Issue: July 2005
Sharptown Races

Hydroplanes and runabouts will set the Nanticoke River abuzz over the Fourth of July weekend.


     Boats will be flying up the Nanticoke River on the Fourth of July, when a general contractor from Laurel, an electrician from Millersville, a refrigeration mechanic from Edgewater and a metal fabricator from Churchton will lock horns with a seafood restaurant owner from Wilmington, a grocer from the Carolinas and a retired aviation engineer from Florida.

     Lock horns may not be the best metaphor, perhaps, since they’ll be racing down the river near Sharptown, Md., in tiny hydroplanes clocking up to 100 miles per hour and runabouts going around 70. But expect all-out competition nonetheless. The annual outboard races are all about speed as 25 different classes vie for top honors in three divisions. Breathe deep and you might catch a whiff of exotic racing fuel hanging sweetly in the air.

     The hydroplanes and runabouts range in size from 8 to 14 feet. Some are so small there isn’t room for a seat. Racers drive crouched on their knees or lying prone on their belly. The boats are light as a feather, too. Most are made with a light wood frame and 1/4 -inch (or thinner) decks and bottoms. A few racers have thin fiberglass race boats; still fewer have carbon fiber “stealth construction” boats. But most are still built the traditional way-out of wood in home workshops by builders aged 8 to 80-boys, girls, men and women. (During the past decade many of the Mid-Atlantic area’s best young drivers have been the girls.)

     The racing will start at noon all three days that weekend and end around 5 p.m., depending on the weather. For more information, contact Sam Cullis at 410-573-1594 or go to