Roger Leas always wanted to try out a remote control boat.

Roger Leas always wanted to try out a remote control boat. In 2009, his friend brought an RC truck to a Memorial Day get-together and after playing around with it, Leas decided it was time. He went online the next day and purchased his first of many boats. Nearly 10 years later, the Climax Springs area resident holds an RC boat world record.

Back at the time of his first purchase, Leas stepped forward to take part in the first Lake of the Ozarks Mini Shootout, which in 2018 is going on its ninth year. However, his first experience didn’t go well. In the midst of competing, Leas lost control of his boat and crashed it into a nearby pontoon. Luckily, no damage was done to the pontoon, or to Leas’ competitive spirit. The following year, the Mini Shootout was held at Captain Ron’s. Leas recalls heavy winds and tough water to compete in, making for a rough go for most competitors. He was able to win the top speed award at only 56 MPH, showcasing just how difficult it was to max out speeds.

“It was about survival of the fittest,” Leas said. “We were all just trying to get any MPH reading.”

He says that over the course of competing in the Mini Shootout, many changes have been made to location and structure that have fine tuned the process. The competition was later moved to Kelly’s Landing, and now presides at Ha Ha Tonka State Park at the Spring Cove, where Leas says things have been going well since.

Leas says that, over the years of competition, his greatest achievement is still claiming a world record. He was able to get one of his boats to hit 95.177 MPH, which remains today the record for the class. He says that to shoot further, he would want to finally be the first to hit the pivotal 100 MPH mark in a documented race.

For his boat class, this is extremely difficult to achieve. Leas runs exclusively with gas powered RC boats, which are heavier and more restricted to speed compared to electric counterparts. Electric boats have been known to hit speeds of over 120 MPH. Leas doesn’t see any reason to switch classes, as gas has been the design he’s grown to love.

“I love the challenge of the gas engine,” Leas said. “The process is just more satisfying.”

Back at the time of purchasing his first boat, the cost of ownership was only around $700, read-to-go. Now, with five equipped boats in his garage, his main racers see a price tag of around $2,000. Starting with a blank hull and building all of the internals by hand, he says he knows the ins and outs of everything he races with.

Looking at the electric boats that are able to hit those speeds around 120 MPH, professional racers can spend nearly $10,000, according to Leas. But he isn’t the only members of the family that takes part in the races.

His wife Donna also takes part in the Mini Shootout with a bright pink boat lined with flames. She has also won a number of awards in the competition, but has started to take part in less races in order to allow the younger female competitors to face off more equally.

Between the two, Leas says that the donation contributions put forth by the Mini Shootout and regular Shootout make it all worth the time.

“We look forward to the event every year,” Leas said. “It’s like a family tradition at this point.”

Watch the action in person. RC boats will be racing for their own Top Gun honors at Ha Ha Tonka State Park Spring Cove access on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19.

If you're interested, check out Leas' new mini-boat site, aimed at helping beginners get interested in the hobby.