to the inside and beat Hagausmagi to the one pin second corner. As the two combatants rounded turn two Allen wrestled the front position from the grip of Hagausmagi and went to the front. Allen began to stretch out a lead down the backstretch but it was not to be the American’s day as he looked up from his crouch position of the Kamp Kurz kneeler and for the first time noticed the red lights flashing and the red flags flying. A crash in turn one between 2009 World Champion Miroslav Bazinsky from Slovakia and Igor Vallisa from Italy would send all the boats back to the jetty for a restart.
With Bazinski and Vallisa unable to restart due to UIM regulations forbidding any boats involved in heat stoppage to participate in the re-running of the heat, the thirteen remaining boats quickly refueled and got ready to do it all again.
This time Allen wasn’t as fortunate as a bad start saw him come out of turn one covered in spray as he trailed Leader Sten Kalder and the second place boat of Rasmus Hagausmagi. After two of the six laps Allen had gained the second spot from Hagausmagi but by now Kalder was long gone and cruised to an easy heat one win.
With a heat one victory securely in his pocket, Kalder now held the pole position for the start of heat two. Allen was in the second spot with Hagausmagi third and Germany’s Adrian Bernd on the fourth grid. As the little hydros again leaped to life to start heat two, Kalder held tight to the inside lane around the buoys and Allen was second coming out of the first turn as the pack rocketed down the front stretch. Allen hounded Kalder for the entire six laps but just didn’t have enough to get past the defending champion. This finish put Kalder in the catbird seat going into heat three with two wins against Allen’s two second place finishes. The drama, however, was just beginning.
At the start of heat three it was once again Kalder to the buoy first with Hagausmagi coming in hot from the outside to clip the second pin. Allen slowed at pin two to try to keep tight to the corner. As the American rounded the buoy the front end of his sponson caught on a wake and the boat went into a dramatic spin and barrel roll sending the driver into the lake where he was immediately slammed by German driver Adrian Bernd who was rounding the corner near the middle of the pack. Once again the red flag flew. The crash again brought all remaining boats back to the jetty for a restart. Although unhurt, Allen and Bernd were unable to participate in the restart of heat three due to the UIM regulation. At the heat three restart it was Bazinski who went to the front as the boats came out of turn one. It took two laps of hard driving but the speedy Estonian driver Sten Kalder was able to reel in the Slovakian and make the pass. The win gave Kalder three consecutive heat wins and secured two Gold Medals in as many years for the defending World Champion.
With two seconds and a third, the other strong running Estonian, Rasmus Hagausmagi had put himself in a good position to bring home the Silver and as Allen was seemingly out of the picture with significant boat damage to the combings, airtraps, bottom and chine, it looked like the heat four race for the Bronze was stacking up between Slovakia’s Bazinski, Poland’s Cezary Strumnik and the upstart British pilot, 20 year old Luke Hugman who had quietly but consistently been garnering points just behind the leaders. What these drivers didn’t realize at this time however, was the resilience and resolve of the Americans and their friends.
As the battered #16 boat of The U.S. A-Team was unhooked from the tow boat and wheeled back to their pit area, The Americans, with the help of many of their competitors’ crews, especially Germany’s Team-33, began to assess the damaged hull. After a quick but intense discussion, it was concluded that an attempt would be made to get the boat repaired and the engine dried out and ready for heat 4. Luckily, the heat was not to be run for another two hours.
Like lions devouring a fresh kill on the savanna, the members of Germany’s Team-33 pounced on the boat repair project. With wood, generators, air compressors and power tools magically seeming to appear from nowhere, the obviously experienced Germans went to work. For the next hour, as a multi-national crowd gathered around the American pit area; hammers banged, screw guns whined and a mix of different languages flew through the air along with clouds of sawdust. After completing the boat repair and drying out the engine, the official UIM scrutineers were called to examine the repair and give their blessing that the craft was once again seaworthy and could, in fact compete in heat number 4.
With collective high fives all around, the Americans readied themselves for the final race of the long weekend. As the remaining thirteen boats once again lined up for the start of heat four, the competitors and their crews wracked their brains like calculators trying to determine who would have to finish in front of whom in order to claim the Bronze.
Estonia’s Rasmus Hagausmagi sat on the pole and simply had to drive mistake free and finish in the top five to claim the Silver. Slovakia’s Marislov Bazinski sat on the second grid and would need to get to the front or finish in second to claim Bronze as long as America’s Allen finished less than seventh. To his demise however, Allen was forced to the end of the jetty in the thirteenth starting position due to his DNF in heat three. Poland’s Strumnik and England’s Hugman were also still very much in the hunt depending on the other drivers finishing positions.
With The American on the last starting grid, Team-33 once again took control and assumed the launching duties for the United States Team.
When the red light expired signaling the start of heat four it was Hagausmagi going to the front with Bazinski in hot pursuit and Annika Suuk in third. Meanwhile, in the choppy water at the rear of the pack, Allen, the only American in the race, was systematically and methodically picking off boats one by one as the 6 laps ticked away. After two laps Allen was in ninth and after three he had gained the eighth spot. Going around turn two on lap four, Allen finally cleared himself out of the spray and was able to look ahead and count the competitors in front of him. Through the wash he counted seven boats with Hagausmagi in the lead and Bazinski in second. Another Estonian, Algo Kuus, was just ahead of him and running strong. Allen spent half a lap sizing up the Estonian and realized that although Kuus was very quick out of the corner, Allen seemed to have him covered on top speed at the end of the long straightaways. Knowing he had only one boat left to pass in order to claim the final podium position, the American decided to sit on the outside and try to keep up the top speed. Racing by the starting docks for the last time, Allen finally made the pass to gain the seventh spot as the now unified Germans of Team-33 and Americans of The U.S. A-Team went crazy.
Pulling into the inspection area Allen was hoisted out of his craft by his new German friends as the crowd once again circled the American entry. The extremely gracious Slovakian, Miroslov Bazinski, who had missed the Bronze Medal by just eight points, was the first to shake the Americans hand and through some rough translation was finally able to convey his thought, “You deserved it.”
When the spray had settled and the point were tallied, it was once again the speedy Estonian Sten Kalder standing on the top of the podium with the Gold Medal proudly hanging around his neck. Next to him was countryman Rasmus Hagausmagi with the Silver and America’s Billy Allen with the hard fought Bronze. Slovakia’s Miroslov Bazinski, Poland’s Cezary Strumnik and England’s Luke Hugman rounded out the top six on the stage at the Sunday afternoon Awards Giving Ceremony.
Unity Flagstaff Reporting