HAMPTON — Robert Flaathen gazed out across the water from atop a stand of bleachers on the East Mercury Bridge on Saturday afternoon. Hundreds crowded the railings and bleachers on the bridge to watch powerboats capable of reaching 150 mph rip across Mill Creek at the 88th Hampton Cup Regatta.
"I love the noise," Robert said. "It gets your heart going." When a pack of hydroplane boats thundered past, sounding like a few dozen motorcycles roaring in unison, he laughed. "How can you not love that?"
Robert, who grew up in Hampton before moving out of Hampton Roads at the age of 20, attended the 1984 Hampton Cup Regatta, but the details were fuzzy — he was just six when he attended that first Hampton Cup.
It had been a decade since either Robert or his wife, Kristine, had been to a regatta. Robert liked to frequent regattas on the Ohio River, where he spent summers when he was younger. He and his brother would go out on a boat and watch races from right there on the water. Kristine had been to speedboat events in Las Vegas, where the family had lived before they moved to Virginia Beach last year.
Nineteen years later, Robert returned to Hampton to share the thrill of high-speed motorboat racing with his daughters.
"(Regattas) are family-friendly. Everyone's friendly, the weather's good and the food is good," Kristine said around 2 p.m. on Saturday. At the time, the sun was still out and a cool breeze was blowing off the water as the bright blurs roared past.
Five-year-old Maxine stared open-mouthed at the red and yellow boats trailing rooster tails of water spray, which Kristine likened to the famous fountains in front of the Bellagio Casino in her hometown. This was the first powerboat race for Maxine and her sister Lauren, 7.
"I like the fast ones," Maxine said. Why?
"Because they go fast." Obviously.
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