Hydro Frenzy Hits Peak [1959]

The aftermath of the Gold Cup Race in Seattle was an anticlimax that prolonged the midsummer hydroplane madness that strikes in Puget Sound during Seafair, where avid hydro fans total hundred of thousands of men, women and tadpoles.]

First, the Gold cup committee held its annual post-race meeting and tacitly endorsed the bonus points arrangement which gave Bill Stead and the Maverick the cherished golden urn. There’ll be bonus points next year, too; so don’t throw away that slide rule.

From the point of view of Seattlites the bitterest blow is the fact that the Gold Cup may leave Seattle. Next year’s race may be held on Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, Nevada. It might be designated as the racing site by Bill Waggoner, owner and sponsor of the Maverick. The Sahara Cup will be held there this October, and if the arrangements are satisfactory this year, the American Power Boat Association will give Las Vegas the nod for the gold cup next year.

First new hydroplane to be authorized following the Seattle race is a new Miss Burien, a replacement for the hydro that sank during the Diamond Cup race on Lake Coeur d’Alene in July. Ted Jones is building the new hull in his Seattle shop for Greater Burien Inc. who has launched a campaign to raise $10,000 for a new boat.

Hydroplane campaigning is expensive, as witness the fact that the community of Spokane has raised about $60,000 to cover the expenses of Miss Spokane which came to Seattle with approximately $5000 owing. This outfit is a going concern, however, with an expert crew of engine mechanics to keep Miss Spokane’s rolls Royce purring like a kitten.

The reason Miss Bardahl wasn’t in the Gold Cup race was because of owner Ole Bardahl’s personal sorrow over the injuries suffered by driver Jack Regas during the Diamond Cup. Regas suffered a brain concussion which kept him unconscious for weeks. Finally, after other injuries healed, he underwent brain surgery Aug. 7 at the University of California hospital and at latest reports was making a slow but definite improvement, to the heartfelt relief of hydro fans everywhere.

Regas, 36, built up a great reputation in Seattle through the years and was one of the able and colorful drivers who contributed to this exciting spectator sport of unlimited hydroplane racing. He holds the mile unlimited straightaway record (187.627) and in a six-year career has won the Tahoe Race, the Mapes Trophy, the Sahara Cup, the Silver Cup, the President’s Cup, the Rogers Memorial, the governor’s Cup and, last year, the gold Cup, driving for Henry Kaiser in fir the Scooter and then the Hawaii Kai.

Miss Bardahl, his 1959 mount, was repaired during the summer with a new safety type of cockpit which offers greater protection for the driver, an indication that she will be raced again when Ole Bardahl is convinced that the boat is safe and when he is able to find another qualified driver.

During the Seattle Seafair there was almost a second unlimited hydroplane race — the Tin Cup. This was set up to allow several boats to become eligible for gold Cup qualifying, as the rules state that all starters must run at least one heat in an unlimited race in the 15 months previous, and to allow several drivers to gain necessary qualifying time for the Gold Cup.

But at the last minute the Tin Cup entries were not able to get started; so the race was called off, to the mystification of a number of out-of-town visitors who thronged to the lake to see the special feature. Hydro-wise Seattleites were barely confused, as fast-moving changes and double switches are all part of the zany game that makes the sport so interesting.

Joe Mascari of New York is the new owner of Hawaii Kai III, having refused a $50,000 offer from Mario Augusta of Milan, Italy just before the gold cup. The boat was raced under the burgee of the Meydenbauer Bay YC of Bellevue. The driver in the Gold Cup was Brien Wygle, former driver of Thriftway Too. The boat, the fastest propeller-swinging watercraft in the world, is a hard boat to head when running right.

During the Gold Cup Race Maverick used a three-bladed prop and an Allison motor with a two-stage blower. The mechanical crew is tops, and the were able to do things with equipment that made the Waggoner boat hard to beat. After the race Maverick went back to the Ted Jones Craft shop to have her sponsons peeled, preliminary to adding more lateral dihedral to eliminate her tendency to spin out when racing into corners at high speed.

(Reprinted from Sea and Pacific Motor Boat, October 1959, p. 50-N.)


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Leslie Field, 2000