Meanwhile, along the shore, under the watchful eye of the Water Patrol, thousands of
people anchor and swim, and listen to the
radio for the speeds from the radar gun — the
only number that matters.
The current Shootout record of 209 mph
(no knots here) was set in 2007 by Dave
Callan, racing on the old Shooters 21 course,
after which he pretty much stopped racing.
His coy responses to reporters have kept
people guessing as to whether he will jump
back into the fray this year to defend his title
from Canadian Bill Tomlinson, who’s made
the trek from the Thousand Islands, trailering his 50-foot Mystic catamaran My Way
and talking a big game about his boat’s twin
3,000-horsepower turbine engines. In 2011,
Tomlinson took issue with the radar speed,
saying his GPS clocked faster than the 208
mph shown on the gun, although it was good
enough to tie the course record with Hall
of Fame inductee David Scott. Speculation
around Captain Ron’s is that if the Canadian
resorts and beach-town attractions.
The meandering, snake-like lake makes
boating the preferred way to get around,
and the quickest. Its status as a man-made,
privately owned lake (the power company
Ameren owns and manages it) means that
houses can be built close to the 1,150-mile
shoreline. Docks, lit at night by blue lights
to warn off passing boaters, dot the shoreline. It’s where the central plains head to the
ocean, and the thin, winding lake ensures
seclusion for just about any activity, be it partying or a tour of the state park that takes up
17,400 acres on the east end. Locals divide
the lake roughly into east and west sides, the
St. Louis and Kansas City sides, or the quiet
and the noisy side. During the Shootout,
anyway, the quiet side gets a little loud, as
it’s home to Captain Ron’s Bar and Grill on
Buccaneer Bay, ground zero for the race.
Captain Ron himself is less piratical than
you might expect. This may be because he’s
only Captain Ron part-time and has a title
insurance and escrow business as his main
job under the alias Ron Duggan. He raced in
the first Shootout, but decided it wasn’t for
him. “I went 66 miles an hour and got tons
of advice on how to go faster from the other
guys, but I was like, ‘That’s all right, I just
wanted to see what it was like.’” He’d rather
be involved in hosting the event where, he
says, it’s like seeing old friends every year as
the racers return to the lake.
The Shootout is a difficult event to spectate.
The best seats are at the bar at Captain Ron’s
place, next to the beach volleyball court, with
a cold beer and a good view of the screen.
makes a good showing, Callan will just have
to come out of retirement. The first day of
the race, Tomlinson ties the record, with 209
mph in My Way. Afterward, he tells a well-
wisher, “We’ll get serious tomorrow.”
One of the distinctive things about the
Shootout is that pretty much anyone can
enter. You don’t even have to be fast. At one
point, the captain of Celebration, a large din-
ner boat, takes a shot with a speed of 6 mph.
Racing the faster boats takes a two-man crew:
usually a driver, who steers and operates the
trim tabs, and a throttle man. The trim tabs
seem to be the key part, getting the boat onto
just the right plane to minimize the drag
through the water. You can gauge how well
they’re doing on screen by how steady the
nose of the boat is. Movement up and down
or side to side causes friction, and friction
Mike Maasen decides to take a shot and
passes the radar gun at 91 mph. On another
run, with Dave Weyer as copilot, he hits 92.
Both times, he’s beaming like a kid with a
new toy when he gets back to the dock. It’s
Sunday morning, though, when the crowds
are a little thinner, that Bill Tomlinson and
Ken Kehoe make the run everyone will be
talking about. My Way passes the gun at a
blistering 224 mph, and after a second run of
216, the Canadians call it a day and load the
boat onto the trailer for the long trip home. In
the afternoon, the racers file out of the docks
to the waterfront stage facing the beach to
accept their awards, and as Tomlinson takes
his, he utters the sentiment in the heart of
every racer here, professional or amateur:
“I think we could’ve gone a little faster.”
Award-winning writer Chris Landers is an
associate editor at BoatU.S. Magazine.
A NOTE ON SAFETY
Shootout organizers pride themselves on the event’s safety record, and on the precautions
they take to keep drivers and spectators protected. They’ve never had an accident in the
Shootout’s 25-year history.
■ The closed racecourse is 400 feet wide. There’s a safety zone 400 feet beyond that.
So race boats remain at least 700 feet from spectators.
■ A no-wake zone extends the length of the track.
■ Boats in the Shootout always race one at a time, never against one another.
■ Water-patrol personnel are everywhere, keeping spectators within the safety zone, and
monitoring their activities.
■ Life jackets and helmets are required for all racers in the Shootout.
■ The U.S. Coast Guard is on the water in full force monitoring the event, as well as
Homeland Security personnel, and six different fire departments and emergency crews.
TowBoatU.S. Lake of the Ozarks is also on standby for all the events.
■ Rescue divers from local fire departments also stand ready to jump in from helicopters;
their demonstration dives were a real crowd pleaser. — C.L.