Racer Interviews

By Donnie Wollard


Welcome to our first Racer Interview!  I spent weeks trying to figure out who I would select for my first interview.  And then one day I though, Chris Harris.  Chris is a personal friend of mine and one of the guys responsible for getting us into Fast Electric Racing.  He is also our NAMBA District Director and one of the key guys in our club Central Florida High Voltage.  Well as they say, On with the show!  Here is my interview with Chris:


Rum Runner: Hi Chris, I want to get some background first. When did you get started in R/C? Did you start with boats or were you into something else?

Chris Harris: I started in R/C in 1987 with an RC10 off road car. In 1989 I moved on to a house boat so I thought an R/C boat would be fun. Not to mention convenient! After all I just had to do walk out my door to run my boat. So that’s how I got started in R/C boats.


RR: What was your first boat?

CH: My first boat was a ready to run Traxxas Villain. This is a good boat for someone new and that just wants to have fun.


RR: Why do like R/C Boats so much?

CH: Well I basically grew up on the St. Johns river so I’ve always had a thing for water and boats. I guess it was just a natural progression for me to end up into R/C boats. To me it’s one of the most challenging forms of R/C racing . The course conditions can change instantly. It also gives me the opportunity to do something else that I like and that’s working with my hands. Namely building my own hulls.


RR: How many boats do you own? How many are of your own design?

CH: Well I currently have seven active race boats. All but two are my own design. I actually own probably twice that many but the other hulls are basically my earlier designs that I don’t race anymore.


RR: What type of boat is your favorite, and why? (mono, hydro, tunnel, cat, etc.)

CH: Well I would have to say that my favorite kind of boat would be the fastest kind. So riggers I guess are my favorite.


RR: Many people also know you as the man behind HammerHead Marine. What is HammerHead Marine and what do you do? How is that going and where do you see this side business going?

CH: I guess you could say that Hammer Head is my brand of boat. I specifically build outriggers. My boats are not mass produced. They are all built by me personally and are for the serious racer. Each hull is built to customers specs based upon my design. I spent two years perfecting the design and I continue to update it as motors and batteries get faster. As far as the business side of it goes, I really never intended for it to be a business. However the guys in my club really wanted them so I started to build for them. After my boats did well at a couple of national events it just started to escalate from there. I’ve had offers from different companies to buy my design so that might be a possibility in the future. That would make them available to a lot more people.


RR: What advice would you give to someone who has never owned or run an R/C Boat?

CH: Well when I first got started in boats I had no one around that new anything about fast electric boats.

So my first piece of advice would be to seek out a club that they could go visit and see what it’s all about.

Once you do find someone who’s experienced don’t be afraid to ask questions. The experienced boaters have usually made all the mistakes and can save you a lot of time and aggravation .


RR: How many hours a week do you spend on your personal boats?

CH: Unfortunately I don’t have all the time I would like to spend on my boats. Before a big race though it’s nothing for me to spend thirty hours preparing the week before the race.


RR: What projects are you currently working on? Any surprises up your sleeves?

CH: I’m currently working on a 1/12 scale hydro of my own design which will see it’s racing debut at the 99 NAMBA NATS. I’m also working on a custom outboard for my OPC Tunnel.


RR: Your club (Central Florida High Voltage) is hosting the NAMBA Fast Electric NATS this year in Kissimmee, Florida. What are you doing to make this the best NATS ever? What will people be able to expect when they come to this race?

CH: We are looking at every last detail and trying to make it better. Racers will be provided with large tents, tables, chairs and plenty of AC power. There will also be a six foot tall drivers stand to provide an optimum view of the course.


RR: How do you view R/C boating, as a hobby or a sport?

CH: Well that depends on what type of boating you do. For those who don’t compete and run boats for recreation I consider this a hobby. But on the flip side when someone is just into racing I think it becomes more of a sport than a hobby.


RR: In the past few years, R/C cars have been getting more and more popular while boating hasn’t seemed to grow at such an astounding rate. Why do you think R/C cars are so much more popular? And how do you think we can turn things around?

CH: In the late 80’s R/C cars saw a peak in popularity. However in the early 90’s the popularity of cars seemed to fall off. Some industry insiders cited the rising cost of getting started in to the hobby. I see a similar trend in model boating. The car industries solution was cars like the "Legends" cars. These are really cheap but provide great racing and are surprisingly fast. Although we do have "stock" classes in model boating, the more experienced racers will always have an advantage in these classes because of their knowledge of motors.

What I think is needed is a closed end bell motor, one design, box stock class that potential boaters could get started in at a very low cost and still have a chance to be competitive in a race. The Crackerbox design was a move in the right direction. But because they are hard to drive, I’ve seen many newbie's lose interest real quick in these boats. I don’t know exactly what design would be best but I do know it needs to be easy to drive.


RR: What has been your Happiest and Worst moments in R/C Boat Racing?

CH: My worst moment has to be when I was racing at my first nationals. At the start of one of my heats I got a little anxious and ran right over another boat and I was immediately disqualified. Now that was embarrassing!!! My happiest moment was at the same race. Being new to it all I really wasn’t keeping track of my points and I thought I was going to go home empty handed. When they were handing out the trophies though I was totally surprised when they called my name for third place in Q-hydro. Even though it was a third it made the whole trip worth it.


RR: Look into the Future! What do you see happening to Fast Electric R/C Racing? What new things do you see on the horizon?

CH: Well the goal in fast electrics right now is the 80mph barrier. I think this will be broken within the next year. As far as further into the future I believe the technology will continue to improve and electric boats will be faster than ever. More importantly I think we will see a surge in popularity in electric boating in the next couple of years as long as we do the right things to make that happen.


Thanks to Chris Harris for being a great sport and telling us a little more about yourself!  If you want to get in contact with Chris you can do so by emailing him here:  hammerheadh20@juno.com

This Article was written by Donnie Wollard Exclusively for Rum Runner Racing. Use of this article is prohibited without written permission from Rum Runner Racing.


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