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With UAW-GM backing, Detroit's 200-mph hydroplane races return this weekend

2014 Detroit Gold Cup The 2014 Detroit Gold Cup races, as seen from Waterworks Park on Saturday, July 12.
David Muller | By David Muller |
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on August 20, 2015 at 9:20 AM, updated August 20, 2015 at 10:24 AM

DETROIT, MI - Part of a tradition on the Detroit River that dates back almost 100 years - racing extremely fast boats - was nearly ended after 2014. 

The Detroit River Regatta Association said last November "a measurable weakness in sponsorship" meant they had to cancel the Gold Cup races, which feature Unlimited hydroplanes that can go faster than 200 miles per hour.

But UAW-GM has since stepped in to sponsor the Gold Cup and the races, now known as UAW-GM Presents the Spirit of Detroit Hydrofest, meaning the ultra-fast Unlimited hydroplanes will return to the Detroit River Aug. 27 & 28. 

Tickets range from $45-80 for grandstand seats. But admission is free at Emma Henderson Park, Memorial Annex Park and Owen Park. Full ticket info is at

Some of what you can expect to see along the 2.5-mile course off the shores of Detroit's Belle Isle this weekend includes: 

Unlimited hydroplanes, the fastest and most-powerful closed-course boats in the world, will be racing at speeds in excess of 200 mph;

Grand Prix boats with big-block engines producing some 1,300 horsepower will be hitting speeds of 170 mph;

And Formula II "tunnel boats" will hit speeds of 115 mph.

The Detroit River played host to its first sanctioned hydroplane race in 1916. The races took a hiatus during World War II, but have otherwise been an annual event.

"The UAW-GM partnership continues to reshape the local community," Mark Weber, Executive Director of the Detroit Riverfronts Festival, said in a release. "They are keeping the hydroplane racing tradition alive and giving back to the city by hosting this event for the many charities and children it supports."


Members and friends of the Detroit Yacht Club are engaged supporters of the Unlimited Class Hydroplane Races that occur annually on the Detroit River.  Beginning in 2011, the DYC became the Presenting Sponsor of the event. 

The APBA Gold Cup, first presented in 1904, is the ultimate motorsport prize, considered the most prestigious powerboat racing trophy in the world. The Gold Cup began its relationship with Detroit more than 100 years ago and it is the oldest annual unlimited hydroplane race in the world.