Kentucky

Lake Cumberland to host boat races

SOMERSET — How better to show there's a lot of water in a lake than with races featuring big, fast boats that cover miles during competition?

That's one potential benefit of bringing an event to Lake Cumberland this weekend featuring Offshore Super Series boats that more often race on the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the boats are more than 40 feet long; others can hit speeds well over 150 mph.

"We are going to send the message that if you can race these big, bad boats on Lake Cumberland, there's surely enough water" for recreational boating and water sports, said Hilda Legg, coordinator for the event.

The lake has suffered from a perception the past two years that the water level was too low.

That's because the Army Corps of Engineers has kept the level about 40 feet below the usual summer mark to ease pressure on Wolf Creek Dam while contractors seal leaks.

The lake is still one of the largest in the state, with about 36,000 surface acres. But some people still hold the mistaken impression that it's essentially dry, Legg said.

Coverage of the boat races will showcase the lake and help dispel misconceptions, Legg said.

The races will be broadcast in June on Fox Sports Network, said Ron Polli, president of the Offshore Super Series.

There are pre-race activities scheduled Friday and races Saturday and Sunday.

The event, called the Lake Cumberland Grand Prix, also will kick off the traditional summer tourism season a couple of weeks early.

The event could have a significant economic benefit as visitors stay, eat and shop near the lake, Legg said.

"I describe this as our self-help stimulus package," she said.

Legg said the budget to bring the event to Lake Cumberland and promote it was $170,000. Businesses, several local governments and the Kentucky Sports Authority have put in money to help sponsor the event.

The Kentucky Sports Authority, an agency of the Commerce Cabinet, contributed $25,000, said Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.

State officials thought the event would be a good way to promote tourism in the lake area, Lawson said.

Polli said the OSS Powerboat Racing Association usually has six to nine races a year. This is the first year the boats have come to Lake Cumberland. Between 25 and 30 boats in various classes will make the trip, Polli said.

People will be able to watch the powerful boats race over the 6-mile course from the water or from spots on the shore. Halcomb's Landing, near Wolf Creek Dam in Russell County, is the headquarters for the event.

In addition to the races, there will be other events, such as entertainment and opportunities to meet drivers. For a complete schedule and information on prices and parking access, go to www.lakecumberlandgrandprix.com.

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