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Bellevue man finds his calling after retirement

Top: Bellevue resident Steve Peterson works on the U-5 Formula hyrdoplane boat. Bottom: The U-5 Formula boat closes in on the U-1 Oberto boat during a race last summer. - Courtesy photos
Top: Bellevue resident Steve Peterson works on the U-5 Formula hyrdoplane boat. Bottom: The U-5 Formula boat closes in on the U-1 Oberto boat during a race last summer.
— image credit: Courtesy photos

Steve Peterson grew up watching hydroplane races from the shoreline of Lake Washington, near his childhood home.

Now this lifelong Belleuve resident is part of the action as a crewmember for Formulaboats.com, which had headed overseas for the Oryx Cup-UIM World Championship.

The competition takes place Nov. 19-21 in the tiny Pesian Gulf country of Qatar, where boat racing has been gaining in popularity the past decade.

It's the first time this event has taken place outside North America. The last was held in San Diego four years ago.

“This could open up a lot of doors to other countries,” Peterson said.

Overall, the Formula team includes 14 boats, two of which – the U-5 and U-7 – are heavyweights in the unlimited division.

Peterson works on the Formula U-5 boat, which ranks second in this year's points standings behind Oh Boy! Oberto.

There are only 216 points separating the two boats, making this the closest competition ever going into the world championship, according to Oryx Cup-UIM World Championship spokesman Owen Blauman.

“We’ve got a real good shot at the whole ball of wax,” Peterson said.

Any given boat can earn up to 400 points per heat during the preliminary rounds of an unlimited race.

Peterson first started working with race boats in 2002, and it was curiosity that helped him get a foot in the door. He was nosing around the Hydroplane & Race Boat Museum while crews were rebuilding a 1980 Atlas Van Lines unlimited boat, and a supervisor decided to put him to work.

Peterson had no formal training with boat building or mechanics, but he’d helped friends tinker with cars and personal watercraft. In other words, he knew his way around a toolbox.

Peterson worked at the museum under the guidance of Ron Brown, former crew chief of the Budweiser and Miss U.S. racing teams.

"There couldn't be a better person to learn from," Peterson said. "He has the best crew-chief record in the history of the sport."

Peterson retired in 2008 from his life with KIRO radio as airborne traffic-and-news reporter Steve Sanders. He now works solely for the Formula unlimited team, spending most of his summer days touring the country for races.

“I never worked harder in my life than I have since retiring,” he said.

Peterson’s primary responsibility on the Formula crew is dealing with motors and gearboxes, although he lends a hand wherever help is needed.

“The work can be very frustrating and extremely rewarding at the same time," he said. "You know when there's an accident that you really have your work cut out for you.

“I’m loving every bit of it. I only wish I’d retired earlier so I could have been involved longer.”

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