2024 Apollo Columbia Cup

The 2024 Columbia Cup will mark the 58th time Unlimited Hydroplanes have raced on the Columbia River. This year’s event, like the inaugural in 1966, will most likely have 12 Unlimiteds in attendance. But the modern Unlimited Hydroplane has very little in common with those first boats that churned the waters of the Columbia River. The hydroplanes of today are almost more plane than hydro. They are 30 feet long, with 7,000-pound wings that glide over the water with only the bare minimum of the boat making contact with the river. Powered by turbine engines capable of nearly 3,000 horse power, the boats can reach straightaway speeds close to 200 miles per hour. Qualifying lap averages in the mid-160 mph range are common with faster boats in the fleet. To put it in simpler terms, at speed, an Unlimited Hydroplane will travel more than the length of a football field in the space of a second.

The other unique quality of the hydroplane is the wall of water it throws in its wake. Called a roostertail, it trails hundreds of feet behind the boat and represents a unique obstacle to the racers on the course. Getting too close to another boat’s roostertail can result in a boat’s engine getting clogged with water and stalling. That represents the best-case scenario. Taking a full blast of another hydroplane’s wake can sometimes result in thousands of dollars of boat damage.

Speed is one of many things that sets apart the 2.5 mile Columbia Cup course from other hydroplane races. Boats tend to post their fastest qualifying times of the year at the Columbia Cup.

This course has been the fastest on the circuit for at least the past five years. If you want to see the fastest race of the year, attend the Columbia Cup. With the increased speed comes increased danger. A nudge of water from a roostertail, an inopportune roller, or a gust of wind and suddenly a hydroplane might appear to be making an unscheduled appearance in the yearly air show. Fortunately, the safety advances in the sport have shielded drivers from serious injury during these circumstances.

The action starts Friday evening with Dash for Cash – the top four teams will compete for a generous cash prize following a day of qualifying. Racing starts Saturday, with two sets of heats and concludes Sunday with two more heat sets and a final heat. The winner not only takes home the Columbia Cup hardware, but they win the coveted parking spot under Bernie Little’s famous tree for the following year’s race.

Additional Activities

Radio-Controlled Hydros

These 1/8th scale replicas of the big boats hit speeds in excess of 60 mph when racing. What these boats lack in size, they make up for in intense racing action. Their race course is located at the Family Fishing Pond in Columbia Park and they run Friday and Saturday of race weekend. If you have never seen them before, you owe it to yourself to take a look.