Charlie 'Chuck' Woodruff and Mark Van Winkle, who died at boat regatta, remembered

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -  Charlie, or Chuck, Woodruff was well known in the world of hydroplane boat racing. A national champion and eventual Hall of Famer, he was featured on a television magazine show way back in 1980.  But he gave up racing to help raise a family.  

Sunday, Charlie's 15 year-old son Tristan was watching his dad get back in the water for the first time in 15 years.

"I sat there with him while he was getting ready and he said 'I love you,' and I said 'I love you too Dad' and I said 'you go out there and have fun' and he said 'I will,' " remembered Tristan Woodruff from his home on Monday.

But on Lake Dora, Charlie Woodruff's boat collided with another, killing the 64-year-old Jensen Beach man known in racing circles as "Rookie".

"He loved hydroplane racing more than anything, and he was so good at it. I guess that's why he loved it so much," said his brother Kennedy Woodruff.

"It's just hard not being able to come home and say 'hey dad' and stuff like that. I can't do that anymore," added Tristan Woodruff.

There are also heavy hearts at Doug's Repair and Service in Stuart where Mark Van Winkle worked. Van Winkle was a mechanic for Doug Whichello for decades in garages across the country.

"We were a team, we were a team working together. We knew each others moves before we knew it. Never had an argument in all the years I remember," said Whichello.

Van Winkle died after he was thrown from his race boat Saturday and run over by another vessel. Van Winkle's father, who also raced, had hoped to see his son this weekend.

Marshall Van Winkle said, "He died doing what he liked. He was quite a guy. He had one thing on his mind and it was boat racing and when he got in a boat to race, he had one speed... flat out all the way. He never backed off."

Chuck Woodruff was trying to bring back hydroplane and vintage boat races back to Martin County. The Staurt Sailfish Regatta is scheduled for April 14th and 15th.

The Regatta board asked Woodruff's widow whether they should continue on. She said it would be an important part of her husband's legacy.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is investigating both accidents from over the weekend.

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