The weekend forecast calls for clear skies in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, but there will be thunder.
Instead of coming from lightning strikes, it will emanate from internal combustion engines of souped-up jet boats as they power across the flats and negotiate the rapids of the Snake River.
The now annual Thunder on the Snake marathon jet boat race starts tonight with a boat show and shine from 4-9 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston followed by two days of racing starting Saturday. Organizer Cathy Fuller of Clarkston said about 17 boats are expected to participate in the race that requires teams to tap a combination of speed, skill and mechanical endurance to complete, let alone win.
As in years past, the race will feature a two-leg trip from Hells Gate Marina to Bear Bar and back on Saturday and Sunday and shorter circuit races between the marina and Three Mile Island on Saturday afternoon.
Racers will depart for Bear Bar, 32 miles upstream, in 1-minute intervals, by class, starting at 9:15 a.m. Saturday. Once there, they will take a break and then make the return trip, again in 1-minute intervals, starting at 11:45 a.m.
The circuit races, featuring mass starts by class, begin at 2:15, 3 and 3:45 p.m. Racers will start adjacent to the Lewiston Elks Lodge and head upstream, circle around Three Mile Island and race back to the start. They will each repeat the circuit three times.
Fuller said the circuit race is a crowd favorite because the mass start often results in boats being bunched up, and passes and jockeying for position are not uncommon.
“It’s more fun for spectators because you are seeing more boats, and they go around three times,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
On Sunday racers again make a two-leg trip to Bear Bar and back starting at 9:15 and 11:45 a.m. A 3 p.m. awards ceremony will be held at the Red Lion.
Several safety boats will help control traffic on the Snake River during the race. Each boat will have a ham radio operator and a medic aboard. They will make sure other recreation boaters and tour boats are out of the way as racers proceed up and down the river.
Barker may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.
If you go
Tonight: Show and shine, 4-9 p.m., Red Lion Hotel
Saturday: Races start at Hells Gate Marina at 9:15 a.m. Circuit races start at 2:15 p.m.
Sunday: Race start at 9:15 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. Awards ceremonty is at 3 at Red Lion.