Water Patrol Division Director Captain Matt Walz said that while in effect, the extended idle speed zone did work well. It was afterwards when boaters opened up that things got rough.

Thousands of boaters heeded the warnings as they headed out from the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout but once the clock struck 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, it was described as “all hell broke loose.”

From all accounts, the 2017 Shootout drew more spectators this year than it has in the past and many of those traveled to the race by boat, creating a traffic jam for the Missouri State Highway Patrol Water Patrol Division to curtail.

While the water patrol division and many others agreed the no-wake zone was a significant improvement from last year, once 5:30 p.m. rolled around, boaters were running wide open. Although there were no official reports, at least one boat is believed to have capsized after hitting a series of wakes.

The extended no-wake zone was implemented for this year’s race in an ongoing effort to reduce safety risks and property damage to docks, seawalls and other lakefront structures caused as boats head out from spending the day at the races.

The Water Patrol, a division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, has been besieged in recent years with complaints from property owners along the shoreline about damaged docks, broken cables and boat lifts caused by boats leaving the Shootout.

The Shootout takes place near Captain Ron’s at the 34.5 mile marker. The Water Patrol doesn’t have enough officers to handle thousands of boats plowing or traveling on plane, most heading in the same direction at one time, without shutting down traffic.

The extended no-wake zone was in effect from 2-5:30 p.m., and included the main channel from the 31.5-mile mark downstream to approximately the 24-mile mark. A shorter no-wake zone in 2016 did little to ease the devastating wake of damage.

Several resorts and lakefront venues, as well as property owners, reported extensive damage from boats traveling to and from the races. The worst of which was Saturday evening.

From his vantage point at Bay Point Condominiums at the 25-mile marker, Sam Reitz, said as the time expired on the extended no-wake zone, the wakes created by boats no longer traveling at idle speed, created rough water like nothing he has seen on Lake of the Ozarks.

“The no-wake zone while in effect, bunched all the boats up together and when 5:30 rolled around, all hell broke loose,” Reitz commented to the Lake Sun.

“I have never seen that many boats on the lake at one time and have never seen the water that rough, including the busiest holiday weekends, “ Reitz said. “Water Patrol had 3 boats sitting in the channel with their lights on waving to boats to try and get them to slow down.”

At the 26.5-mile marker, Mari Pat Brooks said overall the Shootout went great from her perspective until the no-wake expired.

“It was beyond crazy,” Brooks said. “Had damage to our new rough water dock, lost all seawall lights and new rocks that were just put down for decoration by the seawall have disappeared.”

Water Patrol Division Director Captain Matt Walz said that while in effect, the extended idle speed zone did work well. It was afterwards when boaters opened up that things got rough.

“The majority of boaters were patient and compliant with it. There were a few we had to run down but overall, boaters were following the rules. It worked better than 2016 but we are still not satisfied. It worked but it wasn’t in place late enough,” Walz said. He was positioned at the 24- to 25-mile marker during the no-wake time period and it was calm.

“It is clear additional adjustments will need to be made due to the amount of traffic traveling upstream to the event, as well as the tremendous amount of traffic still in the area when the extended idle speed restriction ended,” he said. 

“From 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., it was extremely rough downstream from the event, and Water Patrol Division personnel were certainly concerned with the boating conditions. If the event continues to be permitted, we must find ways to continue to make it safer and do a better job of protecting property in the area.”

Walz said there are several options the Water Patrol will look at when the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout organization applies for its 2018 regatta permit. In 2016, the water patrol division held a town hall style meeting. While Walz said there are not plans at this time for a similar meeting, the water patrol division is interested in what the public has to say.

“If the general public would like to send complaints and/or photos regarding the Shootout event to the Water Patrol Division, they are welcome to email those to boatinfo@mshp.dps.mo.gov,” Walk said.  “We do want to hear from them, good or bad.”

The extended no-wake zone didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of race-goers.

Ron Duggan, owner of Captain Ron’s and member of the Shootout steering committee, confirmed this year’s event drew the largest crowd ever. He said the Shootout committee will continue to work with the water patrol division.

Of this year’s event, Duggan said “I think it was good for some and not so good for others. We will certainly sit down with water patrol and evaluate the pros and cons and make adjustments where needed.”