Sinking feeling: Detroit Hydrofest pulls plug for second straight year

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Hydrofest has dropped anchor for 2021.

The high-powered boat races on the Detroit River are canceled for a second consecutive year, organizers announced Thursday. Hydrofest lacked funds to carry on this year, a year after the races were canceled because of COVID-19.

Hydroplane driver Mike Monahan races to a first place finish in a Grand Prix heat during Detroit Hydrofest.

“It is with great disappointment that our attempt to have a hydroplane race on the Detroit River will not happen,” Mark Weber, president of Detroit Riverfront Events, said in a statement to The News. “Our board is adamant that we need to have a quality event that makes our sponsor proud and our fans happy. We worked well into June to put a program together that we felt could have been promoted and produced to meet those expectations. Unfortunately, we could not ensure DREI could meet those expectations with less than 60 days until the scheduled race weekend.

"We will now look forward to 2022 and continuing the tradition of boat racing on the Detroit River.”

Weber had told The News last month the races were "50-50" to take place as scheduled, Aug. 27-29, after learning that outdoor capacity restrictions would be lifted June 1. DREI was able to land a sponsorship from Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers, but still was $150,000 short as of mid-June. It costs organizers $500,000 to put on the races. Weber said then it would be soon that organizers would "pull the 'go' plug or pull the plug."

The hydroplane races on the Detroit River date back more than 100 years, hosting the prestigious American Power Boat Association Gold Cup many of those years.

The races debuted in 1916, and feature H1 Unlimited hydroplane boats that can top 200 mph.

Detroit Hydrofest has struggled with financing periodically over the years, most recently 2015, when it planned to cancel the races until a last-minute sponsor stepped up. The races typically draw up to 50,000 or more over a three-day weekend, with a variety of seating options all along the river, including local restaurants, the Yacht Club and the organized ticketing sections.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984