Alex Poliakoff isn’t used to this feeling.

The feeling that comes with a summer on the sidelines, a rarity for the 73-year-old Bowdoinham resident. He’s been working in his garage, fixing up boats and parts for himself and customers as he has for years, or teaching flight lessons, another side passion of his. So he’s been busy in all areas, save for one — the competitive side, as one of the region’s most successful powerboat racers in the American Power Boat Association’s Stock Outboard D Hydro Division.

The summer’s approaching its end, and Poliakoff’s next race this season will be his first.

“People with outboard motors needing them fixed and everything came out of the woodwork, and I didn’t have my boats rigged or my engines put together,” Poliakoff said. “So I didn’t make the first race or the second or the third, and I didn’t run at nationals because I didn’t have my stuff really ready.

“This is a strange year.”

Poliakoff won’t be off the water for long. He’s planning on jumping back into competition on Labor Day, starting with an event at Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, then continuing on to Alexandria Bay in New York and Kingston, New Hampshire. It’ll be the first race of the season for Poliakoff, who topped a D Hydro region made up of New England and New York in points the last two seasons, and according to him, it’s been a long time coming.


“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve had some machine work done on one engine which I’m putting together, which should run really well. I’m looking forward to putting that out there, sort of as a surprise.”

It’ll be the first race for Poliakoff since tragedy struck last September. He was racing in Taunton, Massachusetts when he lost control of his boat while entering a turn, kickstarting a crash that also involved Stephen Joy, 67, of Bangor and 39-year-old Mark Greene of New Hampshire.

“I think there was probably a roller or something that we just didn’t see because the water was kind of smooth on the top,” said Poliakoff, who added that the video seemed to show all three boats hitting the same obstruction. “And it caused the right sponson to drop and the boat curved to the left. (Greene) encountered the same thing … And then Joy, he was on the left and he was coming up, and I believe he encountered the same thing or he saw what was happening and he tried to avoid it.

“It looked like one big crash, but it was actually three separate instances right there. In the video, it just looked like one big ball of spray.”

Poliakoff was launched from the boat, but came away with only minor injuries. He was the only one to survive the accident; Greene was declared dead at the site, and Joy died of his injuries at a Rhode Island hospital.

“I saw the water come up over the top of the boat and I saw the cockpit sideways, and I knew I was going to launch out straight ahead,” Poliakoff said. “It’s almost like it goes into a form of slow motion.”


Poliakoff said that, even in a sport where boats fly through the course at speeds over 85 miles per hour, rules and safety equipment make such incidents a rarity.

“It was very unusual, really. I’ll say that,” he said. “We’re kind of under the radar as far as how many people know what’s going on, but it’s unusual to have an incident like that. It’s not unusual (to) have a boat racing weekend and nobody flips, in any of the classes. It’s not like it’s super dangerous. … It was just a freak incident.”

For a while after the crash, Poliakoff second-guessed his desire to keep competing. As he said, it was only natural.

“Things in your life cause you to consider, to just sit back and say, ‘Well, is this the time to change, or stop?’ ” he said. “Anything that you’re involved in causes you to think about what you’re doing and where you are in life.”

As time went on, however, the interest to get back on the water returned. He needed time to fix the boat and engine damaged in the crash, which prevented him from making the start of the season, but he kept his sights on a late-season return to competition, where he’s felt at home since returning to the sport in 2005. It’s his passion, and he’s good at it; he was fourth at the D Stock nationals last year, and third in the nationals for the 850 modified class, one level up.

He got his start in racing in 1963, and he said those years of experience have provided him with his greatest asset: an understanding of the boat, the water and the air and how they work together, along with a love for spending time in his shop, which he calls the “tunnel of repair,” looking for an even better answer.


“You find a good combination and you’re very careful that you don’t make any radical changes. You make small changes,” he said. “And you always pay attention to detail so that things don’t break. … A lot of guys get out there and experiment around, and as a result they don’t get off the beach. Consistency is what counts.”

He knows he won’t do it forever, though. At 73, he said the ending will be coming up soon. But for now, the drive remains.

“(It’s) the fun of coming back, having done it so long ago,” Poliakoff said. “Being able to run up front, to be competitive, to be able to put what I know and what I’ve learned into practice.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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