July 28, 1975 12:00 PM

Nick Sfetku was skimming along at 140 mph in a national drag boat competition at Oakland, Calif. Suddenly, midway through the eight-second, quarter-mile run, his propeller, a special custom job, literally lifted the stern out of the water. The $12,000 craft flipped wildly several times in the air and tossed Sfetku like a bronco rider.

“At that speed,” Sfetku says, “it’s just like getting thrown from a car onto concrete.” But miraculously, he got off lightly: five fellow drivers have been killed in similar accidents in the past seven years. All Sfetku lost was about $500 in prize money, one tennis shoe and his original color—he turned black and blue over much of his body.

Although Sfetku, 35, makes his living as a foreman for a firm which installs heating and cooling systems, his heart is with professional boat racing. Born in Minnesota, he has been driving some of the fastest propeller-driven vessels in the world. He already holds the world’s record of 137.9 mph for one class of drag boat and was in fact trying to break the record of 157 mph for another class when his near-fatal accident occurred.

On the side Sfetku is also into motorcycle racing in the desert and “chute skiing”—hitching himself to a parachute tethered to a boat.

The crash has in no way dampened the laconic Nick’s passion for racing. “I never gave it a thought.” And his wife? “She didn’t say anything much about it either.” But Nick is giving serious thought to changing the name of his boat. It’s now called the Extremely Dangerous.

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