Columbia Cup smooth sailing for Oberto

Kennewick – Steve David gave Art Oberto a victory at Seafair two years ago for his 80th birthday present.

Scrambling to figure out what to buy the Beef Jerky king for his upcoming 82nd birthday, David settled for a victory at the 44th Columbia Cup on Sunday.

While he was at it, the 55-year-old driver of the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto gave himself a little present: the national points lead.

A day after taking the lead over Auburn’s Dave Villwock – only to give it back an hour later when he was penalized 150 points for a lane infraction – David was perfect on Sunday, winning his three heats.

“People always ask me which one of my victories is special,” David said. “Well every one of them is so special. It took me 20 years of driving unlimiteds to get to this point, so I’m enjoying all nine of my wins.”

It was a weekend when almost everything went right for David and Oberto, while most things went wrong for Villwock and the U-16 Miss Elam Plus team.

Starting with a wiring short on Friday, the Elam had plenty of problems. They included being penalized a lap in Saturday’s Heat 1A, to losing all points in Sunday’s Heat 2B to a fuel flow violation.

“I cannot recall a weekend where we had more bugaboos,” said Elam team manager Erick Ellstrom. “Even when we flipped the boat a few years ago and came back to win, we had an easier time than we had today.”

Because of Elam’s woes, David and Oberto were easily the top team Sunday. The hardest part for David was waiting two hours after its last preliminary until the final.

“It always is,” David said. “But this was mine to lose.”

With seven boats in the final, the Columbia was a nasty river.

J.W. Myers, driving the U-37 Hoss Mortgage for injured Jean Theoret, hit the start line sprinting and was first to the first turn.

David, careful not to jump the gun, fell a few seconds behind. But David was in firm command coming out the turn and easily ran to victory in the five-lap final.

Villwock, meanwhile, had the unfamiliar role of driving the trailing boat to start because the Elam hadn’t compiled enough points during the weekend.

“It’s that Refuse to Lose thing,” Villwock said about choosing to run as the trailer boat. “It’s that national points thing, and we totally tanked it this weekend.”

Racing on rough water broke the left sponson and damaged a wing – about $10,000 in damage, Villwock estimated.

“Any points we could get was worth it,” said Ellstrom. “But Steve David drove a wonderful race.”

Jeff Bernard drove the U-5 to a second-place finish, while Myers finished third in the U-37.

Earlier in the day, J.Michael Kelly flipped the U-7 Graham Trucking in a straightaway of heat 2A. Kelly came out of the boat quickly, shaken but unhurt.

David heads to Seattle with a 4,560-3,941 lead over Villwock with three races remaining.