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Old 05-08-2006, 08:28 AM
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Racing on the river
Fighter pilots win Pickwick Challenge power boat race

By PETE WICKHAM
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PICKWICK LANDING - Allen Campbell, a retired F-16 fighter pilot with the Florida Air National Guard, spent two frustrating years looking for the right guy to drive his "Screamin' Eagle" offshore power boat. Little did he know his wife would find the answer - sitting atop the instrument panel of an F-16.

"We were thinking about running an ad in Powerboat magazine," Lou Anne Campbell said. "But we pick up a copy, and they ran a photo of an F-16 with a copy of the magazine showing in the cockpit."

Through a series of e-mails, they found Lt. Matt Jones of the Illinois Air Guard in Springfield, Ill. The pair clicked well enough to win the season-ending Offshore Super Series World Championship event last fall in St. Petersburg, Fla., and finish second in the season points chase.

They got 2006 off to a good start Sunday, easily winning the V-Class Lite race that opened the second Pickwick Challenge OSS event on the Tennessee River.

The Screamin' Eagle was one of nearly 50 boats in six classes that came to Pickwick this time around.

"The teams love this place," said Dave Scott of Edwardsville, Ill., who owns the Budweiser Select boat that has dominated the sport's top (Extreme) the past five years, and won easily Sunday. "Calmer water (compared to ocean races, with its spine-compressing tidal chop), nice surroundings and friendly people."

Dave Woods of Pier 57, a marine dealership in nearby Counce, was delighted to see so many racers - but the fact that they came to his shop for repairs "left me and my throttle man (Reggie Fountain III) with about eight hours of sleep in four days. The race was an afterthought for us."

Crowds were appreciative but chilly through much of the afternoon.

Joshua Weakley, of Memphis, was cheering much of the afternoon from his wheelchair, while he and his mother Janie shared a blanket.

"Good thing we brought it," she said. "I'm freezing!"

But Weakley's father John said, "Joshua wouldn't have forgiven us if we hadn't come. He loves this, and all the races we can get to."

The race was the first on the nine-event OSS schedule, and a shakedown for most of the teams. "It doesn't look it, since the boat itself is almost 10 years old, but we changed the motor and a lot of the electronics, and we ran pretty good," said Campbell, 56, and about to retire after 29 years with Delta Air Lines. Campbell is the throttle man in the team, monitoring acceleration of the boat's high-performance engine.

Jones, who is the driver, had a performance boat he used for joy riding but admits "this is a totally different experience. But it's a lot of fun to drive."

Campbell, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., said, "We hit it off right away, and obviously, the fighter background lends itself to what we do in the boat."

He said their goal is to win the points championship, and it would do them well to do so before August - when Jones and his unit return to Iraq for a third tour of duty there since 2002.

"It's only 30 days, but I'll miss one race, maybe two," said Jones, who laughed at the suggestion he could put an "I'd rather be racing" bumper sticker on his plane.

"No, he'd rather be flying an F-16," Campbell countered.

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Old 05-08-2006, 09:57 AM
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