1966 President's Cup
Potomac River, Washington D.C., June 19, 1966
No Changes Seen for Hydroplanes
Regattas Expected to Go On Despite Potomac Disaster
By Steve Cady
Washington, June 20 Despite reports that Seattle and other cities were thinking of canceling regattas, Lee Schoenith of the American Power Boat Association said today he doubted the three deaths in yesterday's President's Cup Regatta would have any effect on the remaining eight events of the 10-regatta unlimited hydroplane racing schedule.
"We had three deaths in 20 years, and then we have three in one afternoon," said Schoenith, chairman of the association's unlimited racing commission. "I don't see why there should be an uproar. More men are killed each year in Detroit on construction work, but we don't stop constructing buildings."
If anything, the deaths of Ron Musson, Don Wilson and Rex Manchester on the Potomac River were expected to increase the already large crowds attracted by the three-ton "thunderboats."
"Tragically," said Schoenith, "this means we'll probably draw 300,000 for the Gold Cup in Detroit."
No Rule Changes Planned
He said trials for the July 3 Gold Cup, the most famous regatta on the circuit, would open next Monday, No major rules changes are planned by the class.
The safety and technical committee of the APBA will conduct an investigation of yesterday's two accidents, a routine practice after a mishap.
"We're already pretty sure what caused them," Schoenith said before leaving for Detroit, "but we'll try to see how the safety equipment might be improved."
Schoenith, who a a fairly close view of the collision fatal to Wilson and Manchester, called it "a freak accident."
The consensus of witnesses was that Wilson, driving Miss Budweiser on the inside about a third of a mile before the second turn, had been in the "right place at the wrong time."
Boat Kited Twice
Evidence pieced together today indicated that Manchester's boat, Notre Dame, kited twice (became airborne) as the racers roared down the backstretch. The first time, she came down straight, but not hard enough to slow her speed. The second time, gaining speed as she lifted out of the water, Notre Dame veered to the left and smashed down directly onto her rival.
Both boats, which Schoenith estimated were traveling at 160 miles an hour, came apart and the pieces went to the bottom of the river.
Of Miss Bardahl, in which Musson met his death, only the engine and stern section were left.
Schoenith said one of the blade of the three-bladed propeller had come off, ripping the struts and causing the boat to nose into the water at about 150 miles and hour.
As the bow (where Musson sat under the new front-drive arrangement) dug in, the rest of the boat went up and over in a somersault. The explosion resulted from the pressurized aluminum-skinned plywood coming "unglued" under the high-speed impact.
Had Musson been sitting behind the engine, instead of in front of it, the feeling was he would have had a far better chance of surviving.
(Reprinted from the New York Times, June 21, 1966)
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