1955 APBA Gold Cup
Lake Washington, Seattle WA, August 7, 1955
Slo-Mo V's Flip: A Personal Memory
I'm from Seattle originally and our family bought its first TV to watch the 1953 Gold Cup. In the 50's there was fierce rivalry between the three Seattle TV stations to provide the best and most complete hydro coverage. One year a station had a 40" lens, its competitor countered with 60"; the next year out came a 100" lens only to be beaten by the "secret weapon" from the opposition of 110". These long lenses looked like bazookas and the cameras weighed as much as a refrigerator. Sports anchors for the races became cult heroes to us kids. I KNEW that Bill O'Mara at KING-TV was the best race broadcaster that ever walked the face of this earth (although my neighbour was partial to Keith Jackson, then cutting his broadcasting teeth in the boonies of Seattle). Heroes can betray you, too. Years later when Rod Belcher, then at KING-TV, was heard to say all the unlimiteds should be taken out to the middle of Lake Washington and sunk, I felt I'd been stabbed in the back.
Ah, the race course. None of this stadium size nonsense of 2½ miles and less. Lake Washington boasted a 3 mile course and, for at least 2 years, it measured 3¾ miles. Back East, the Harmsworth race was run on a 5 mile circuit!
I remember watching the flip of Slo Mo V live one afternoon in 1955. There had never been anything like it during the 'modern' era of 3 point hydros. Until then the races had meant for me (and 500,000 other Seattle residents) fun and noise in the sun. Beautiful boats, brave drivers. The backyard boatbuilder had a real chance of racing and being competitive. The V was one of the sister boats who should have been invincible, indestructible. In this 10-year-old's eyes it was only fitting and proper that one of the Slo Mos should win all the races. We would keep the Gold Cup forever (back then the Cup moved to the home of the previous year's winner). Those evil hordes from Detroit would never take it away from us. Why, they can't even drive. Bill Cantrell had put the Gale IV in the middle of a garden party the year before when he beached his boat. It was all fun and games. (The Quicksilver tragedy was before my time.) Fun until that afternoon in 1955. Stan Boreson's kids show was interrupted so we could all watch the qualifying run of the V. Lou Fageol took her around and up the backstretch, running at a pretty good clip. Without warning, the boat rose up and did a complete backward flip, landing right side up and actually continuing for a few more yards. Fageol was thrown out. The helicopters came and took him away. I couldn't believe my eyes. Back then there were no instant replays; we had to wait for the kinescopes to be processed. I had this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. Bill O'Mara guided us through this experience, just as he had for viewers of the Quicksilver accident a few years earlier when she took her two occupants to the bottom of the lake. Fageol recovered, as did the rest of us. From that afternoon onward, however, I knew there was real danger out there. The moment of the loss of innocence.
Many thanks to Fred Farley for stirring up these memories in me.
-- Leslie Field (1996)
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