1951 APBA Gold Cup
Lake Washington, Seattle WA, August 4, 1951
Cup Racer Called a ‘Runaway’ Boat
SEATTLE, Aug. 5 (AP)—Speed boat experts said today a jammed accelerator may have caused the Quicksilver to dive to destruction and fling two men to their deaths in a tragic finale to yesterday’s Gold Cup Race on Lake Washington.
As the body of a second victim and the shattered hulk of the boat were raised from the lake, drivers and owners called for more rigid inspection of competing craft and checkouts of drivers to prevent similar accidents in the future.
No immediate inspection was made of the boat. It was taken to Coast Guard headquarters. The accident occurred during the third and final heat of the race. It was called off and the judges decided to award the championship on the basis of the first two heats, which ended with the new Slo-mo-shun V of Seattle far ahead in points.
A quarter million spectators witnessed the boat’s plunge.
Driver Mathiot Powerless
Carl Johnson, executive secretary of the American Power Boat Association, said he is convinced Quicksilver was a "runaway boat." He expressed belief that owner-driver Orth Mathiot of Portland, Ore., was powerless to do anything with the craft in the split seconds before it dove to the bottom under a 65-foot-high shower of spray and splinters.
Experienced men in the pits and on the judges’ stand said Quicksilver appeared to make a sudden spurt as she rounded the northwest turn. Mathiot, struggling valiantly, managed to straighten her out and missed the judges’ barge.
These experts said they saw Mathiot’s frantic pulls on the steering wheel and added that both he and his companion were having trouble remaining in the boat as they came out of the turn. Divers today brought up the body of Tom Whitaker, 28, Air Force sergeant, riding as mechanic aboard the hydroplane. The battered body of Mathiot, 57, was recovered two hours after the first fatal accident in forty-four years of Gold Cup races.
Second Body Recovered
The speedboat was badly torn up but the hull was largely intact. The mechanic’s body was located about 35 feet away from the boat. Drivers and owners meanwhile called for inspection of craft and drivers equal to rigid requirements enforced at Indianapolis Speedway. Stanley Sayres, Seattle, owner of the champion Slo-mo-shun V, said: "I think there could he rule changes that might tend to prevent such accidents. One fundamental we should consider from here on is that speeds are really getting into the upper brackets." Quicksilver’s speed was such when it plunged that its occupants were torn out of their lifejackets, helmets and shoes.
Horace Dodge, Detroit, who drove My Sweetie in the first heat, said: "I think it was simply a lack of experience in this type of racing that was responsible for the accident. The Quicksilver was the same design as My Sweetie and those boats cannot stand up against the larger, more powerful craft. "This was My Sweetie’s last race*. She’s about outmoded for up-to-date competition."
[Reprinted from the New York Times, August 6, 1951]
*[This was indeed the last race for this My Sweetie (1). A second My Sweetie (2) would debut later in the season and race intermittently until 1956, almost exclusively in eastern races. Another My Sweetie (3) came out in 1953, renamed Dora My Sweetie (or My Sweetie Dora, depending on whom you are arguing with) for 1954 through 1956; still another boat, John Francis My Sweetie (or, as above, My Sweetie John Francis) appeared in 1954 and 1955. Note: the lineage of the My Sweeties is the subject of considerable discussion and I do not purport to know definitively which was which. —LF]
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