Boat racing has rich history in north country

Boat racing's rich history in the north country
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 6:09 AM EDT
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Reporter Emily Griffin takes us to the Thousand Islands, where several local boat racers made national waves.

CLAYTON, New York (WWNY) - “That’s my father, Riggs,” former boat racer Scott Smith said, indicating a newspaper clipping. “That’s the year he won the marathon and set the record in the same year.”

Smith has racing in his blood. In 1964, his dad set a world record for a special kind of boating.

“This kind of racing is called stock outboard racing where you take a store-bought outboard motor and put it on a boat, usually home-built,” Smith said.

His family is known for success in the Thousand Islands Regatta, an international marathon.

“Some years they had over 100 boats,” he said, “all running at the same time starting in Alexandria Bay, to Clayton, to Brockville. They would get racers from all over the country, and they would get 60,000 people lining the river.”

Bill Saiff Jr. remembers his racing years fondly.

“Well, I like to go fast in boats, that’s why I got into it,” Saiff said.

He won the highpoints championship in 1960 and defended that title two more years.

“Here’s a paper article, ‘Bill Saiff wins national outboard title,’” he said. “This is my boat, the Lake Louse,” he said, pointing at a framed photo.

Martha Grimes got involved after her father-in-law was a racer, then her husband, and her children.

“This is my son racing in the 8N which is 850 cc hydro,” Grimes said. “It’s a carbon fiber laydown boat.”

Although the boats have evolved through the years, one thing has stayed the same: the thrill.

“It was a crazy time, but I always said if I could do my life over again, those were the years I’d want to do again, because boat racing was fun,” Saiff said.

North country waters are rich with outboard racing history, and it’s a tradition that won’t sink anytime soon.

This weekend is the annual race on Crystal Lake near Redwood.