“It is the most dangerous course in the circuit,” James said, curling and extending his gloved fingers.
James looked over at his wingman and imagined him grinning beneath his helmet. Curt wasn’t a mean guy or anything, but he loved gore as much as a lion loved a good antelope.
James looked back at the staggered starting line. The race was all about recorded times, so line positioning mattered little, but he was still happy to be going first. He used to ski, and there was nothing like being the first down a slope. He believed it made him faster, and his superstition carried over into his racing, but anytime he mentioned it to Curt, Curt was quick to remind him that lakes and mountains were nothing alike. Aside from both being covered with water.
It was time to start the race and James’s nerves steeled. Curt unfolded his arms and let them hang limp beside his body. There weren’t many spectators out for this race, but James was only in it for the money anyway.
Jet Boat Race Start
The signal was given to James, and he gunned it. The front of their boat lifted out of the water as the back dug in, shooting up a long spray of white as they sped forward. The rumble and sound of the engine always excited James, and before he started racing, he thought motorcycles had the best sound. But nothing beat a jet boat on full throttle, and he smiled beneath his helmet.
Curt let out a woo-hoo as they continued. He checked over his shoulder to see the next racer head out, and James wished they were able to see their times. He planned on giving it his all either way, but he hated surprises.
The course was considered one of the more dangerous ones because the river was lined with boulders. Unlike a traditional river that had a bank and trees all along it, this river was surrounded by large rocks and flat ground. It was one of the few big rivers in Indiana, and since Indiana was one of the flattest states the wind was able to pick up speed without hindrance.
A few hidden rough patches forced the boat into a bounce. On smooth days, they could ride the whole track with the front of the boat off of the water’s surface. It was like guiding a knife through warm butter. It was almost like flying, and on some days James felt like they were. But today it felt like driving over a bumpy road, and he tried to compensate.
Stronger than he expected, James was caught off guard by a gust of wind that caught them at the top of a bounce. It was near a bend, and the boat virtually flew sideways into the rocky bank. He compensated and eased them back onto course. Curt slapped his arm.
The wind stayed steady, and he was constantly kept on guard. If they had missed the choppy water and he had been lulled by a false sense of security because of the deceptive straightness of the river, their 1st-place dreams might have been snuffed out.
The large rocks lining the banks were a constant reminder to stay focused. Brief breaks in his concentration caused him to think of how ironic it would have been if someone did die on this race and if it was them.
Despite the curved deviations brought on by the wind, the river was relatively straight. There were no marker buoys, and the whole girth of the river was a fair passageway. After riding a couple bends close to the banks, he learned to go with the wind.
They saw the checkered flag for the finish, and he sped past it, pulling the boat off to the bank when they were a quarter mile or so from the end. Someone was on the bank and helped them dock their boat, and by the time they had hopped off to head toward the timing tent the next boat was docking as well.
“Can’t be good if we didn’t blow everyone else out of the water,” Curt said, folding his arms again as the two continued walking.
Another Jet Boat Coming up Fast
James ignored the comment, his anxiety making his hands shake until he started curling and stretching them again. As they neared the tent, the sound of another boat approaching increased in volume. Even though they were competition, he still smiled as the boat sped by. Chills ran up his spine as the sound echoed off the rocks around them. He never got tired of listening to jet boat engines. When he was driving it was easier to feel the engine than it was to hear it, but being on shore let him soak it up in all its glory. It amazed him how similar the boats sounded to airplanes.
“What time did we get?” James said as they reached the timing tent.
A solitary man was inside with a pen and paper. He held up a finger to James’s question. Outside, another man yelled out time, and the guy in the tent jotted it down. He glanced up at the pair.
“I can’t divulge any times until the race is complete,” the time man said.
“The race is complete for us. Can’t you tell us ours?”
“Please, wait outside.”
Curt sighed but they both complied and went outside. A mound of beers had been placed inside a dollar store kiddie pool, and the two grabbed one each. They cracked them open and waited for the last boat to roar across the line. Then they had to wait some more until the last driver had come over to the timing tent.
Around 20 minutes and two beers later, the times were finally announced. The announcer cycled through each boat number, and with each one James and Curt held their breath, hoping it wasn’t them. The top three finishers finally came around, and the two shared a look.
“Boat 29, with a time of 12 minutes and 37 seconds takes first,” the announcer said.
James and Curt both yelled, high fiving one another and ignored the applause of the other racers and the few spectators at the finish line.
“The full pot will be split between Boat 29, and you also win a year’s supply of chocolate truffles from The Saucy Corner.”
The two high fived again, even though neither of them was big chocolate fans. They were fans of winning and claiming another victory meant they would be the favored in the next race.
An attractive older woman walked up to them holding a basket of individually wrapped chocolate truffles, handing it over to them with a smile. The duo gave a cheer and held up the basket, looking forward to the next time they had the opportunity to win.