Yelm, WA: The Fastest Water in the World

This feature article from seattleoutboard.org is primarily focused on the fall record runs but it does give you an idea of what to expect this weekend and the prestigious place Lake Lawrence holds in the boat racing community.  The Fastest Water in the World!  If you’re in the area come check out the races this weekend; Yelm, WA / Lake Lawrence.

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Lake Lawrence World Record Regatta

For over a quarter of a century, outboard racers from across North America have made an annual pilgrimage to Lake Lawrence on the outskirts of Yelm, WA. Why would some racers travel over 4,000 miles to the far northwest corner of the country just to attend a boat race?

The answer is simple: Lake Lawrence has proven itself year in and year out as being some of the fastest racing water in the world. A quick look at the 1997 American Power Boat (APBA) Reference Book will show that going into the 1997 racing season, there were 83 competition records established in Stock, Modified and PRO outboard racing on its track: more than any other body of water on the planet. Across three different course sizes (1-2/3 miles, 1-1/4 miles and 1 mile), the one constant over the years that has endured is that this lake is truly the fastest there is.

A Record Setting Environment

There are several factors contributing to Lake Lawrence’s record-setting formula.  Nestled down in a small, hollowed area and surrounded by trees, it sits near the base of the tallest mountain in Washington State, Mt. Rainier. Its altitude (sea level) is optimum for efficient carburetion with the two-stroke engines used. Finally, the painstaking work of designing and implementing a surveyed world record racing course which allows racers the best chance of maintaining optimum speed through long straightaways and wide, sweeping turns have all helped to make Lake Lawrence what it is today.

Nine Hours of Non-stop Action

Perhaps the real secret of Lake Lawrence’s record setting ability lies in the work done by SOA to make the event a success. Pre race planning begins in January of each year. A blue ribbon team of referees, inspectors and scorers are selected and established prior to the start of the racing season. On race morning, Driver’s Meeting begins at 7 am sharp. Because there are generally over 200 entries each day, it is a long roll call! Drivers volunteer to help the race committee, as turn judges and patrol boat drivers. Racing generally starts at around 9 am, and continues throughout the day until 6 pm. Official crews and volunteers stagger their shifts so that the volunteer changes go on without stopping the event. In short, it adds up to nine straight hours of continuous boat racing.

Everybody Gets to Race

In a departure from SOA’s standard two-heat race format, each class with a minimum of four entries gets to run at least one heat, one time. Once all classes have had at least one opportunity to compete, the schedule is repeated from the top of the order, until the 6 pm curfew is reached. The next day, the schedule is reversed, so that those classes which had to wait until late on the first day get first priority on Sunday’s racing. This formula allows SOA put the highest number of boats possible on the water, enhancing the record setting potential. A typical weekend at Lake Lawrence will see between 70 and 80 heats over the two day event. David Froehlich Sr. of Loxahatchee, FL commented, “When you go to Yelm, everything is done to make it easy to set records. They [SOA] have been doing it for a long time, and they really have it down to a science.” Froehlich should know: he currently holds three records set on Lake Lawrence, while his son, David Jr. holds fourteen.

That’s what makes Lake Lawrence the one of the most successful outboard racing events to be held on a continual basis, any time, any place.

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