July 3, 2010,
Mallow Point, Mason Neck Virginia — A pristine afternoon on the Potomac River welcomed the crowd for the fifth annual William W. Parker Memorial Mellow Beach Boat Club Power Boat Regatta.
There was an array of snacks, appetizers and drinks waiting at the end of Leggett's dock, as members of the community gathered to watch the regatta and cheer on their favorite racer.
Regatta competitors included Peter Weyland, who had his crew waxing up the bottom of his boat on the lift, just before race time; Terry Head, who vowed at last year's Regatta to take home the 2010 trophy; and of course, E. Sheldon 'El Conejo' Leggett III, two-time previous winner and current title-holder, who made a quick trip to Norfolk the day before the race to pick up a new propellor.
The Trophy stood in a place of honor at the end of the dock. Terry fondly held it and posed for photos, no doubt dreaming about how cool it was going to look in his new trophy case.
There was some early dissension in the ranks, as Ben Slye commandeered the checkered flag and proclaimed himself the finish line judge, displacing James Wilcox, who held the position in previous years.
The racers assembled at the starting line, by the Ft. Belvoir channel marker buoy and awaited the start of the race precisely at 6:00 pm, as dictated in the Regatta Rules. Regatta Committee Chairperson David Elsberg captained the start line judges vessal as Russ Hannah gave the signal to start. All those gathered on the end of the dock at the finish line aimed their cameras or peered through binoculars to get a better view of the racers as they rounded the channel marker, passed in front of Billy P's house, and headed for the finish line.
A yacht passing in the opposite direction unfortunately created a wake that slowed the racer's progress. A collective gasp passed through the onlookers as one of the boats became momentarily airborne. Two of the boats broke through the wake and headed neck and neck for the finish line. It looked like Peter had the cup in his hand until the last second when Sheldon powered forward and crossed the line first.
Those in attendance groaned, "Not Sheldon again!" We were so disappointed that Terry had not crossed the line first, as he really had his heart set on winning this year. Then we all realized that Terry had not crossed the finish line at all.
A few minutes of confusion and speculation followed as everyone wondered what happened to Terry's boat. Through binoculars we spotted him a few hundred yards back on the course with his motor cover propped up - not a good sign. On contacting Peter by mobile, it was learned that a warning alarm had sounded on Terry's boat and he shut his engine off.
Sheldon took a victory lap waving the checkered flag and looking rather smug.
Shortly after the boaters returned to the dock, rumors and accusations began to fly. It was alleged that Sheldon jumped the start gun and was therefore disqualified. Then more rumors spread that Peter violated the Rules by passing to the left of the start buoy, and was thereby disqualified. However, on reading the Regatta Rules it was clear that there was no mention as to which side of the buoy a boater must pass. Other rumors were running through the crowd that perhaps someone sabotaged Terry's boat to cause a false warning alarm.
Ignoring the shadow of controversy on his win, Sheldon, as the previous year's winner, presented the trophy to himself. Everyone raised a glass to the boaters, and took a moment to remember Billy Parker.
Following the awards ceremony, James and Jackie Wilcox and Stan Horowski grilled burgers, dogs, sausages and ribs for everyone, and a good deal of tequila was consumed as we watched a beautiful sunset.
The evening concluded with some kick-ass fireworks. No arrests were reported.