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Thunderboats get a 21st-century makeover

Hydroplane
The Miss DiJulio/J&D’s thunderboat is moved into Lake Washington for this weekend’s hydroplane races. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The roar of this weekend’s Seafair hydroplane races on Lake Washington reawakens a six-decade-old Seattle tradition – but it also heralds changes for a sport that’s been compared to NASCAR on water.

Seattle has been a hot spot for hydros since 1950, when a made-in-Seattle thunderboat called Slo-Mo-Shun IV set a world speed record on Lake Washingtonand brought the nation’s premier unlimited hydroplane race to Seattle the next year.

Today, the restored wood-and-metal boat rests in Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. Its builder, Stan Sayres, would probably still recognize the streamlined, souped-up vessels that venture forth from Stan Sayres Memorial Park. But he wouldn’t recognize the technology under the hood.

“It’s quite a bit of difference in the boats, the engines,” said Tom Thompson, driver of the Miss DiJulio/J&D’s U-11.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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