U.S. A- Team Nabs Bronze in Germany
Updated: Apr 2, 2019
Billy Allen and Mike Akerstrom were the American drivers at the World Championships this year, and brought home a Bronze Medal.
The core members of The U.S. A-Team assembled at The Parke Avenue Speedboat Cub in Quincy, Massachusetts last Tuesday to begin their run at The 2017 OSY-400 Word Championship. This year’s drivers, Mike Akerstrom and Billy Allen were joined by pit men Jimmy Cummings and Racer Allen. The foursome then boarded a taxi to Logan International Airport for the 10pm flight to Frankfurt Germany. The race was to take place on June 3-4 on the scenic but challenging Mosel River in the picturesque town of Traben-Trabach. The course features a single turn buoy at each end of the 800 meter straightaways with a bend in the tight river course. Upon landing in Frankfurt they were picked up by fellow team members Dudley and Lois Smith and photographer David Recht for the two hour ride to the race venue.
A howl of anguish reverberated through the Mosel Valley when the van door slid open and the European race teams realized that A-Team regulars Rachel Warnock and Valerie Lighthart had not made the trip this year. After many of the foreign clubs packed up their trailers in disgust and headed back home, choosing not to compete in the absence of the two A-Team regulars, the remaining drivers which decided to stay headed for the registration tent to take care of all the necessary paperwork and to prepare for Fridays grueling pre-race scrutineering process.
The team was well received by the German race organizers Roland and Bernd Ölschmike who could not have been any a more helpful to the Americans having already unpacked the teams container and safely stored the trailer in a locked garage for safekeeping until Fridays set-up day.
On Friday the team assembled in the pit area and after replacing their climbers hooks with more appropriate hardware, attaching springs to their turn fins, adding beach balls under the decks for floatation and taping shim sticks across the thumb screws which hold the engine on the hull, the two American entries were finally deemed fit for UIM competition.
Saturday morning dawned cloudy and warm with a fresh breeze blowing down The Mosel Valley as the best teams from around the globe readied for the 11:30am one hour open practice session. After spending 5 weeks in the shipping container, the American boats seemed no worse for wear and seemed to be handling well on the tight, two pin course. Pit men Jimmy Cumming and Bob “Crowbar” Cronin were handling the roping and jetty duties for #8 Akerstrom and another helpful German, Alex Graeff of Team 33, assisted Dudley Smith and volunteered to handle the starting rope for the #16 of Allen.
After the time trials had ended and the twelve final qualifying spots were secured it was the class of the field once again emerging to the top. Last year’s silver medalist Cezary Strumnik from Poland gained the pole position when he toured the circuit at 51.97 seconds followed by 2016 Gold Medalist Rasmus Haugasmagi from the boat racing powerhouse of Estonia turning in a 52.67. The two top guns were followed by American Billy Allen who turned in a 53.13, England’s James Marr with a 53.30 and the crazed Slovakian, previous World Champion Miroslav Bazinski , with a lap time of 53.65. The top five qualifiers were followed by Poland’s Grezegorz Stepniak, 55.23, American Mike Akerstrom, 55.53, England’s Wayne Morse, 55.66, Germany’s Philipp Franz, 56.44, Latvia’s Viesturs Lacis, 56.46, Sweden’s Lärs Dickfors, 56.61 and rounding out the field was Germany’s Jörg Gleinert with a time of 58.69. It was then back to the tents for set-up adjustment, prop changes and readying the boats for heat one of the world finals.
At the onset of heat one it was a surprise to no one when defending champion Haugasmagi once again shot to the front followed by Strumnik. The battle raged for third as Allen passed Bazinski and Marr in turn one and spent the rest of the heat trying his best to hold off the hard charging Bazinski who seemed to have top speed on the American but not quite enough to make the pass. When the checkered flag flew it was the speedy Estonian Haugasmagi with another heat win followed by Strumnik with Allen barely beating Bazinski to the line. England’s Marr rounded out the top five with Stepniak sixth and American Akerstrom finishing seventh.
Back to the tents once again went the respective teams as they prepared for heat two and the last heat of the long Saturday of racing. Heats three and four were to be run on Sunday.
Heat two saw a more competitive contest when Strumnik came up the inside of Haugasmagi on lap two and was sawed off at the one pin turn putting the Polish driver momentarily out of shape. Bazinski made the pass to second while Strumnik did an impressive job of driving as he steadied his hull and somehow kept from tipping over. Now it was Strumnik’s turn to try to catch the crazed Slovakian and after a fierce two laps of deck to deck racing Strumnik was finally able to re-gain the second spot with Bazinski finishing third and Allen in fourth.
Sundays heats three and four are shaping up to be ultra-competitive as all of the top teams were seen making set-up changes or engine adjustments looking for that little bit of extra speed to try to move up a position or two.
The U.S. A-Team would like to give a huge shout-out to the German race organizers who have so far hosted a world class contest as well as their shipper, Stephen Bruning of Bruning Worlwide, for getting their container to the race venue without a hitch.
On Saturday night, rain, thunder and intense lightning rumbled through the Mosel valley drenching the pits in the tumult. A few canopies took to the air and many teams had their equipment saturated. Once again the German race organizers’ Roland and Bernd Olschimke who had been keeping sentry in the pits, came to the rescue as they jumped on the phone notifying the various teams to abandon their dinners and check up on their pit areas.
On Sunday morning, cool, cloudy weather greeted the World Championship contenders as they arrived for the 8:30am drivers briefing. The teams then shook the water out of their respective rigs and readied for heats 3 and 4 of the world final which were to be held at 11:30am and 2:15pm respectively. The previous day was awash in hard racing as well as drama as defending world champion Rasmus Haugasmagi took a tough spill, flipping his hull during the 1 hour open time trial. Fortunately for the speedy Estonian he had already completed the second fastest lap of the day and overcame the accident by going on to win heat 1 from the second starting spot as well as heat 2 from the pole. Polish driver Cezary Strumnik was second in points with two second place finishes followed by Slovakia’s Miroslav Bazinski and America’s Billy Allen who were tied on points with a third and fourth apiece. At the start of heat three Strumnik, driving from the second starting spot, uncorked some hidden speed and caught up to the previously unchallenged Haugasmagi coming out of turn one. The diminutive Polish pilot, now driving the outside line, overcame the leader in a dramatic pass coming down the backstretch and beat Haugasmagi to the pin in turn two. Unfortunately for Strumnik, countryman Gregorz Stepniak spun out in turn one and was hit by England’s Jamie Marrs causing a red flag and sending all the remaining boats back to the jetty for a restart.
The tension on the jetty now rose to a fever pitch as the teams refueled and were then forced to wait what seemed an eternity as the patrol boats tried in vain to chase a stubborn swan out of turn one. When the bird was finally chased off the course and A-Team pitman Crowbar Cronin vowed to bring a shotgun to next year’s race, the remaining boats were once again lined up for the restart. This time Strumnik was not as fortunate as Haugasmagi beat him to the first turn pin and was once again in command of the heat with Strumnik second as Slovakia’s Miroslav Bazinski and America’s Billy Allen slugged it out for third. Coming out of turn two on the second lap Bazinski took a violent spin and was attempting to regain position in the corner when he was slammed by Germany’s Philipp Franz. Both drivers continued their pursuit although losing a few positions. At the heats conclusion it was Haugasmagi winning his third heat in a row as well as The Gold Medal, Strumnik in second to secure The Silver followed by Allen in third, fellow American Akerstrom in fourth, Latvia’s Viesturz Lacis fifth, Germany’s Philipp Franz sixth and Slovakia’s Bazinski, who limped to the line in the seventh position with a severely damaged hull.
Haugasmagi, The Gold Medal winner and Strumnik, who had captured the Silver, were quickly whisked into the technical scruteneering tent. The battle for the Bronze Medal now became the focal point as Allen and Bazinski were so close on points that whoever won heat four would win the Bronze Medal.
During the two hour intermission the Slovakian team was busy in their tent as the drills, saws, sandpaper and glue flew through the air in a heroic attempt to get Bazinski’s hull in racing shape for heat 4 which would be run at precisely 2:15.
As the boats lined up on the jetty for the fourth and final heat of the weekend and with the Gold and Silver Medal winners watching from the beach, it was Allen on the pole, Akerstrom starting in the second spot, Latvia’s Lacis third and Germany’s Franz fourth. With only minutes remaining till the 2:15 start, the Slovakian team’s tent ripped open and Miroslav Bazinski, the other Bronze Medal contender, now hastily fastening his helmet and with a freshly repaired hull, hurriedly rolled his charge to the fifth starting position among cheers from the growing crowd.
When the red light expired starting heat four, Allen, Lacis and Bazinski shot to the front and staged an all-out drag race to the one pin first corner with Allen on the inside, Lacis in the middle and The Crazed Slovakian, Miroslav Bazinski, screaming down the outside just inches from the riverbank. As the three set-up for the tight, one pin corner, Bazinski jumped through the wakes to the inside and came out beside Allen as Lacis held a tight third. The maddened thousands crowding the riverbanks now jumped to their feet in unison as Allen and Bazinski screamed down the backstretch with Bazinski now jumping to the outside. The two Medal contenders now locked themselves together in the duel of the weekend and for the entire six laps Bazinski hounded Allen like a dog on a hambone trying every weapon in his arsenal to make the pass. As the laps ticked down Bazinski tucked inside on every corner but Allen had just enough speed in his wooden kneeler to edge The Slovakian to the next corner. When the checkered flag flew ending the heat it was Allen with the first to claim the Bronze, Bazinski second and Polish driver Gregorz Stepniak in third.
The post-race area was awash in smiles and congratulations as the foreign teams and German fans lined up to shake the hands of Bazinski and Allen for putting on the show of the weekend. Lifting his boat off the scales Billy Allen was grabbed by both shoulders by the six foot Bazinski who stated in his best English, “Goood racing Beelly, goood racing”.
Unity Flagstaff Reporting