69th annual Madison Regatta draws in tens of thousands

By RACHAEL KRAUSE | WAVE 3 News

This weekend, tens of thousands of people will take over Madison, Indiana for hydroplane racing.

The Madison Regatta is now in its 69th year, bringing the fastest boats and hydroplanes on water to the southern Indiana area. The races will begin Saturday and Sunday, but the event began days ago with different festival events happening around town.

Friday afternoon, drivers began testing out their hydroplanes on the Ohio River, making sure they’re ready to go for the Grand Prix races and the long-awaited return of the American Power Boat Association Gold Cup Race in Madison.

Madison Regatta
Locals from Madison mingle with people from all over the world at the Regatta. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

With live music on Friday and lots of festival fun and good eats, people were already making their way down to the crowded riverfront.

“Yeah, it’s tradition. You just do,” Heidi Freeland, a Madison resident, said.

Along the Ohio River, locals like Heidi and Gary Freeland join visitors from all around the world to watch the Madison Regatta. This year’s event is the first for the Freelands since they moved back to Madison. They said even in the 90s, practically everyone in town came out.

“I think it was against the law if you didn’t,” Gary Freeland joked.

Everyone comes to watch the hydroplane races.

Madison Regatta practice race
Hydroplanes race around the river at about 200 mph. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

“The H1 Unlimited guys are going to be racing for the Indiana Governors Cup and the APBA Gold Cup behind us. (It’s) 115 years old, most prestigious trophy on the circuit,” Matt True, Madison Regatta Inc., President, said.

The Gold Cup race was first run 115 years ago in New York.

“Whopping speed of 23 miles per hour was the very first winner,” True said. “They’re doing 200 plus miles per hour on this race course, so huge difference between then and now.”

Jimmy Shane is driving Madison’s hometown hydroplane in the Gold Cup race.

“It’s an adrenaline rush every single time you get out there,” Shane, driver of the U6 Miss Home Street Hydroplane, said.

Jimmy Shane
Jimmy Shane hopes to bring the hometown win to Madison. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

The race hasn’t been run in Madison since 1980. The last time the Gold Cup was held in Madison and won by a local driver was back in 1971.

Shane has won taken the Gold Cup title before.

“I’ve been able to win the Gold Cup three times previously… never in Madison though!” Shane said.

And the pressure to win is on, with everyone here hoping to see a hometown win this weekend.

“You don’t want to miss writing history here and seeing it in front of you,” True said.

Shane added: “It means a lot to these people and this town and I think it’s going to be a wonderful weekend.”

American Power Boat Association Gold Cup
The APBA Gold Cup is the most prestigious trophy on the circuit. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

For the Freelands, watching on the sidelines at the Regatta for the first time in 25 years, it feels like home.

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Heidi said. “You didn’t realize you missed it until you go back.”

A donation from Arvin Sango is paying for admission for all children 14 and under to the Regatta.

Live music continues all weekend through the Roostertail Music Festival. The real excitement will begin Saturday, when the hydroplanes hit the water and the races begin.

Tickets to the racing are $25 and tickets to the music festival are $25. Visitors can pay $40 for both for the whole weekend. For more information, click or tap here.

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