1966 President's Cup
Potomac River, Washington D.C., June 19, 1966

Potomac Tragedy Shocks Boating Officials

bullet Sterett Captures Hydroplane Contest
bullet Musson, Manchester and Wilson Killed in Speedboat Regatta on Potomac
bullet 3 Hydroplane Drivers Killed in Explosions

Three Drivers Killed In Hydroplane Race

bullet Top Hydro Drivers Killed in U.S. Hydro Tragedy
bullet Black Sunday
bullet Denny Boyd
bullet Hydroplane Crash Probed
bullet Prop Blamed for Mishap
bullet No Changes Seen for Hydroplanes
bullet Fragile Sport
bullet Potomac Tragedy Shocks Boating Officials

British Columbia Cup organizers in Kelowna and Victoria today expressed shock and sympathy over Sunday's triple tragedy on the hydroplane circuit, but said the cup race here will go ahead as scheduled.

The unlimited crashes—in Washington, D.C.—claimed the lives of Ron Musson in Miss Bardahl, Don Wilson in Miss Budweiser and Rex Manchester in Notre Dame.

The three, considered tops in the hydroplane-racing field, perished in two separate accidents on the Potomac River, during the race for the President's Cup.

Were Due Here

All three, and their famous boats, were due to race on Okanagan Lake for the British Columbia Cup July 13 to 17.

The races here are scheduled as a B.C. centennial event.

In Victoria, L. J. Wallace, centennial chairman said he and other committee members were "shocked and upset" at the accidents, but the Kelowna events would go ahead as scheduled.

"I see no reason for the race to be affected," he said.

Roger Cottle, general chairman of the Kelowna Boat Racing. Association, said he and his committee still expect 16 of the big boats to perform here "but the loss of three of top drivers and three of the fastest boats would have some effect."

Musson and Miss Bardahl were speeding along at 160 m.p.h., when the boat exploded, in front of the judges' stand.

He was piloting a revolutionary rear engine craft. One of the blades of his three-bladed propeller broke off during an elimination heat. With the propeller unbalanced, the shaft drove through the bottom of the boat letting water gush into the engine. The boat rose into the air, came down nose first and exploded on impact.

Musson, 37, was taken to shore, where for 10 minutes Dr. Claude Burpee of Tampa, Florida, and a crew of Red Cross aides tried to revive him with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage. Musson was then removed to George Washington University Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A three time national unlimited champion, Musson started driving in 1959 as pilot of Hawaii Kai.

Manchester and Wilson died while competing in the championship heat.

With Don Wilson leading in Miss Budweiser, Manchester made a move to take the lead. Manchester misjudged his distance and his boat struck Miss Budweiser. While thing to gain control of his boat, Manchester flipped into the air and came down broad side onto Miss Budweiser. Both boats were destroyed.

Manchester, a Second World War marine veteran, started racing outboards in Alaska in 1956. The following year Manchester built and raced his own boat.

It was 1959 when Manchester was first introduced to unlimited racing. Asked to pilot Miss Spokane, Manchester guided the hydroplane to third place at the Reno Regatta and seventh spot at the Seattle Seafair races.

Manchester had a close call in 1960 at the Apple Cup races in Wenatchee when Miss Spokane flipped and threw Manchester clear of the boat. He was 20 days in the hospital and months on crutches after the incident.

Manchester took over the controls of Notre Dame in 1965 when he guided the boat to second place in National high point standings.

Wilson, one of the lesser known unlimited pilots, was filling in for regular Budweiser driver Bill Brow. Brow had been shuttled to the sidelines at the Tampa Suncoast Regatta with a dislocated shoulder. Miss Budweiser was ranked seventh in the national high point standings in 1965.

Officials ended the race immediately after the Manchester-Wilson mishap. Manchester was later declared the winner based on points earned during the heat preceding the double fatality.

(Reprinted from the Kelowna Courier, June 20, 1966)

Hydroplane History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at wildturnip@gmail.com
© Leslie Field, 2005