While most of us are focused on the here and now of powerboat racing, it’s always fun to take a look back and remember those who came before. It’s even more unique when you come across a name barely recognized that deserves recognition as one of the sports first champions.
John Makronin was not born into wealth or even into a world of boating general. After losing both his parents at the age of 26, coupled with his harrowing escape from death in a coal mining explosion, John decided he’d try his hand at powerboat racing. An entrepreneur at heart, he started the Ellwood Outboard Motor Shop during the mid 1940’s where he refined his knowledge and understanding of the time’s powerboats while servicing other outboards and race boats.
John’s run to the championship started with obstacles and problems like any other story. In his first race at the William Randolph Hearst Gold Cup Outboard Motor Boat Regatta in Pittsburgh he placed 5th in the second heat due to engine trouble. However, Makronin began gaining notoriety at races with his growing skills at piloting the craft and in September of 1948, he reached a top speed of 63.8mph, thereby setting a new record for Class C Hydro Outboards at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. He beat out the second place driver by more than 30 seconds… Ten years later, on September 14, 1958, John put his name in the history books forever by piloting his alcohol-burning hydroplane to two new world records and capturing the Great Lakes Championship at the Zanesville, Ohio Regatta. Hitting 82mph on one stretch simply dumbfounded the spectators.
Unfortunately, John’s story did not have a fairy tale ending. After a series of engine problems at different races, he was left unable to compete in almost any contest, even being presented with a comedic award for his inability to race in a single round at one championship. John met his end on Memorial Day 1964. At the Monongahela Regatta, as he was topping 100mph on the stretch by the judges his craft hit a wave, flipping his boat and driving him through the floor. He was taken to the hospital where he died of his injuries a short time later.
A name such as his should not be swept under the rug and forgotten with time. He will continue to be one of the great boaters of the twentieth century and taking a look back will always serve as a reminder for where we came from and where we are going.