PORT ANGELES — Taylor Gahr, who will start her junior year at Sequim High School in a couple of weeks, is spending the summer navigating sprint boats that go 80- to 90-mph on a curvy water course.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Nicole Brown of Port Angeles drove in her very first sprint boat race during Saturday’s Extreme Sports Park racing event just west of Port Angeles.
Just don’t say that the extreme sport of sprint boats isn’t for young women.
“The more throttle the better,” Brown said about driving for the first time.
“It’s the adrenaline [that I love about the sport],” Gahr, 17, said.
The two were performing before 8,000-plus of their friends, families and just plain racing fans from around the Pacific Northwest at the first race of the year at Extreme Sports Park.
The facility, just one of two sprint boat tracks in the state and one of just a few in the Northwest, was hosting the fourth U.S. Sprint Boat Association’s Series Points Race of the year.
Port Angeles also will be hosting the sixth and final race of the season, for the National Finals Championship, on Sept. 8.
There are three classes of boats with a driver and a navigator for each boat.
Each boat races against the clock with the fastest boats in the preliminary rounds advancing to the championship rounds, with boats earning points toward the national championship points title.
In the first five races of the season, all the boats scramble to earn points for the final goal of winning the season-long national title.
Taylor Gahr’s father, Paul Gahr of Sequim, won the A-400 national finals race championship last year and was second in the overall national championship with his son, Josh Gahr, as the navigator.
This year Taylor has taken over navigator duties in her father’s boat for the first time.
And she is having the time of her life.
“I love the technical aspects of it,” Taylor Gahr said.
And it’s the technical part of racing where the Gahrs do their best driving and navigating Live Wire No. 02 for TNT Racing.
“There are a couple of boats faster than we are [in the A-400 category], but where we do good is the courses like here in Port Angeles where technical techniques can be used,” Paul Gahr said.
Where Live Wire struggles is at fast tracks like the one in Albany, Ore., where the straightaway is 600 feet long, giving the advantage to the faster boats.
The navigator’s duties is memorizing the course route, a complicated route that is given just the night before the race, and then at speeds up to 90 mph with the route changing every few seconds, keeping the driver on the correct course with the use of hand signals.
Navigators have to think and act fast.
Taylor Gahr is handing the stress well.
“Once I get into the race, my mind just slows everything down,” she said.
Will Taylor Gahr be moving up to the driving ranks at some point?
“Yes,” her father said quickly. “I would love that.”
“I need more seat time before I try driving,” Taylor said.
Nicole Brown, meanwhile, took her first step into the driving ranks Saturday after navigating all season for her father, Wayne Brown of Port Angeles in boat No. 18 for Twisted Motorsports.
Nicole Brown is racing in the super modified division while her father races in the A-400 category.
Wayne is racing in the bigger-engine division with an exemption because his 400 engine blew up and he replaced it with a super-modified size for the rest of the season.
“I still get the points by racing, but I won’t win [in A-400],” he said about competing with the smaller engine.
Nicole, meanwhile, is racing in super modified with Jana Horton of Jolly Rogers race group — a friend she met on the racing circuit — navigating.
Jolly Rogers, also racing Saturday, is based in Tacoma.
Expect Nicole Brown to drive faster boats soon.
She likes speed and the super modified division just isn’t doing it for her.
“It’s slow,” she said about the speed of the super-modified engine. “We don’t have a speedometer on the boat, so I don’t know how fast I’m going, but it’s really slow.”
That doesn’t appear to be the case with a plume of water rising several feet into the air behind the boat as it cuts through the muddy water.
Wayne Brown, an ex-stock car racer, was discussing with his daughter about both of them getting into the drag or stock-car racing circuit a couple of years ago.
But that plan went by the wayside when the two of them saw a sprint boat race.
“We both just got hooked to sprint boats,” she said.
“It will be just sprint boats for us.”
It’s the sport of the future, Nicole said.
“It’s technical and exciting,” she added. “It’s an up-and-coming sport.”
This up-and-coming sport has sure drawn in the crowds for the two times it has been held on the North Olympic Peninsula the past two years.
The Extreme Sports Park was ready just in time for the national championship races last year.
“It’s great to have this in our own community,” Paul Gahr said.
“It’s good for the economy, and now my friends and family can see in person why I’m so excited about the sport.”
The Gahrs had family flying in from Ohio just for the event.
A Canadian racing organization, Fat Buddy of Vancouver, just loves coming to race here.
“This is a very awesome track,” Bill Reichert, a driver for Fat Buddy’s No. 54 boat in super modified, said.
“It is really good to race on, it is great for spectators to watch, and you can tell a lot of thought went into it.”
Fat Buddy was the biggest racing group at the event with six boats.
“We’re here for fun,” Reichert said. “We’re just a bunch of friends having a good time.”
Just like the thousands of spectators spending a few hours on a warm summer day Saturday with their friends and families having a good time watching one of the newest speed sports out there.