Despite Crashes, Burien Resident J.W. Myers Raced His Hydro this Weekend


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by Scott Schaefer

Burien has had a long and colorful history with unlimited hydroplanes, beginning in the late 50s/early 60s with the “Miss Burien,” then the “Burien Lady,” as well as with local Drivers like “the world’s fastest Milkman” Bill Brow, and currently, J.W. Myers, who lives here.

“J-Dub” Myers is Driver/Co-Owner of the yellow U-11 Peters and May boat, which he piloted during the Seafair hydroplane races last weekend, with hopes of re-building his 9-year unlimited driving career that has suffered some recent mishaps, including this recent blowover in Detroit July 15:

And this 2010 accident, also in Detroit, where his boat lost a skid fin, yet Myers managed to steer it away from crowded grandstands – possibly saving many lives – and instead hitting a seawall at 70MPH:

“When the fin came off I was in the tightest turn in the race,” Myers told The B-Town Blog Thursday night (Aug. 2). “I just tried to crank the wheel, but instead of turning the boat went dead straight. When the rooster tail cleared all I could see were people everywhere in front of me and I couldn’t really turn. But somehow I managed to avoid the crowd and hit the wall. But that crash was pretty brutal – it demolished the left sponson, and the front one-third of the cockpit.”

That brutal crash also nearly demolished Myers left foot, which required major surgery – including 28 screws and 5 plates – which he just recently had removed.

Oh, and did we mention his 2005 blowover crash – also in Detroit – when he flipped the U-16 Elam at 196MPH?:

Despite these serious and dramatic crashes, Myers is still driving.

“Boats are way safer than in the old days,” he said. “All three of my accidents would have been potentially fatal 30 years ago. Fortunately the development of cockpits we’re racing in today makes me feel pretty lucky. The 2005 flip at 196MPH would’ve been especially bad in an old boat.”

Myers, who hasn’t yet won a race this season, is glad to be back home.

“Detroit and I don’t seem to get along too well,” Myers added. “I’ve had three major crashes there so I’m glad to be racing back here.”

Although Lake Washington isn’t the smoothest course.

“Oh yeah, Seattle can be a pretty violent ride, that’s for sure,” Myers said about the home course, “especially with the unpredictable water, with all the boats and log boom. The inconsistent wave action here can be pretty rough. It can be windy, rough, and cool in the morning, which affects the boat differently than the warmer afternoons.”

Myers not only drives the U-11, he’s co-owner.

“During the 2011 offseason, I partnered with longtime Crew Chief Scott Raney and Team Manager Shannon Raney to form the Unlimited Racing Group,” Myers said. “We bought a boat from Ken Muscatel, whose shop is right behind my house in Burien.”

Is it a nice house at least?

“Well it’s not on Three Tree Point, I can tell you that,” he laughed. “It’s actually located underneath the third runway!”

Myers started racing boats when he was just 9-years old, then raced outboards and J (as in “Junior”) class hydros. He got his unlimited start in 2003 as crew chief for Muscatel, and was then given the opportunity to drive for Fred Leland when primary driver Greg Hopp was injured. Myers drove in three races his rookie season, posting the fastest qualifying lap in San Diego.

Currently ranked in 7th place amongst active Drivers, Myers is hoping for a successful showing during Seafair, the third of six races this year.

What’s Myers’ routine before a big race?

“Before a big race I usually just like to go out to dinner night before,” he said. “My girlfriend and I and a buddy usually hang out. We like to chill and be mellow. It’ll be total chaos in Seattle since there are so many teams and people you know, and while I’m always excited to see everyone there, I’ve got to focus on my job, so I try to relax before the big weekend.”

When not racing around the country or in far-off exotic locales like Qatar (a Sheikh named Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani sponsors a race in a saltwater bay in Doha every year, where the top 10 boats are shipped for the season finale), Myers enjoys hanging out right here in Burien.

“I’m glad I live here,” he said. “I really enjoy the downtown part of Burien, and like going to the Tin Room and other places. It’s a neat area. The only downfall is that friends want to park at my house when they go to the airport!”

Some of his career highlights:

  • 2005 Madison Regatta winner
  • 2003 Unlimited Rookie of the Year
  • Top Qualifier in San Diego 2003
  • 1999 UL Rookie of the Year
  • Five APBA National Titles
  • Set 11 World Records
  • Currently holds 3 World Records
  • 1993 George Babcock Award
  • 20 APBA Region 10 Championships

And here’s an interview with him about his U-11 boat:

And finally, here’s one more video from Detroit (!)– but rather than showing another one of Myers’ crashes, this one is a 2004 blowover of Terry Troxell driving the Miss Elam Plus, which flipped after crossing J-Dub’s wake:

You can find JW Myers online here:

UPDATE: Myers’ best performance of Seafair weekend was coming in 3rd in the Provisional Heat.

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