In the “Lake of Records” opening scene, you see Lake Hollingsworth from a perspective few have viewed — from above, spanning all 354 acres.
“Lake of Records” is a documentary that covers The Orange Cup Regatta: an annual power boat race that has been drawing racers and spectators for 88 years.
Founded by Walter Eugene Engle in 1934, the regatta’s legacy is carried on by his son, Gene Engle. “Some of my first memories from childhood are from the Orange Cup Regatta,” Gene reflected, noting that he worked in the race pit as a young boy. “The races have continued every year since then.”
He noted one exception: the races paused for two years during World War II.
The Orange Cup Regatta has long lived in the Engle’s family legacy, with love of powersports passed down through generations. “Lake of Records” creator and producer Will Engle — Gene’s grandson — remembers holding “official” paper boat races every year as a kid at family gatherings.
Will first thought to document the races in March 2021. He wanted to honor his family’s legacy, capturing the event in its true form, following the racers as they reached record-breaking speeds.
The endeavor evolved into a full-blown documentary with interviews, drone shots and an award-winning score. “The doc took a year to create, start-to-finish,” Will says.
He worked with friends and collaborators to pull it all together, spending many hours editing to make the film a success.
Let’s set the scene. If you’ve never been to a power boat race before, think of it as any other motorsport (like NASCAR or Formula 1) except instead of sitting next to a noisy track, you’re enjoying the sunshine, the breeze and a lakeside view.
“It satisfies your need for speed,” says Gene, pointing out that most drivers are hitting well over 100mph throughout much of the race.
To see it in action, “Lake of Records” shows us a behind-the-scenes perspective of the 2021 race. We see Bobby King break a world record, and the other racers hit another world record: an average speed of 94mph.
The Orange Cup Regatta is an event, simply put, where competitors come to break records. New ones are being set nearly every year, right here in Lakeland.
“Lake of Records” (watch in its entirety below) offers a behind-the-scenes look into racing’s practices and processes. You see the drivers strap into their harnesses, deploy oxygen masks and listen as radios broadcast from the shore, telling them where to turn as they glide across the water.
Preparation for the race is intense. Racers take dunk tests to ensure, in the worst-case scenario, they know what to do if the boat flips. Gene is proud of the historical record of safety at the Orange Cup Regatta; an ambulance is always present, with medics and trained diving professionals ready to jump in if a race goes awry.
Gene’s experience and expertise coordinating the event has made the Orange Cup Regatta one of the premiere boat races in the country. His consistency has paid off: racers are now traveling from across the nation to join the race. “Most of them are transporting boats from the northeast and Canada, sometimes as far as Seattle,” Gene said.
The economic impact of the races is palpable. Competitors are bringing their families and friends with them. “Many of them will stay out here for a week and make it their vacation,” Gene continues, “It’s almost like a family reunion when everyone gets down here. It’s a tight-knit community.”
The community is growing so much that the American Power Boat Association — boat racing’s national sanctioning body — is soon relocating from Detroit to Central Florida.
Gene resists any inclination to retire from his role as Race Director. It’s in his blood. One day, he hopes to pass down the baton to his son and grandson, Walt and Will.
“Will brought an element to the Regatta that I’ve never been able to do, to get the story out,” Gene says about his grandson. “Power boat racing has always been respected, but it’s coming back, bigger and better. We believe the future is bright.”