Villwock thwarted in quest to sweep hydro season

It was the start birthday celebration for one party.

For another, it was an end to potentially the first perfect season since at least World War II.

Those were among the storylines Sunday as Steve David guided the Oh Boy! Oberto boat to victory in the Chevrolet Cup at Seafair. It also was the first championship on Lake Washington for Art Oberto, who has sponsored an unlimited since 1975, and will turn 80 years old on Aug. 22. The Seattle resident said he‘s had birthday celebrations for about two weeks.

“This is the best birthday I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “We can‘t outdo them without outliving them. Now we outdid them.”

David, the two-time defending national champion, had to outdo the past two champions — South Kitsap High School graduate Dave Villwock, who drives the Miss Elam Plus, and Miss Beacon Plumbing pilot Jean Theoret. The two combined to win the previous five Chevrolet Cups, but essentially did themselves in with one encounter before the race even began.

Villwock said he positioned himself to take the inside lane before the start, but was washed down by Theoret, which killed his engine and any opportunity to extend his win streak. He won the first four races of the season and could’ve gone into the Sept. 16 San Diego Thunderboat Regatta season finale with a perfect record with a victory.

“Everyone wants to talk about streaks and I know how fickle they can be, especially at places like this,” Villwock said. “Things happen that are out of your control. That’s the way it goes.”

Theoret, who said he was disqualified for hitting a buoy, didn’t dispute that he was at fault. He compared the scene on the course to a “marina,” with all the boats jockeying in the minutes before the start to get the inside lane.

“All of us were there much, much too early,” Theoret said. “We got off plane and water came up over the windshield and I just lost the course. I saw the buoy, I tried to go around it and while I was doing that I cut off Dave. It was a stupid mistake.”

David said he didn’t see the incident.

“When I went out there I had in my mind the race I was going to run and I was the only boat out there,” he said. “The start was there and I was where I wanted to be.”

It was the sixth win of David’s career and even though he piloted the boat to a victory at its home port in Madison, Ind., in 2001, there was no question where this finish ranked among his wins.

“This win, because it’s here in Seattle, Art Oberto’s here and it’s his 80th birthday (is the biggest win of my career),” he said. “It just doesn’t get any better than that. It’s super cool to win for him and this community.”

Villwock, who leads David by 1,405 points headed into San Diego and likely will claim his ninth national championship, congratulated David on the win after the race.

“Dave’s a champion,” said David, who noted his boat was set up for the rough water on Lake Washington. “He’s a tough guy to beat. All year long we’ve been (first and second) and it could’ve gone that way (Sunday).”

The Elam boat hasn’t won in Seattle since 2001 and Villwock’s last win here came as the Bud driver in 2004.

“The boat was running awesome,” he said. “We were in the right position to win the thing, we just didn’t get a chance to show that. Next year I guarantee you we’ll come back and be even stronger on race day.”

Championship race

1. U-6 Oh Boy! Oberto, Steve David, 136 mph

2. U-10 Hoss Mortgage Investors, David Bryant, 133 mph

3. U-13 Miss Car Pros, J. Michael Kelly, 132 mph

4. U-16 Ellstrom Elam Plus, Dave Villwock, 126 mph

5. U-5, Jeff Bernard, 120 mph

6. U-25 Procraft Windows, Ken Muscatel, 109 mph

DQ U-37 Miss Beacon Plumbing, Jean Theoret, 0

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