LAS VEGAS — One of the big attractions at this week’s Amazon re:MARS conference is a mockup of the crew capsule for Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship — but chances are that few of the attendees lining up to try out the seats know who their tour guide is.
Today Jimmy Shane took a little time off from his day job — building spaceships at Blue Origin — to bask in the glory surrounding his other claim to fame, as America’s champion hydroplane driver.
Shane was the center of attention at Seattle’s Westlake Center during a noontime rally that featured a performance by the Seahawks’ Blue Thunder drumline, burgers from Dick’s Drive-In, and giveaways from Seattle-based HomeStreet Bank, the corporate sponsor for Shane’s hydroplane team.
But Shane is also a second-generation thunderboat pilot. According to a Seattle Times profile, the Maryland native began racing boats at the tender age of 8.
Even though Shane relocated to the Seattle area, he still travels around the country as part of the H1 Unlimited Hydroplane league. This weekend, he’s the driver for Miss HomeStreet, the boat fielded by the Miss Madison Racing Team in the Albert Lee Appliance Seafair Cup competition on Lake Washington.
It just so happens that the trademark color for Miss HomeStreet, which is sponsored by Seattle-based HomeStreet Bank, is blue. So on Aug. 3, Shane showed off an artistic addition to the signature painted on his boat.
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.