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HYDROPLANES: TJ grad Jamie Nilsen finishes seventh at Seafair
Jamie Nilsen reached the pinnacle of boat racing in the United States last weekend when he drove an unlimited hydroplane in the final heat of the Albert Lee Cup at Seafair Sunday on Lake Washington.
The 2003 Thomas Jefferson graduate and his U-48 Snoqualmie Casino boat ended up finishing in seventh place in the seven-boat Albert Lee Cup championship heat. But the 28-year-old gained plenty of experience being in the cockpit of the turbine-powered hydroplane over the course of the weekend.
Nilsen started racing boats as a 12-year-old with his father, Jim, a former teacher and coach at Todd Beamer High School. He has won a pair of national outboard motor championships and first drove an unlimited hydroplane three years ago, but it wasn't enough to qualify as a certified racer.
That didn't happen until the last weekend in July at the Columbia Cup in the Tri-Cities. To qualify as an unlimited driver, Nilsen had to run 10 laps at more than 130 mph and drive two heats as the trailer boat. That's where you have to start five seconds behind all the other boats during a race.
Nilsen eventually finished in sixth-place in the Tri-Cities in the seven-boat final, setting up his weekend in Seattle.
Primarily an outboard driver, Nilsen won his two outboard national championships and set eight competition world records. He was inducted into the APBA Hall of Champions in 2000 and again in 2002.
But Nilsen is used to being successful on the sporting field. He was an NAIA All-American as a shortstop on the Central Washington University. He was the two-time Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year (2007, '08) and owns virtually every major hitting record in CWU history.
Nilsen finished his career batting .399 with 29 home runs, 183 runs batted in, and was named to the all-GNAC first team an unprecedented four-straight years. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Royals in 2008 and played a season in Rookie Ball for the organization before giving up the baseball dream to concentrate on boat racing.
Following his baseball career, Nilsen worked as a crew member on the Go Fast Turn Left team owned by Greg and Brian O'Farrell.
The O'Ferrells, who own the U-21 Miss Albert Lee Appliances driven by Brian Perkins, decided they’d run a second boat at Seafair. Nilsen was the guy they decided would drive the second boat in Seattle.