Toughness, expertise helped boat racer win multiple championships, widow recalls
Published in the Asbury Park Press 7/30/04
By ED PRINCE
TOMS RIVER -- In 1999, Douglas Lewis and a friend were testing a power boat that they had just outfitted for racing when a gust of wind caught the craft and flipped it. At 180 mph, the resulting crash injured Lewis's friend and almost killed Lewis, his wife, Leeanne, said yesterday.
After a hospital stay and rehabilitation, Lewis returned to his longtime passion, racing boats, and the following year throttled the same boat to victory in a competition, his wife said. It was that same tenacity that enabled Lewis win multiple power boat racing world championships and return to racing after he was diagnosed with cancer and underwent major surgery.
Lewis died Tuesday at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune, at age 51 after a four-year battle with multiple myeloma. Leeanne Lewis recalled her husband's career in an interview following his death.
Lewis began his competitive career in the late 1970s with drag boat racing, but became expert in a wide variety of powerboat categories and raced throughout the United States and in the Middle East, his wife said.
A former racer herself, Leeanne Lewis said she and her husband met in 1989 while competing against each other. They were married in 1991.
"He was fierce," she said when asked what it was like to race her future husband. "He was the kind of guy that a lot of people begrudgingly respected."
What made her husband stand out -- and annoyed some competitors -- was his honesty, she said. Lewis adamantly refused to cheat by using over-large engines in his boats, instead relying on an intimate knowledge of the latest technology to squeeze as much power out of his regulation-size engines as possible, Leeanne Lewis said.
Because of his expertise, Lewis was recruited to race in the Mideast, where power boat racing was becoming popular. Operating three boats for a wealthy Mercedes Benz dealer and shipping magnate in Dubai, he spent about three months each year there from 1996 to 2001, his wife said.
But in 2000 Lewis was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare and aggressive form of bone marrow cancer.
In January 2001, Lewis underwent surgery to remove a femur and hip bone and replace them with internal prostheses. He resumed racing in March of that year and finished the season. But in December 2001, he was rediagnosed with cancer and in 2002 underwent chemotherapy, his wife said.
In addition to racing, Lewis also owned and operated Professional Marine Racing, a business in Brick catering to people with high-performance boats, Leeanne Lewis said. Lewis would take boat hulls provided by manufacturers and outfit them with high-power motors and other equipment, she said.
Leeanne Lewis outlined her husband's succession of world and other championships:
1989, Pro Stock Division World Championship in Konkrete Kat, serving as crew chief and throttleman. Also the same year with the same boat, he won the Northeast Division, New Jersey Governor's Cup and North American Championship.
1989, Stock World Championship in Great Adventure, serving as crew chief and throttleman. He and his crew outfitted the boat only a week before the race.
1990, Pro Stock World Championship in Insanity, serving as crew chief
1992, B Class World Championship in Buckshot, serving as crew chief and throttleman. He also won Northeast Division and National titles that year.
1994, Pro Stock World Championship in Terminator, serving as crew chief and throttleman. His team also won Northeast Division that year.
1998, Modified World Championship and Northeast Division, in In Contempt, serving as crew chief and throttleman.
1999, F-2 Division World Championship and Southeast in Team Sutphen
2000, Super V Light World Championship in Shock Wave.
In 1999, Lewis accomplished a feat never done before or since in powerboat racing, his wife said: he set two kilo (time trial) records in two different classes and then won both races, all in two days. Also that year, he was named the American Power Boat Association's Throttleman of the Year.
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