The Grand National Hydro class could see speeds exceeding 150 miles per hour

LAKELAND -- When an event has been going on for 82 years, it might be hard to come up with something new.

Yet Gene Engle, who oversees the Orange Cup Regatta, has found a new class of boats to roar around Lake Hollingsworth for the 82nd annual Lakeland staple.

Engle said that of the 14 classes expected on the lake, the Grand National Hydro will be the fastest, with speeds possibly exceeding 150 miles per hour.

"The Orange Cup Regatta is now the largest inboard hydroplane race in the state," Engle said. "We're constantly looking to put on a spectacular event that everyone would enjoy. Most of these boats throw very large rooster tails, but in particular this new class can throw them 30 to 40 feet in the air."

Engle also said that the course itself is being redesigned in order to add more speed and bring more records to Lake Hollingsworth, which Engle has repeatedly called "The Lake of Records."

More than 40 drivers are expected to compete among the 14 classes, which is up from nine last year and 13 the previous year.

The drivers competing this weekend will run two heats a day, and the points will contribute to the season title in the American Power Boat Association standings.

Testing will begin Friday afternoon with racing scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with the weather being a big factor. If there's too much wind, it could push racing into another day.

"Each year, safety is of the utmost important for us," Engle said. "We'll have four divers on the lake. Most of the boats running are capsule boats. They're all on oxygen and a harness. We have to have four divers on the lake at all times and an ambulance present, so if someone flips the divers can get into water and get the canopy open as quickly as possible. We have an excellent rescue team."