1956 President's Cup
President's Cup to Seattle's Miss Thriftway
Willard Rhodes' two-Year quest of the President's Cup ended in a most satisfactory manner for the Seattle businessman, his driver Bill Muncey, and the designer of Miss Thriftway, Ted Jones. The winning trio turned the trick in two days of keen competition against a record field of 14 unlimited hydroplanes that turned out in mid-September for the silver anniversary running of the regatta in Washington.
Seattle race fans' joy over Miss Thriftway's victory took on added significance in view of the Labor Day dispute over the Gold Cup. A note of sadness crept in the next day, however, with the passing of Stanley Sayres, owner of the famed Slo-Mo-Shuns. In winning the Washington regatta, Rhodes returned the President's Cup to the Seattle Y.C. where Sayres and driver Lou Fageol had taken it in 195:3 with Slo-Mo-Shun V.
Miss Thriftway, with 27-year-old Muncey at the wheel, first showed real promise on the Potomac River last year when she placed second to Guy Lombardo's Tempo VII and set a 45-mile race record of 92.676 m.p.h.
Muncey gave a demonstration of what was to come in the first lap of the first qualifying heat in which he was pitted against Chuck Thompson driving Roy Dossin's Miss Pepsi of Detroit, Lt. Col. Russ Schleeh in Bill Waggoner's Shanty I of Seattle Y.C., Bill Stead in Waggoner's Maverick and Bud Saile in his Miss Wayne of Detroit. Muncey was clocked at 104.449 for a new President's Cup lap record, and he ended the heat with another record of 101.427. It was a blistering pace which no driver could match. Maverick trailed by nearly half a mile while Miss Pepsi, after a see-saw fight with Shanty, finished third.
In the drawing for heat 1-B, Jack Schafer's twin-Allison racer Such Crust III driven by Fred Alter was matched against George Simon's Miss U.S. I driven by Jack Bartlow, Miss U.S. II handled by Doc Terry, Joseph Schoenith's Gale V with Bill Cantrell at the wheel, and Philip Murphy's Muvalong driven by his son Jay. All but Murphy, who represented Tahoe Y.C., were Detroiters. Starting third, Such Crust moved into the lead over Gale V on the back stretch and staved out in front for the five laps. Miss U.S. II finished third, Miss U.S. I was fourth and Muvalong, fifth. The winning speed was 9.3.880 m.p.h.
For the remaining four unlimiteds, there was this drawing: Schoenith's Gale VI, son Lee driving; Gale IV, Roy Duby; Edgar Kaiser's pretty pink Hawaii Kai III of Seattle Y.C., Jack Regas at the wheel, and Gordon Thompson's Miss Supertest II of London, Ontario, with veteran driver Danny Foster in command. Foster sent the Rolls Royce-powered Canadian entry across the line in a beautiful start, and for one lap Miss Supertest II looked like a winner. But then she rocked and her port sponson started to disintegrate. Schoenith then took the lead and was never headed, while Gale IV and Hawaii Kai staged a thriller of a finish for second, which the Detroit boat took by six-tenths of a second.
Rain and gathering darkness postponed any more eliminations until Sunday. Pairings that day placed Shanty, Gale VI, Miss Pepsi, Miss Thriftway, Muvalong and Gale IV in the opening semi-final. Because of a heavy schedule, the committee sent the field off despite a fresh southerly kicking up a nasty chop. Muncey was over first and stayed out in front all the way—in spite of a gaping hole in Miss Thriftway's port sponson, an accident that occurred on the first lap. Thompson did his best to take the lead away from Muncey, but Miss Pepsi was not her old self on the turns. At the finish there was only eight-tenths of a second between the two rivals, and the crowd was limp. Shanty, Gale VI, Muvalong and Gale IV followed in that order.
Further racing was postponed by Co-Referees Mel Crook and Red Peatross to await an easing of the wind. Rhodes' team with help from other crews, meanwhile, took advantage of the delay to effect a repair job on Miss Thriftway.
Finally the second semi-final was run, and it was worth the price of admission. Such Crust and Maverick fought for the lead for two and a half laps, only to have the Detroit racer falter and drop out with a broken fuel pump. That put Maverick in front until, on the last lap at the lower turn, Regas in the Kaiser craft surged into the lead for a Hollywood-type finish. Hawaii Kai had first by eight-tenths of a second, and Regas averaged 102.602 m.p.h. for the lap. His average for the heat was 95.744.
Going into the final heat the scores for the six qualifiers stood: Miss Thriftway, 800; Hawaii Kai III, 625; Maverick, 600; Gale VI, 569; Miss Pepsi, 525; Gale V, 525. The pride of Seattle, little the worse for wear, was out ahead for a lap, then Thompson sent Miss Pepsi into the lead in a last-ditch effort to win the cup for an unprecedented fourth time. Thompson not only had to finish first but Muncey would have to be sixth.
Playing it safe, Muncey stayed in second spot and his repair job held. Regas tried hard to break through the wakes of Miss Pepsi and Miss Thriftway but could not. On the second lap, Muncey accidentally gave Regas a wetting down, which dropped Hawaii Kai back to fourth place behind Gale V. Gale VI quit with engine trouble on the first lap, and Maverick never answered the starting gun. Pepsi's heat speed was 97.613, and after toting up the three heats, she had set a new race record of 97.239 m.p.h. The final score then was Miss Thriftway, 1,100; Miss Pepsi, 925; Hawaii Kai III, 794; Gale V, 750; Maverick, 600, and Gale VI, 569.
In the two-heat race for the William Rogers Memorial Trophy and the revived American Speedboat Championship, Hawaii Kai led a four-boat field both times and in the process chalked up the fastest lap and heat speeds ever run in the Potomac River course. Regas was clocked at 105.675 in the third lap of the first heat, and 103.487 for the heat. Following on points were Miss U.S. I, Shanty I and Muvalong.
Record fields of stock outboards showed up the first day. In the BU class, 44 entries required three elimination heats. Winners included Buddy Fleming, Edgewater, Md., AUs; Hunter Grimes, Alexandria Bay, N.Y., CUs; Dion Arrigoni, Durham, Conn., BUs; Dick Ellis. Falls Church, Va., DUs; Howard Hilt. Jr., Binghamton, N.Y., A stock hydros; Howard Niger, Winston-Salem, N.C.. D stock hydros.
Inboard winners the next day included: Enoch Walker, Hampton, Va., E service runabouts; Paul Price, Annandale, Va.. 48-hydros; Skeeter Johnson. Cambridge, Md., 136-hydros; Frank Vernon, Washington, 135-hydros; Charles Strickland, Beach Haven, N.J., 225-hydros, and Henry Lauterbach, Portsmouth. Va., 266-hydros.
—Malcolm Lamborne, Jr.
(Reprinted from Yachting, November 1956)
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