Last weekend I went to the Fall River Grand Prix to see speedboats from the Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA) race around a 5 mile course on the Taunton River. This was my first time at a powerboat race, and really enjoyed it. Was also great that the race was held near Battleship Cove, where the USS Massachusetts and other naval ships are moored. Hope you like the photos.Left Boston around 10.00 am and arrived at Fall River about an hour later. The first race was scheduled to start at 1.00 pm, so had plenty of time to find a car park and do some sight-seeing along the Heritage State Park Bicentennial Park Trail.
On the west-side of the river is the Brayton Point Power Station, which is a coal-fired power plant that has two, 500-foot high, cooling towers.
Down the river is Battleship Cove and the Braga Bridge.
Battleship Cove, has the largest collection of preserved US Navy ships in the world and includes the battleship USS Massachusetts (right), destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (left), submarine USS Lionfish (middle left), and PT Boats (not shown). The German corvette Hiddensee is also on display (middle right).
The USS Massachusetts (BB-59) was a WWII battleship of the South Dakota class. The ship, also known as Big Mamie, was about 35,000 tons, 681 feet in length, had a top speed of 27 knots, and a crew of 1793 men. Following the end of WWII, the USS Massachusetts was assigned to the Atlantic fleet, then decommissioned in 1947. In 1965, the Navy formally donated the ship to the Massachusetts Memorial Committee and was officially opened as a museum ship on the 14th of August 1965.
The main armament of the USS Massachusetts were 9 x 16 inch guns housed in two turrets fore and one turret at the stern of the ship.
The WWII Balao class submarine, USS Lionfish (SS-298).
Their were also a lot of nice motorboats moored along the Tauton River.
Map credit – http://www.oparacing.org/race7.html
Around 12.00 noon, started to walk back from Battleship Cove to the area where I would shoot the speedboat race. Since this was my first time at the Fall River Grand Prix, wasn’t sure where to go to see the races. Also, the boats would mainly be backlit, since the races were in the afternoon and the only land bound location close to the race circuit was on the east side of the river. After studying the maps above and YouTube videos of last years race, decided to go to the small horseshoe cove (lower map above, at very tip of the left-hand part of the cove). Picked this location since it provided a front view of the boats heading along the shoreline into Turn 1 (green marking), side-shots from Turns 1 to 2, then into Turn 2. Hence, this location provided a variety of shots, as well as the Braga Bridge in the background. As mentioned above, the only problem with this location was that the afternoon sun would be mainly behind the boats. Hence, the boats would be backlit and their would be a lot of glare on the water surface (next time I’ll remember to bring some polarizer filters). However, that was okay, since it provided some artistic opportunities, as you will see below. For camera gear, used two Canon 5D Mark IIIs, a Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II (and 1.4x and 2.0x extenders III), 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, and a monopod.
A funny thing happened before the start of the race. I was looking through the camera viewfinder checking out locations to shoot, then heard a whirring noise. Looked up, and saw a drone overhead. Its turn out a videography was covering the start of the race from this location as well.
Race fans and officials were ready for the start of Race 1. Also noticed their were boats carrying red flags, which I think were official boats separating each speedboat class before the start of the race.
A Super Vee Lite Class boat, #32 Woah Mamma! Boats of this class have a canopy, are limited to 30 feet in length, with unlimited speed powered by a single 525 EFI engine.
Super Vee Lite Class boats, #29 Typhoon and #13 WeHaulBoats.com speeding past the Borden Flats Lighthouse in the background.
Really liked the long and sleek lines of the #29 Typhoon.
A wide shot of the boats speeding into and around Turn 2.
Was interesting to watch boats of the different classes take different lines into Turn 2. Naturally, the larger boats would take wider lines around the marker buoy, and smaller boats would take a narrower line. Spectators at Turn 2 had a great view of boats passing each other as they exited this turn.
As the boats decelerated into the turn, a wall of water would appear to engulf the boat.
The Class 5 boat, #532 Woah Mama! III, entering and exiting Turn 2. Class 5 boats are limited to 30 feet in length, with a top speed of 75 mph using a single motor.
The sleek lines of the Class 5 boat, #502 Reindl Powerboats / Wanna Race?
Race 2 started around 3.00 pm, and first out were three boats of the Thundercats Class (P750). This class of boat is an open inflatable design, 13 to 14 feet in length, with an unlimited top speed powered by a single outboard motor. The boats have a crew of two, with the person in the rear controlling the outboard motor and the person in the front controlling the stability of the boat. Was really cool watching these boats skim over the water and take the turns with a very narrow line.
The Extreme Class boats competed in race two. These impressive “space-age” looking boats have a canopy for the crew, are 40 to 50 feet in length, with an unlimited top speed powered by turbine/piston powered motors. The #105 Lightning Jacks leading Alex and Ani into Turn 1 at the start of the race.
#105 Lightning Jacks speeding across the water and through the afternoon haze.
The 42-foot catamaran, Alex and Ani, is powered by twin 1,500 hp turbo Stotler racing engines, and won the Extreme Class. Seeing the amount of water turbulence they created as they decelerated to navigate the corners was incredible. The lower shot above gives you an idea of the wall of water that was created in front of Alex and Ani as the #105 Lighting Jacks was turning into Turn 2.
The late afternoon back-lighting of the boats and glare coming off the water surface presented some artistic opportunities with panning shots at shutter speeds around 1/50th of a second. Depending on the angle of the light, slow shutter speeds caused the water to look silky smooth (top) or very harsh (bottom). In either case, black and white processing emphasized these slow shutter speed effects.
Towards the end of the race used the supports of the Braga Bridge to “frame” the boats as they raced right to left, then back again. Had a great afternoon covering the Fall River Grand Prix. I think I’ve caught the “speedboat racing bug” and will try to go to more races in the future.