What Has Happened in 1965
Just as it was in 1964, the word for success during the current unlimited hydroplane campaign is "Reliability." It was Miss Bardahl's ability to stay together and finish races last year that gave the Seattle boat its number one national high point standing for the second consecutive year. And it is that same factor that is coming to the front as the thundering hydros prepare to shatter the calm and quiet of Lake Tahoe.
In the nine races held last year, six different boats were winners. But it was the boat that could be there at the finish the most times that took top honors. 1965 started off with a bang at Guntersville with still another boat -- one that had no win in '64 -- coming through for all the chips. The gallant Miss Madison and its happy-go-lucky driver, Buddy Byers, fooled them all in Dixie with his victory.
"We've been waiting a long time for this one," Byers smiled. "Hope the next one doesn't take so long in coming." To the veteran big boat followers, Miss Madison's victory was not so unbelievable. After all, the city-owned hydro had taken second place in national standings -- merely on the strength of its reliability -- last year.
Notre Dame, winner of the '64 Dixie Cup, started fast and looked like the boat to beat. But Mariner Too and Miss U.S. 5 were top contenders, too. Engine problems hit all three boats before the three heats were through and an over-anxious start in the final heat didn't help. Both the Notre Dame and Miss U.S. 5, along with Harrah's Tahoe Miss, jumped the gun and were assessed an additional lap. Byers and Miss Madison, with what was first believed to be a poor start, proved to be legal starters and "coasted" to the heat -- and Cup -- win. Mariner Too was second, U.S. 5 third, Gale's Roostertail fourth, Notre Dame fifth, and Tahoe Miss sixth.
A lot of wind, a lot of debris, and a lot of confusion, marked the second race on the circuit. This one, at Newtown, N. D., for the Dakota Cup, finally was cancelled with everyone connected with the race in not too happy a frame of mind. Lee Schoenith, unlimited commissioner for the American Power Boat Association, summed up the feelings of the boat owners and drivers when he told the promoters of the Dakota Cup, "It looks like boat racing is dead in this part of the country."
But a pleasant surprise at Coeur d'Alene, where the Diamond Cup Regatta has held forth for some 12 years, helped get the hydro jockeys back on an even keel. For some while there was doubt whether or not the Diamond Cup race would come off. Come off it did, and with the most efficient handling in recent years. Miss Exide, a very trim and fast ship when she's hitting on all 12, came through with a repeat win. Milkman Bill Brow showed his roostertail to the field, but had to beat off fine efforts by Rex Manchester in Notre Dame and Ron Musson in Bardahl.
When Brow took charge and left no doubt that he and Miss Exide were the class of the field, the race for second became a keenly contested issue. A "new" Manchester fought off the bid of Bardahl and gave the rest of the boat owners and drivers something to think about. The Notre Dame has become a top competitor. Bardahl, in her first outing, had to be content with third place . . . but she had been third before, and still finished with all the marbles for number one boat ranking at the end of the year. Mariner Too settled for fourth with Miss Madison fifth and Budweiser sixth.
To prove that she was still "the" boat to beat, Musson quickly posted two victories to move into contention for the year's top honors. At Seattle, the Bardahl stayed together for four heats and an unprecedented third straight Gold Cup win. Followers of the Miss Exide became heartsick when the pretty red-checkered "lady" caught fire and was nearly destroyed. However, determined to finish out the season, owners Milo and Glen Stoen have had the boat repaired and readied for the Lake Tahoe Regatta. Their determination could pay off with a pot of gold here . . . for the 120.356 miles per hour qualifying time and 121 plus m.p.h. lap time set in Seattle were new world records and show the speeds Brow and company can turn in.
Behind the Bardahl came the Notre Dame (a re-run of the final heat when Exide caught fire cost the Notre Dame the lead in the heat and possible victory). Despite not finishing in the final heat, the Exide still had garnered enough points to finish fourth behind Harrah's Tahoe Miss. Fifth place went to Miss U.S. 5, and sixth was Such Crust.
Musson chalked up the second win at Ogden and was not pressed in any of his heats. Miss Smirnoff finished second with Miss Madison third, Miss Budweiser fourth, Notre Dame fifth, and Savair's Probe sixth. The Ogden race marked the first time that the Miss San Diego had started a race and rookie Bob Fendler took advantage of the situation to post his and the boat's first heat victory. Fendler won heat 1-A. He did not get his boat started for his next heat.
And then, in the Spirit of Detroit Cup race, it was the Tahoe Miss coming through for three heat wins, and the championship. Ron Musson and Miss Bardahl finished second, Notre Dame third, Miss U.S. 5 fourth, Blue Chip fifth and Gale's Roostertail sixth. Both Bardahl and Notre Dame racked up enough points to keep on top in the race for national laurels. Which gets back to the start of this piece . . . it will be the reliable boats that are around at the finish that will be the big winners for 1965. It was true at the start of the season, through the Gold Cup, the Spirit of Detroit race, the Governor's Cup, and it will be true here at Lake Tahoe.
(Reprinted from the 1965 Lake Tahoe World Championship Regatta program)
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© Leslie Field, 2001