Andrew Tate won his first heat as an unlimited hydroplane driver Saturday at the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair.
Tate, who drives the U-9 Sound Propeller/Les Schwab, won Heat 1B on Lake Washington. He was aided in that race by Jean Theoret in the U-16 Oh Boy! Oberto, who was the top qualifier Friday but received a one-minute penalty for not maintaining speed in the pre-race milling period. Theoret finished fourth.
Tate is a rookie driver on the H1 Unlimited circuit. As most drivers do, Tate comes from a family of boat racers. Even his mother, Shelby got behind the wheel of a hydroplane. His father is veteran driver Mark Tate, who has four runner-up finishes at Seafair in the 1990s.
Tate’s crew chief, Jeff Campbell, even raced against Tate’s parents in the 1970s and 1980s. Campbell recruited Tate into an unlimited cockpit.
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“Right now, I think he’s the greatest thing this sport has seen in a long time,” Campbell told the Tri-City Herald. “I think in a couple years he’s going to be on par with (three-time national champion) Jimmy Shane.”
He’s been doing well in his first season. He made the finals in the season opener in Madison, Indiana, and finished fourth. He was the second-fastest qualifier at the Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities. Tate was knocked out of contention with mechanical problems.
“The crew worked all week, night and day, to get the boat put back together after Tri-Cities,” Tate said. “… Things kind of fell into our laps out there.”
J. Michael Kelly started the defense of his Seafair title with a win in Heat 1B. Kelly has won the last two Albert Lee Cups, and his team, Graham Trucking, has won three in a row.
He took advantage of Shane, in the U-1 HomeStreet Bank, hitting a buoy and getting a one-minute penalty.
“I knew right away he was in trouble, it was just a matter of whether he got the penalty or not,” said Kelly, who is from Bonney Lake.
Heat 2A: 10:55 a.m.
Heat 2B: 11:15 a.m.
Heat 3A: 2:30 p.m.
Heat 3B: 2:50 p.m.
Finals: 4:45 p.m.
TV: Ch. 7