Vintage and replica hydroplanes at the Madison dock at the 2017 Madison Vintage Thunder. (Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
Vintage and replica hydroplanes at the Madison dock at the 2017 Madison Vintage Thunder. (Courier file photo by Mark Campbell)
With poor river conditions and more rain in the forecast, organizers of this weekend’s 5 to the 5 Vintage Hydros program made the decision on Monday to pull the plug on their annual two-day event.

The third annual Madison Vintage Thunder was set to be run this Saturday and Sunday on the river in downtown Madison, an annual gathering of more than 30 vintage and replica hydroplanes over a dozen different classes which were set to bring the thunderboat roar back to the Ohio River.

But with one tropical system having already moved through the area and another set to hit this weekend — plus a lot of water coming down the Ohio River from heavy rains in the northeast — organizers felt like it wasn’t worth trying to out-maneuver Mother Nature.

“It’s disheartening. But with the river already up and more rain coming we just felt like it was the right thing to do,” said Dave Johnson, one of the event’s founders and organizers. “The forecasts have (the Ohio River) at 28 feet on Friday and even if it comes down in time, then there will be debris and a lot of junk in the water. It’s just not worth it.”

While flood stage at Madison is 51 feet, it takes considerably less water to wash out a hydroplane event. The ideal water depth for the big boats is around 16 feet but anything higher than 26 feet makes it impossible to get the boats and their trailers into the pit area.

It is a problem that all race organizers, from the Madison Regatta to the 5 to the 5, have to cope with, and although river conditions are noticeably better in the fall, all it takes is a tropical system or two to disrupt plans.

With river conditions so much up in the air, Johnson and his group felt that pulling the plug earlier, rather than later, was the best course to take for all involved.

“It really wasn’t all about the river. There was also hotel rooms to consider and other things like that,” Johnson said. “Some of these people are coming from far away and we felt it was only fair to them to give them a lot of notice. It was a tough decision overall, but really it was an easy decision because we knew we wanted to let people know.”

Johnson said because of the city of Madison’s upcoming festival schedule it didn’t make sense for the event to try to reschedule. Instead, the 5 to the 5 group will now set its sights on holding the event in 2019.

“We haven’t really looked that far ahead yet but we know that we’ll back,” Johnson said. “We’ll do everything we can to put on a good show that is even bigger and better.”