Salton Sea, 6 - Lake Mead, 1
Despite trouble motorboaters smash seven records in two-week
49th annual APBA meeting—another speedboat saga is written in the west
By Bob Ruskauff
Practically every speedboat driver who got his outfit to both Lake Mead, Nevada, and Salton Sea, California, in the two November regattas which this year comprised the Great Western Fall Circuit, could echo the words of Frank and Mildred Foulke:
"It was different and it was great! You'll see us again next year." Then they left that oasis in the Southern California's Coachella Valley called Desert Beach and, under a. 90-degree sun, started the 3,300 miles home to Essex, Maryland.
Viewed overall, it was great. Seven new world motorboat speed records, a potful in these days, will forever prove it.
Let it not be said, though, that the two-week crusade lacked all ingredients. There was uncertainty, confusion, even sabotage and, above all, a weatherman who proved both fiend and angel. Add the 49th annual meeting of the American Power Boat Association, November 13 in Las Vegas and there evolves problem, suspense, denouement. The chapters might read substantially as follows:
From the beginning, plans for the fifth Lake Mead Regatta, November 9-13, had moved steadily, impelled by the "salient eight" committeemen of the Boulder City Junior Chamber of Commerce headed by Regatta Chairman Bob Cary. In planning the Jaycees were abetted by Kent Hitchcock of the APBA racing commission.
But, creating uncertainty which it was feared would curb entries (and probably did), dates or assurance of a 1950 Salton Sea meet as running mate were clinched only at the eleventh hour. Then Commodore Deck Blindbury, Bob Sykes and Commodore-elect Bill Collins of the Southern California Speedboat Club, and Commodore Marvin (Slim) Boettger representing the Los Angeles Speedboat Association, fared to Desert Beach and arranged with owner Roy Hunter for the two clubs and Hunter to underwrite the essential costs. It was a shoestring deal. Every person who could offer any service at all did so, gratis. J. Otto Crocker gave his time and full use of his unbeatable electronic timing system; Starter Don Steans donated his time and equipment—as instances.
It was necessary to postpone dates to November 16-19, following Lake Mead but the 10th renewed National Desert Regatta was ordained.
R.S.V.P. invitations were rushed to something over 1300 drivers, inboard and outboard, throughout the nation. Two nights before the scheduled four-day meet on Lake Mead was to open, a total of 227 bona fide entries had been turned in, representing the hottest racing plants in almost every racing class, from every sector of the nation!
Despite the problems of inter-state highway travel, three of the big unlimited jobs were Nevada-bound—Such Crust II and My Sweetie from Detroit; Slo-Mo-Shun IV down the "thees-way-through-Reno" road from Seattle, via Boise, Idaho. All augured well. Then—
II. Man Proposes: God Disposes—Lake Mead
After four solid weeks of impeccable weather, a driving, chill nor'easter swept down from the snows of the Rockies on the morning before the start of the Mead speediest. It abated, but the lake, six miles out from Boulder City, stayed rough. Time trials planned for Friday (Nov. 11) were abandoned. Competition was slated for the next two days. During Friday the weather eased, but there was still a slight surge on the 10 by 115-mile lake below huge Hoover Dam come Saturday morning.
Despite it, Lake Mead's lone record (which helped prove a point) was hung up this day. Bouncing to straight-heat wins, Ed Parsley's B-Runabout Vina Mae III of Los Banos, California, was driven by Pete Coffee to turn 55.81 miles an hour and shatter her own world mark of 53.066 made at Salton Sea in 1949.
The day also offered an historic highlight. Thrilling 2,000 spectators, (a lot considering the per square mile population count in Nevada), three unlimited hydroplanes, after considerable preliminary jockeying, got over the line for the first time on a western course. It was slated as the first 15-miler in a four-heat quest of the $2,500 silver unlimited trophy.
With Ted Jones driving, Stanley Sayres' Slo-Mo-Shun IV, which had unbuttoned to a speed of some 140 m.p.h. in practice, toured at an easy 85 to win the first heat. The savor was lessened, however, when Such Crust II, running in second with Danny Foster at the controls for owner Jack Schafer, lost her prop in the second lap. The motor ran wild and the valves rammed into the head of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Damage was unrepairable. It was back to Detroit for a not yet really tested job. Placing second in the heat was Horace E. Dodge's slender-hulled, rough-water goer, My Sweetie, with Bill Cantrell driving.
The next heat, Slo-Mo-Shun IV was again leading when she sheared a propeller shaft and it was exit for America's wonder boat of 1950. From there it was to be all My Sweetie. The following day Cantrell and Dodge shared the wheel and cruised to two easy rough water wins (best lap at 85.7 miles an hour, Cantrell driving) over token competition by two 225-cubic inch hydroplanes, Firefly (Elmer Enquist) and George Matucci in his Californian—both batting into water far too rough for them.
Because of the misfortunes, the unlimited boats were never to reach Salton Sea. Considering all, owners Sayres, Schafer, Dodge and their crews earned unstinting plaudit.
The 135-cubic inch hydros (they repeated at Salton Sea) offered up the competitive highlight of the regatta, plus the prime casualties, in the first day of competition. The 17-boat field was so big qualifying heats were in order. In the first it was Blue Blaze II, Tom Caldwell : Joey Fred Galante; Avenger III Eddie Meyer. In the second: Skalawaggs, Roy Skaggs; Gee Whizz, Sid Street; Ranger II. Kenny Ingram. The finale: Street and Galante were first home only to be disqualified for jumping the starting gun and steady driving Eddie Meyer took the honors. During the melees Thom Cooper with Pops Tops from Kansas City was pitched from the boat in the second qualifying heat, hit by his sponson, which broke loose, and suffered a gashed eye. During the finale Skaggs netted a leg injury and Rich Hallett seriously pulled leg tendons which had him hopping around Salton Sea with one leg in a cast the next week. They were pitched from their boats on the straightway but strangely none of the 135s capsized.
Given weather on Sunday, Race Chairman Hitchcock promised running of at least a few time trials before the 9 a.m. competition start. Hope still rode, but during the night some vandal sabotaged the communication lines. Hope for trials were kaput. Even start of competition was delayed some 45 minutes while repair went on. During the day conditions weren't bad but kinesthetic storm surge bothered boats on the turns.
Suffice that, in the two competitive days, the lake never reached truly record placidity and nobody (except the bouncing Bs) seriously threatened records. The winners:
Nov. 10: M-hydroplane, Miss Shooting Star, George Steiner, Alhambra (30.759 m.p.h. best time made, record 38.379) ; 48-cubic inch inboard, Lou Kay, Lou Meyer, Jr., Los Angeles 51.575 b.t, record 55.659) ; C-Racing outboard runabout, Nix, Warren Painter, Glendale (51.341, record 53.191) ; A outboard hydroplane, Sweet Pea, Eddie Maroney, Phoenix, Ariz. (42.378 vs. 47.344) : Cracker Box inboard runabout, Ruthless, Kenny St. Oegger, Glendale (59.484 vs. 60.484) ; C-Service outboard hydro, Hey Wait, Glenn Burke, Chico, Calif. (44.665 vs. 47.670) ; B-Racing inboard runabout, (one heat raced) Vina Mae III, Pete Coffee, Los Banos (new record 55.81 over old mark of 53.066). 135-cubic inch inboard hydro. best time by Roy Skaggs, Long Beach (71.82 vs. his own 75.157 record made at Salton Sea with Mighty Chevron).
Nov. 11: B-outboard hydro, Little Valentine, Maroney again (47.898 vs. 53.004) ; C-Service outboard runabout, Green Diamond. Joe Proctor, Ventura (46.178 vs. 47.344) ; C-outboard hydro, U-56, Oliver K. Dupuis, Plains, Montana (48.361 vs. 57.325) ; 223-cubic inch inboard hydro, Division II, Copperhead II, Lorin Pennington, Santa Monica (69.071 vs. 74.67) ; Pacific One Design Hydroplane inboard, Dr. Louis Novotny, Los Angeles (52.083 vs. 53.763) ; F-Racing outboard hydroplane (one heat), Pappy, George Mishey, Phoenix (51.635 vs. 58.785) ; B-Racing inboard runabout (second heat), Vina Mae III (38.494 vs. her new 55.181 mark). As the B speed indicates, from here—and in still rougher water—times were unthinkable and finishing the only problem. The E-Racing inboard runabout competition went to Plastigo, Art Maynard, Long Beach and the 225-cubic inch inboard hydroplane, Division I, to Eega Beeva, Pete Pierce, San Gabriel.
It was touch and go but every class had at least one chance to run although many hot boats hadn't even been taken off the trailers. A score of others already had immediate future competition or speed potentials beaten out of them. Salton Sea was, as ever, still the unpredictable siren ahead. What with the A.P.B.A. slated for Nov. 13, even the swell Boulder City Jaysee hosts agreed it better to abandon scheduled Nov. 14 mile trials as planned. It was comforting to know that any storms arising next day would be well sheltered—within walls of the Last Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas.
III. Executive Session
It was warm in spots, per expectation, but generally amicable, this 49th annual A.P.B.A. conclave—the first held in the west.
In the elections, which were more close than some had predicted, Miami's veteran official, Jack Horsley, was elected the 1951 president, in absentia. Horsley succeeded C. King Brugman of Los Angeles, for two terms incumbent, seeking re-election. Charles P. (Chap) Hanley of Muscatine, Iowa was elected vice president and Bob Bogie, Saranac Lake, N. Y., secretary. Carl Johnson will carry on as the executive secretary, from Detroit.
Among outstanding pieces of business consummated in a well-packed day were (1) the admission to full sanctioned racing of utility outboards and (2) the three-year-freeze imposed on displacement hydroplane rules.
The utility racing decision opens a brand-new vista in competition. There appears small question that its effect on the racing scene. particularly outboard, will one day prove far-reaching. This of course is in consideration of (1) the speeds which these stock engines have now reached, combined with their flexibility of use and (2) the trouble which racing outboard drivers have had in keeping outfits together when new racing motors and parts are no longer being built, also (3) the fact that the utility classes now come close to equalling in their ranks of registered drivers, the combined numerical strength of all inboard and outboard racing boats in the United States. A few opine that the action will serve, in effect, to "put the outboards back in racing business."
Although it was not to their particular benefit to do so, it was largely by voice of owners Sayres, Schafer and Dodge that discussion anent imposing a 2,500-cubic inch motor limitation was tabled. For another year, at least, the Gold Cup rules will remain unchanged.
The "freeze" means that boats now racing, or building, will have at least a reasonable life span before they are outmoded.
IV. The Gods Finally Smiled
During all four days of the 10th National Desert Regatta, the rest of the west was ravaged by winds, rainstorms and rampaging floods.
So, of course, unpredictable Salton Sea had weather also—unmatched since 1941, when (if memory serves) 14 world records were shattered. It was sunny, windless, superb.
The net result was six new world records : five-mile straightaway and one five-mile competition, when a now-dwindled array of some 95 drivers (but the hottest remaining from Lake Mead invasion) had completed the four days of time trials and racing.
Because of the records and how they fell, Friday's opener proved the day of days at Salton Sea. Some 30 boats got runs through the traps in more than 50 trials and when it was over five had blazed to new straightaway speed marks.
Whilst his wife Mildred, the former record holder, watched. Frank Foulke three successive times hoisted the erstwhile D-Runabout mark with Sagana VII. The final reading: 67.314 miles an hour, compared to the 64.875 former record.
Vina Mae III,--that unbeatable B-inboard runabout of the Parsley-Coffee combination, upped her own 58.207 record made in the spring at Lake Yosemite, to 60.43 miles an hour.
That was the crop for inboard runabouts. The outboard lads—such as Rocky Stone, Eddie Maroney, Johnny Maddox, Red Jones—were to go home empty handed after missing records fractionally in their assaults, both trial and competitive. This and the runabout performance, however, actually pointed up one thing :
It was not the salt of Salton, nor the below-sea-level carburetion, nor anything else except good water and screamingly hot combinations which brought about the next three, sensational new records, set by three terrific three-point inboard hydroplanes, to wit :
Riding her strut every inch of the mile both ways, Paul Sawyer's Alter Ego (which as a Division II boat won the 1949 national championship) crossed the "mythical 100" mile an hour line with vengeance. Going one run at over 117 m.p.h. she averaged 115.04 miles an hour to up the mark Sawyer's Belligero II made on the same course a year ago. This was at 99.820. Later Belligero II. on hand for protective purposes, did 103.225 miles an hour.
Here, fully in equality with Slo-Mo-Shun IV, I should say that the Sawyer-Smith-Hallent-Johnson combination provided one of the American motorboat inspirations of the year.
135's Approaching 100 Miles
Almost as sensational was the boost which Sid Street with Gee Whizz gave Skalawagg's former 92.130 m.p.h. record in the 135 class. The great Kansas City boat screamed over the course for an average 97.350 m.p.h. If it hadn't been for Street, fellow-townsman Thom Cooper, who later twice hit a 95 plus average with Pop's Top. would have had a record. Anyway, as it looks now, the 135s will one day soon be traveling with the 100 m.p.h. club.
By percentage increase another grand performance was the new mark of 71.85 which Lou Meyer. Jr. of Los Angeles turned with Lou Kay.. This upped by almost 12 miles the previous record. Capt. W. W. Scott's Ballerina II of Port Arthur had made it on the same course a year before at 59.995 m.p.h.
As it developed, there was only one more record in real jeopardy. It went by the boards in competition next day when the 53.763 mark made by Dr. Louis Novotny in Cherub II of Los Angeles was upped. The doctor had clocked it while winning the eastern; PODH championships at Cambridge, Md., in August 1949. It was raised now almost a mile and who did it? Well, Dr. Novotny ' it in his same boat, at 54.545 m.ph., while clipping his favorite rivals Elmer Cravener (Pudgy) and Marion Beaver (Little Beaver).
Sawyer's hitherto untried Division I had to support her straight-away mark by placing in at least one of the competitive heats. Sunday. She did it handily enough, cruising along between 4,500. 5,000 r.p.m., to win the first heat. During the second heat the South Harwich, Mass. driver had his eye on a competition mark to prove Alter Ego isn't just a straightaway boat."
But, as the six-boat field screamed by, with Bob Sykes' tooling The Dutchess to first at over 77 m.p.h., not far from record, Sawyer sat it out. Alter Ego, a job done, had decided on a ten-minute break.
All three 10-mile heats for the Pacific Motorboat unlimited trophy were copped by the hard-driving veteran Kenny Ingram of El Monte with the 135, Ranger II, and again Hollywood's Eddie Meyer in Avenger II was second.
As at Lake Mead, Eddie Maroney of Phoenix proved top outboard winner, this time taking B-hydro competition with Sweet Pea.
Indicating the ideal conditions, there was but one competitive spill, Manuel Jacinto's hydro, Spanky, flipped on the straightaway after the Sacramento driver had already won F-Racing outboard runabout competition with Tippy Tin.
The over-all competitive winners for the two days follow :
225 Cubic Inch Hydroplane, Division II—Lorin Pennington, Los Angeles, Copperhead II.
225 Cubic Inch Hydroplane, Division I—Bob Sykes, Long Beach, The Dutchess.
E Racing Runabout—Ed Fletchall, Bell, Rock-A-Way.
Pacific One Design Hydroplane—Dr. Louis Novotny, Los Angeles, Cherub II.
48 Cubic Inch Hydroplane—Gillette 0. Smith, El Monte, Snuffy.
Cracker Box—Glenn Miller, Long Beach, Little Stinker.
B Racing Runabout—Pete Coffee, Los Banos, Vina Mae III.
135 Cubic Inch Hydroplane—Reathel Bush, Ontario, Scamper.
Unlimited Hydroplane—Kenny Ingram, El Monte, Ranger II.
B Hydroplane—Eddie Maroney, Phoenix, Sweet Pea.
C Service Runabout—Harold Clausen, Ojai, Ojai.
C Hydroplane—Bill Schuyler, Lompoc, If.
F Hydroplane—Emmet Ries, La Mesa, Taffy II.
M Hydroplane—Boots Kay Morphy, Hollywood, Miss Shooting Star II.
A Hydroplane—Johnny Maddox, Imperial Beach, Hasty Baby.
C Racing Runabout—Rocky Stone, Willamina, Ore., My Gal.
C Service Hydroplane—Jerry Clausen, Ojai, Ojai.
F Racing Runabout—Manuel Jacinto, Sacramento, Tippy Tin.
Competition over, most hands faded for home, with only a half dozen staying for a final mile trial fling on Monday. A great job handling the pits had been done by Tommy Thompson (inboards) and Ray Harris (outboards), measurer Al Hart (as usual), registrar Peggy Hitchcock, co-chairmen Blindbury-Boettger, referee Hitchcock and officialdom generally.
Monday was strictly anti-climax since none made a record. Cooper, Maddox and Jones tried valiantly enough; Street and Meyer couldn't complete a run. All hands decided to wrap it up shortly after noon.
After all, a saga had already been written.
(Reprinted from Motor Boating, January 1951)
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