Southern Nationals brings thrill, danger of drag boat racing to Augusta

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There's a need for speed at the annual Augusta Southern Nationals...but with boats topping out at speeds of over 200 miles an hour, safety is a big concern.

Rescue teams are hard at work on the water.

It's the thrill of the ride that keeps drag boat racers in the driver's seat, and spectators at the edge of theirs.

"To go from 0 to 200 miles per hour in three seconds on water is unbelievable," one driver said.

Yet what many forget is just how quickly it can take a turn for the worst.

"Just keep an eye on things and do what we got to do," said Paul Hosler, director of the International Hot Boat Association Rescue Team. Right as he finished speaking, a loud noise and cries of "Whoa! Whoa!" rang out behind him, so "Okay, I got to go," he said, unclipping his mike and ducking off screen.

In this case, a deafening crash signaled what could have been a deadly accident.

"We had a boat break a steering cable so he veered left and almost took out another boat," Hosler explained after the incident was over.

The accident was a reminder of why drag boat racing is considered one of the world's most dangerous sports.

"You get real high-speed crashes, and you never know if the capsule's going to be floating or if the driver's going to be under the water, whether he's hurt, uninjured...there's a lot of stuff going on, so it takes a long time to get somebody trained up to do something like this," Hosler explained.

Those dangers are why the IHBA Rescue Team never lets the dozens of men who put their lives on the line for the thrill of the ride travel alone.

Fortunately, there was only one accident during the entire three-day event. It happened Sunday, and there were no serious injuries.