1964 Harrahs Tahoe Regatta
Miss BardahlWins Unlimited Crown
Ron Musson, driving Miss Bardahl, posted a perfect score of 1200 points to win Harrah's 3rd Annual Regatta for unlimited hydroplanes at Stateline, Nevada, September 27th. The victory clinched Bardahl's second consecutive Unlimited National Championship. Ailing from an eye infection, Musson defeated a field of 13 contenders by leading from start to finish in three heats.
The host boat and one of the top contenders all season, Harrah's Tahoe Miss failed to answer the starting gun in her second heat. A desperate effort by her crew to change a gear box damaged in the earlier heat failed by seconds. The rule requiring a boat to be on the course and running at the one minute gun kept the craft in the pits.
Notre Dame jumped to the lead on the first turn of the opening heat and driver Rex Manchester gradually extended the margin to win by 13 seconds over Bill Cantrell in Miss Smirnoff. Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser, Eagle Electric and Savair's Mist followed.
The draw for heat 1-B matched four of the leading high-point boats, Miss Bardahl, Tahoe Miss, Miss Madison and Miss Exide, with Fascination. In ideal water and weather conditions, the start was fast and close with the host boat leading the contenders by a whisker. Roaring into the first turn, Musson hugged the buoys and came out leading the pack. Veteran driver Chuck Thompson in Tahoe Miss charged after the fleeting Bardahl. Exide passed the Madison entry to take over third spot. Fascination trailed. It was soon evident no one was going to catch Musson as he posted a record-setting first lap speed of 111.111 m.p.h. over the three-mile course. At the start of his final lap Thompson began to lose speed. It was apparent something was ailing Tahoe Miss as third place Exide began to gain. At the final corner it was a question whether Thompson could retain his second spot ahead of the onrushing Exide piloted by Seattle milkman Bill Brow. He did-but only by inches-as Tahoe went dead in the water a few feet past the finish line with a damaged gear box. Bardahl's record average speed of 109.756 m.p.h. for the five-lap event was phenomenal for a course situated 6225 feet above sea level!
Heat 1-C produced a duel from start to finish as the two youngest drivers in the unlimited field staged some of the best racing of the day. Twenty-two year old Billy Schumacher came from last spot in $ Bill to challenge and finally pass 21-year-old Jerry Schoenith driving Gale V. Engine trouble during the heat sidelined Tempo and a broken gear box sent Mariner Too to the pits.
In the draw for positions in the second heat, Tahoe Miss was unfortunately picked to run in first section-heat 2-A. During the interval between heats the Tahoe crew, aided by members of the Budweiser camp, worked desperately to repair the damaged gear box. But their heroic efforts were never rewarded. The one-minute gun signaling the count-down to heat 2-A came too soon. Her grease-covered and disappointed crew watched from the sidelines as Bardahl again swept to victory. Smirnoff, Madison, Exide and Savair Mist followed in that order.
Heat 2-B marked a Tahoe comeback for Miss Budweiser, former Nevada-based, two-time champion Maverick. The craft driven by Chuck Hickling jumped into an early lead over the field of five. $ Bill went out on the 4th lap when driver Schumacher lost control momentarily as .the California entry went into the corner. Water rushed over the deck and down the carburetor, "putting out the fire." Water-filled cylinders prevented young Schumacher from restarting his engine. Budweiser led Gale V, Notre Dame, Eagle Electric and Fascination across the finish line to post an average speed of 102.739 for the 15 miles.
There was no one able to stop Bardahl in the final heat. Leading from the start, she extended her margin in each lap to end the race 25 seconds ahead of second place Budweiser. Repeating the duel initiated in Heat 1-C, Gale V and $ Bill fought for third spot. This time "rookie" Jerry Schoenith came through with a surprising third.
In winning the event, Bardahl earned Harrah's coveted trophy for the third consecutive year. Musson's share of the $25,000 prize money came to $6900 plus $800 in qualifying premiums. On the basis of first, second and third place finishes, Miss Budweiser finished second over-all. Gale V, Notre Dame, Smirnoff, $ Bill, Miss Madison, Exide, Tahoe Miss, Eagle Electric, and Fascination followed in that order. Mariner Too and Tempo failed to score points.
(Reprinted from Yachting, November 1964, pp.29, 168)
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