NINE AT MADISON: The U-9 Jones Racing (above), driven by Andrew Tate, finished fourth at Madison in 2016 but Tate went on to post a win at Seattle and a runner-up at San Diego and finish third in the 2016 national high points standings. Tate earned Rookie of the Year honors. (Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
NINE AT MADISON: The U-9 Jones Racing (above), driven by Andrew Tate, finished fourth at Madison in 2016 but Tate went on to post a win at Seattle and a runner-up at San Diego and finish third in the 2016 national high points standings. Tate earned Rookie of the Year honors. (Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
After nearly a week of negotiations, the Madison Regatta has found its fourth Unlimited hydroplane to compete in this summer’s modified race format, the organization announced on Wednesday.

The U-9 Jones Racing Team, driven by Andrew Tate, has agreed to come to Madison to compete in the four-boat shootout the Regatta has planned for Fourth of July weekend. The Jones team will join the U-1 Miss HomeStreet Bank/Miss Madison, driven by Jimmy Shane, the U-11 Unlimited Racing Group, piloted by Tom Thompson, and the U-27 Wiggins Racing, driven by Cal Phipps, at this year’s event.

The Regatta originally announced that it would be going with a four-boat, non-points race this season over the winter but finding a fourth boat to take part has proven to be difficult. That finally changed this weekend.

“After numerous phone calls, insults, name calling, discussions and negotiations, we’ve finally been able to get four boats,” Regatta President Dan Cole joked at Wednesday’s general membership meeting. “It wasn’t easy but we got what we wanted: four really fast, competitive boats that are going to put on a great show.”

Dwindling attendance, poor water conditions and a sport that is becoming harder and harder to market forced Cole and the Regatta leadership to make a tough decision this past winter. Cole approached H1 Unlimited with three different plans with different payouts based on different numbers of boats and H1 chose the option of a four-boat, non-points race at $15,000 per team.

Last Thursday, Cole gave H1 a new proposal for six boats at $13,500 in an effort to increase his event’s prestige but H1 declined that offer. At that point, it was a negotiation to find the fourth boat to participate.

For his part, Cole has not ruled out a six-boat event this year but said the chances of that happening are not good.

“The door has been cracked open for a six-boat race, but we’re not going to pay any extra. We simply can’t,” Cole said. “It’s not likely to happen but the door is cracked. But right now, we’re preparing for four boats.”

Cole was also quick to point out that Unlimiteds are not the only show that will be on the water race weekend. Ten automotive-powered Grand Prix World class boats — raceboats that are just slightly smaller than the Unlimiteds — are scheduled to stage a points race assuring that both Saturday and Sunday will be jam-packed with action.

“Everybody keeps saying that we’re only going to have four boats. It’s simply not true,” Cole said. “We’re going to have 14 boats and our pits our going to be packed. We’ve got 10 of the fastest automotive-powered boats in the world and the four fastest turbine-powered boats in the world. What else can you ask for?”

In other business:

• There are still nine days left in the Madison Regatta’s buy three, get one free wristband promotion. Until April 15, fans can get four bands for the price of three by visiting www.madisonregatta.com.

“You save $5 and it helps us out,” Cole said. “It’s a great deal.”

• Applications for vendors will be available on the Regatta’s website by this weekend.

• There will no air show this year but Race Chairman Matt True said that the possibility of a fly-by by either the U.S. Navy or the Air National Guard remains a possibility. The Regatta is still waiting to hear back from both service branches.

• The first round of nominations for 2018 officers was held. A second round of nominations, along with elections, will be held at the group’s May meeting.

The next general membership meeting of the Madison Regatta will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3, at the VFW Post 1969 on the hilltop.