For two days in June, vintage speedboats take over the river in New Martinsville.


It’s not every day that a 70-year-old speedboat whizzes down the Ohio River. But in New Martinsville—the birthplace of powerboat racing—history comes to life each summer.

Celebrating its third year on June 15–16, 2019, the New Martinsville Vintage Regatta was founded ito pay homage to the region’s speedboating heritage. Attendees can learn about the region’s speedboating history and chat one-on-one with those who restore speedboats, which are also called hydroplanes. And, of course, you can see vintage speedboats ripping up a 6.25-mile course at top speeds.

“The sport of hydroplane racing began in New Martinsville in 1939, and it’s pretty much gone on in one form or another since,” says David Kappel, an avid hydroplane enthusiast and New Martinsville Vintage Race Boat Regatta committee member.

Kappel, a physician and New Martinsville native, grew up watching hydroplanes and began restoring vintage boats about a decade ago. He now has four hydroplanes of his own.

“There was a time when New Martinsville was one of the iconic race sites where people would compete for national championships,” Kappel says. “Bringing that back for the third year is restoring memories; it’s important to the town.”

For safety purposes, races at the Vintage Regatta are non-competitive. Intead, they provide a chance for racers to enjoy and showcase the boats they’ve worked to restore.
“These are investments and they’re irreplaceable. So are the drivers. We don’t compete, but we do put on a show,” says Kappel.

During each five-lap race, the vintage boats can reach speeds of 70 to 120 miles per hour. “These boats are designed to just about fly,” Kappel says. “When they’re running at speed, it’s just halfway between flying and skimming across the water.”

Kappel said he and three other native New Martinsville racers will showcase their boats this year. He anticipates at least 5,000 people will attend. “It’s a piece of history and it’s alive and in person,” he says. “People should see it for themselves.” @newmartinsvillevintageregatta

written by Lexi Browning
photographed by Al Tucker