Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

We attend the Crash-a-Rama and pick up trailering safety tips.

Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

We attend the Crash-a-Rama and, surprisingly, learn about trailering.Josh Letchworth

Crrrrrrr-runch!

It’s a sound guaranteed to produce chills for any boater. And tonight, I’m hearing it a lot. First there’s the guy in the black car who whips his trailer-borne boat into the corner and wipes out half the transom of a fellow nautical road warrior’s boat. Then there’s the driver in the silver car who completely loses his boat in a curve, sending it skidding across the track. And then there’s the Andretti in the white van who seemingly just targets all these loose vessels and does his best to crash into…every…last…one.

Trailer boaters gone wild? Trust me, this crew has no intention of coming anywhere near the launch ramp. And that’s a good thing.

Welcome to the Orlando stop of Crash-a-Rama — part race, part demolition derby series that wreaks destruction at events from Ohio to Florida. Is there any social value in this? Maybe. I volunteered to see what trailering tips I could pull from the wreckage. And I’m getting a whole lot of bang for my buck.

Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

Level It
Check to make sure your trailer rides level. If not, raise or lower the tow ball to correct any excessive angle. Also check tire pressure. Make certain tires are fully inflated to the trailer manufacturer's specs and that tires have equal pressure.
Josh Letchworth
Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

Stop Sway
Trailer sway is often the result of improper tongue weight, which should be about 10 percent of the trailer's total weight. The latter figure is often misjudged. Don't forget to include the weight of the fuel and/or water in the tanks and all the gear you've stowed aboard.
Josh Letchworth
Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

Stop Short
Stopping distance is dramatically increased with the weight of a boat and trailer pushing on your vehicle. Adjust both speed and distance to the car in front of you accordingly.
Josh Letchworth

Have Boat, Will Crash
Already tonight I've seen a driver endo his car off a ramp and into a row of buses stood on end like bowling pins, been enlightened to the idea of replacing back tires with metal skids (a "ski"-car race!) and watched more than one driver crash right through the junked motorhomes scattered about the track's infield.

The highlight thus far, however, has to be the figure-eight school bus race, in which one bus inevitably flips at high speed, turning the entire track into one big sandstorm. Well, that and the guy on the port-a-potty who is inexplicably towed around the track with his pants around his ankles.

“It’s everything!” exclaims Naomi Walters, who’s spending her Saturday night here. “The drivers love it; the fans love it; you can’t get no better than Crash-a-Rama!”

Yup, no better indeed. But all this carnage has merely been a warm-up act. The reason I’m here, and judging by the buzz in the audience the reason for most fans, is the boat-and-trailer race. It’s so popular that it’s saved for the end of the schedule. Or maybe it’s the fact that the race creates such a mountain of debris on the track that not much can come after it.

After watching what came first, I wonder if anybody can actually finish 10 laps with a shred of the boat in tow still in tow.

Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

Load Right
Balance the load as well as possible, both fore and aft and from side to side. Ideally, 60 percent of the weight should be distributed in the front half of the boat, but be careful not to exceed tongue weight limits.
Josh Letchworth
Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

Tow Capacity
A light tow vehicle matched with a heavy trailer boat is a recipe for disaster.
Josh Letchworth
Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-RamaJosh Letchworth
Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

Strap It
While you may be tempted to go without them, don't forget the stern tie-down straps. They're a last line of defense should the bow come loose and will keep the stern anchored in bumpy conditions.
Josh Letchworth

Tearing It Up
Benjamin Craft (street name DJ Ben Jammin') hopes to accomplish that feat with "The Beast," an '82 Chevy Caprice with a 468 punched-out Buick block and a turbo 400 tranny. "It's solid steel," Ben Jammin' says of his vehicle. "I've run into the wall at 50 mph and just bumped off with a concussion. I didn't even bend it. You've got to have a tough car if you want to last."

Jammin’ offers some veteran advice. “The strategy is keep it clean and keep out of the mess,” he says. “People are going to try to spin you, jackknife you, push you, whatever. You’ve just got to have a strong car and just drive through it.”

Of course, driving through is made a little more difficult by the fact that a majority of the racers aren’t even using trailers, but simply chaining the boats to their cars. Fault the cost of scrap metal, which has made trailers too valuable of a commodity to be destroyed in a race. Junk fiberglass boats, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen. Unable to be recycled, and cost-prohibitive to trash, racers find them in yards all over Florida and beyond, with owners willing to sacrifice them for the cause. “You’ve got to pay to dispose of them,” continues Jammin’, “so people are like, ‘I’ve got a boat in my yard; it’s yours if you can just get it out.’”

As fleets go, the Crash-a-Rama navy is an interesting lot: A Wellcraft SunCruiser 25 and a Yamaha Exciter jet boat make the grade, mixed in with the occasional metal johnboat — even one stand-up model Kawasaki Jet Ski. The common theme? They’re stripped and faded, mere shadows of their former glorious selves. And odds are that things are only going to get worse.

“I’ve won this race before with the boat untouched,” proclaims Brian Steger of Winter Haven, Florida, who will run the race with a rowboat chained to his bumper. “Of course, last time I was here in Orlando I finished with nothing but a piece left, not even big enough to fit on a 4-by-4-foot square.”

Steger sums up the appeal of Crash-a-Rama’s boat race in simple terms. He lists “dragging something behind you going as fast as you can, plowing through the ones that the other cars lost and putting on a show for the fans” as his motivations. To those he adds, “Just having a great time...going out there and tearing up some stuff!”

Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-RamaJosh Letchworth
Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

No Brakes!
If the trailer does begin to sway, avoid the temptation to hit the brakes or correct the sway with a turn of your tow vehicle's steering wheel. Instead, keep the wheel straight and carefully accelerate until the swaying subsides. Once you regain control, slowly reduce speed.
Josh Letchworth
Trailering Tips From the Crash-a-Rama

Crash-a-Rama Trailering Tips

Chain It
Safety chains kept the trailers connected to the tow vehicles in Crash-O-Rama. Always connect your safety chains when towing.
Josh Letchworth

Survival of the Fastest
Seconds after the drop of the flag, stuff is definitely getting torn. While a select few drivers with boats on trailers fare well, those simply dragging boats at the end of a chain appear to be the crowd favorites. With an unpredictable whip in every corner, they increase the potential carnage tenfold. By lap two, a pair of cars spin into the corner, and their slingshotted boats lose parts piecemeal as cars bash their way past. Other debris begins to appear out of nowhere, the result of fiberglass being dragged over pavement in a losing battle with friction. Sparks are flying from the boatless Elvis Mobile, which in addition to its boat has now lost its back passenger-side tire and is grinding its way around the track on the rims. And then there's the endless assault of dust, grit, shredded rubber and who-knows-what-else flying through the air.

“It’s best not to think about what it is,” deadpans Naomi, “especially after they just dragged that port-a-potty around the track.”

It would be absolutely comical if not for the peril the drivers face. Hitting upwards of 50 mph on the straightaway, each car barrels into the corner with tires squealing and boats jackknifing. Near the halfway point a Mustang towing that vintage Jet Ski hull spins a 180 right in front of me and slams into the concrete wall. My initial laughter turns nervous as I notice the driver’s head come out of the window and smack against the unforgiving concrete. The red flag comes out, but it takes a while to get the other racers’ attention. Meanwhile the unconscious driver dangles as cars scream past within inches.

Once he comes to and is escorted to a waiting ambulance, the race picks up where it left off, the crowd stoked for more destruction. And though it would seem you’d want to finish first, it’s apparent that — in the twisted world that is Crash-a-Rama — winning isn’t everything.

“You lose your boat, and you’re off the track,” Naomi says. “But it’s more fun to stay out there and run over all the boats.”

God help me leaving the parking lot.