Annual model boat racing event returns to Reserve

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 19, 2011



RESERVE – This weekend St. John the Baptist Parish again plays host to what is often dubbed by competitors as one of the premier events for gas powered model boat racing.

Model boat enthusiasts from across the country have returned to Reserve for the sixth straight year to compete in the annual North American Model Boat Association Nitro/Gas Nationals tournament, also known as the Voo Doo Gas World Championships. About 70 entrants have been racing more than 300 boats around an eight-acre retention pond behind St. John Airport.

The event began Thursday, but final class races for the event will run most of the day today.

“These are not like those remote control toy boats you’d find at K-Mart or Wal-Mart,” said Carlo Catalanotto, director of Voo Doo Model Boaters, the local branch of NAMBA. “These boats are intricately assembled from the ground up with quality parts and equipment.”

Mark Grim, NAMBA vice president, said the boats are broken down into 30 different classes based on size, weight, hull shape and engine size. Competitors run a six-lap race around the pond and the fastest times advance deeper into the tournament. Competitors pay an entry fee based on class and how many boats entered, but none of the races are for any prizes other than the respect of being national champion for a year.

Grim said NAMBA consists of 20 districts across the United States and Canada. Each district has individual non-profit clubs that run their own heat races throughout the year leading up to the nationals tournament. Catalanotto said the Voo Doo Boat club is one of two in the Fifth District.

“The popularity has grown dramatically since the beginning, and the club gets bigger and bigger each year,” Catalanotto said. “We’ve grown from a small group of buddies into a group of 45 with members all over the state.”

Catalanotto said the club secured use of the Reserve retention pond in 2005 after fellow boat enthusiast Mike Cantevespri spotted the land as he flew into St. John Airport.

“He saw the pond and wanted to do something with it,” Catalanotto said. “We were looking for a place locally to race boats, and the land was perfect. We are out here racing regularly.”

The event will include an after party Saturday with food and live music.

The event is free and open to the public.