1966 President's Cup
Potomac River, Washington D.C., June 19, 1966
Top Hydro Drivers Killed in U.S. Hydro Tragedy
Province Wire Services
Washington — Three speedboat racers — two of them the top drivers in the business — were killed Sunday in the President’s Cup Regatta on the Potomac River.
The three were: Ron Musson, driver of Miss Bardahl; Rex Manchester, driver of Notre Dame, and Don Wilson, driver of Miss Budweiser. Both Musson and Manchester were from Seattle. Wilson was from Palm Beach, Florida.
Musson was killed when the Miss Bardahl, which was radically re-designed for this year's unlimited class races, apparently dipped her nose into the Potomac while racing at about 160 miles an hour. She disintegrated in a gigantic shower of spray and debris.
Miss Budweiser and the Notre Dame apparently collided at speeds approaching 170 miles an hour.
All three drivers and their craft had been scheduled to race at the Kelowna Regatta from July 13 to 19.
The race was ended after the Manchester-Wilson, accident during the first lap of the final heat.
The judges named Manchester and the Notre Dame as the winner of the race, based on points earned during the two-day regatta through the heat preceding the final fatal accident.
Wilson, who had substituted for regular driver Bob Brown (sic) [Bill Brow], and Miss Budweiser were awarded second place and Tahoe Miss, driven by 39-year old Mira Slovak, was third.
Wilson and Manchester were ahead of the other 11 boats in the pack and fighting for the lead when the collision occurred. Manchester's boat was on the outside, about a length ahead, when it was rammed by Wilson's craft. It skidded up on its right sponson, spun crazily inward and came down on top of Wilson's boat. Both craft flew apart, hurling their drivers into the river.
The other boats slowed to a stop, then circled around in an effort to find the two drivers. Crewmen aboard a coast guard river craft pulled them from the water and they were taken to hospital where they were pronounced dead.
Musson's craft was roaring down the river toward the starting line for a qualifying race earlier in the afternoon when the nose dipped. At the speed he was going, officials said, the impact of the water ripped the rear-engine hydroplane to pieces. Musson, a native of Akron, Ohio, and husband of a former model, Betty Lou Beichly, lived in Seattle with his three children.
Manchester, who had eight children, started racing outboards in Alaska in 1956. The following year he built his own limited inboard, raced it and won.
He made a reputation in the U.S. Northwest and was signed to drive the Miss Spokane unlimited in 1960. After three years with his boat he switched to the $ Bill in 1963 and Gale V in 1964.
The three deaths were the first in unlimited hydroplane racing since 1962 [1961 —LF] when Bob Hayward of Embro, Ont., was killed while driving Miss Supertest.
(Reprinted from the Vancouver Province, June 20, 1966)
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