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Best in his boat
Freeman flies on the water
boat guy.jpg
Paul Freeman doesn't like to boast about his talent as a drag-boat racer, but his trophies do the talking. Freeman dominated this year, winning eight championships. He won the ODBA World Championship in Jasper in October. - photo by Jeffery Simmons photo
Gently floating along, Paul Freeman begins to block out everything. The wind, the sounds, the competition – it all becomes secondary. Freeman’s mind is focused on one thing: the green light.

When the bulb lights up, Freeman proceeds with what he does best. He flies over the water.

The local professional boat drag racer has dominated the competition this year, claiming eight championships. The latest came in Jasper, when Freeman won the ODBA World Championship.

“Consistency is what wins in super comp,” said Freeman, who has been racing professionally since 1990. “You have to be on every round. We had four passes that all were right at 8.3 seconds.”

Just fractions over eight seconds was all it took for Freeman to cover 800 feet. Flying over the water at 100 mph, Freeman balances a 1,500 pound boat on a 14-inch surface.

“We’re shot out of a cannon. It’s pulling 2.5 to 3 Gs (G-force) in the first 100 feet,” said Freeman. “Water isn’t like asphalt. It’s never the same. We’re 28 inches off the surface at full speed.

“You’re pointing and holding on. I pick out a point and aim it that way.”

Freeman does it better than almost anybody in the country. The ODBA World Championship was the latest triumph for the Freeman team, which boasts the support of his brother Jerry Freeman and crew chief Ricky King, among many others.

In a six-month span, Freeman claimed two victories in Mississippi and another in Texas before taking the checkered flag in the DSRA Southern National in Catahoula, La., and the ODBA Southern National in Bainbridge Ga. Freeman also swept the 2018 High Point championships in both the DSRA and ODBA, professional organizations featuring racers from all over the world.

Freeman got his start in 1990 racing with Triad from Augusta. He won several national events for his team over the years, but took some time off in the last decade.

A contractor by trade, Freeman spent several years as an instructor for motorcyclists competing in road courses. But the boat racing bug was always with him.

With a little push from his brother to get back on the water, Freeman jumped back in his 2006 Allison and started building another winning team.

Backed by 10,200 rpm by the end of 800 feet, Freeman spends countless hours on the water. He does the majority of his practice runs at Woods Reservoir in Coffee County. Like any good athlete, Freeman masters his craft with practice. Days of meticulous runs are followed by hours and hours of data mining, perfecting his boat so when he hits the pedal, he’s eight seconds from a finish.

“Nowadays, you need computer technology. We do data acquisition after each round,” said Freeman, sounding more like a math professor than boat racer. “Our computer is monitoring 46 different functions. We’re changing settings, looking at how to shave a decimal here or there. Just 0.1 seconds over 800 feet is a boat-length difference.”

As quick as Freeman is on the water, he’s just as quick to praise his help. Whether it’s sponsors providing the finances, his supporters or the people he works tirelessly with to get the best equipment, Freeman is appreciative at every level.

“I couldn’t do this alone. I can tell you every foot of my runs – all of them. I can tell you all the people who helped me along the way too. They’re all great,” said Freeman.

Years of competition, and winning, put Freeman on the map among his peers. Many opponents will talk about “Freeman flying,” every weekend, but Freeman knows the competition is just milliseconds behind. And more are coming every year.

“There’s a few guys I always know are going to be out there and they’re going to be fast. There’s some young guys emerging too,” said Freeman. “You get out there and you see some bad boys.”

Freeman may be the baddest of them all.