Big Boys, Fast Toys

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Leaving tall wakes of spraying water in their path, the fastest vehicles ever to touch the waters of Green Valley Lake created a buzz Thursday morning.

Radio-controlled boat racer Tim Tustison of Payson tested his fastest boats, including a four-time national champion craft, on the lake in preparation for a nationwide competition being held in Mesa this weekend.

Passers-by stopped to watch the sleek-bodied boats as they nearly flew across the water, emitting a high-pitched buzzing sound.

"I love everything about it," Tustison said. "It occupies your mind and makes you work hard for what you get -- the goals you set. When you first start out sport boating, it's about having fun. You can buy a starter boat for a couple hundred dollars. But when you start racing, it's different. Your heart starts racing and the tension gets high."

Tustison, who currently owns eight boats, said the high-speed racing vehicles come with high-dollar price tags.

"These boats can cost $750 to $1000," he said. "That's why it's important to have a sponsor. My sponsor is finedesignrc.com. Most all this is done over the Internet right now."

But even without a sponsor, Tustison said there is a less expensive classification for competitive racing called the Crackerbox Class.

Tustison, 53, has been racing radio control boats on and off since 1974.

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In preparation for a national competition in Mesa this weekend, Payson resident Tim Tustison tested several of his high-speed remote-controlled racing boats on Green Valley Lake Thursday. This merged photo illustrates the speed and maneuverability of the powerful electric motor boats.

Last year he set two national records for fastest times, using electric motor boats in straightaway and oval course competitions. Other racing forums include boats that run on nitro -- a mix of methanol, castor bean oil and nitromethane.

"Electrics are now the fastest RC boats in the world," Tustison said. "The nitro guys claimed their boats were faster, but it wasn't official."

Tustison explained that official claims among boat racers are closely monitored and involve high-tech transponders and timing equipment.

Tustison's previous world-record boat reached a top straightaway speed of 106.5 mph. The current world record for one-way straightaway in the same class is 111 mph. The fastest boat in a larger class is owned by a German modeler and holds the highest recorded speed of 133 mph.

"That's when it really gets tense. There are up to ten boats racing at one time. If you collide with another boat, or hit a piece of wood floating in the water, your boat can be badly damaged or sink."

So how do you retrieve a $1000 RC boat if it sinks? "We use scuba divers," Tustison said. "That's generally the only way to get them back."

But even at the risk of losing a boat, Tustison said it's all worth it. "Racing the boats helps me feel like a big kid," Tustison said. "That's the best part about it -- I don't want to grow up."

Tustison will be racing in the Winter Warm-up competition at Dobson Park Ranch in Mesa on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 4-5.

To watch videos of last year's national championship races, visit www.bbyracing.com. To learn more about RC boat racing, visit the North American Model Boat Association Web site at www.namba.com.

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