1968 UIM World Championship
Consistency Paid Off
Warm up the computer, folks, while the little wheels, nuts and bolts give us the winner of the roostertail derby.
So it's the rookie politician, Bill Muncey, who captures the world's hydroplane championship on points in a wild but exciting free-for-all that produced more sunk or disabled ships than the battle of the Coral Sea.
Playing it cool and cagy in the final heat, the winningest driver of them all coasted to third place in the day's finale.
You might say the chubby Gold Cup star backed into it.
The screaming Eagle from Spokane and Reno's Harrah's Club, a sleeper, each won two heats to Muncey's one. But Bill kept his Miss U.S. running, while his faster but luckless rivals suffered mechanical miseries, each failing to finish in one of the three heats.
It was a day of flips, conkouts, and two thrilling rescues by the ever-ready whirlybirds which hovered above the water and fished out accident-prone Jack Regas, of the Notre Dame and Bob Miller, the Atlas driver.
The dashing, daring Regas, who has spent more time in hospitals than Dr. Kildare, lies on a Virginia Mason cot, painfully injured when his Irish boat with the shamrock on its hull sank. Miller was unhurt except for his feelings.
And so it was that Seattle's most famous hydro skipper, face besmirched with grease and grime and sweat, stepped into the winner's circle to receive the kiss of victory from lovely Seafair Queen, Karen Ann Brown.
But the budding politician, realizing lady luck was riding in his cockpit yesterday, wore a slight grin like the cat who just swallowed the canary. He babied and nursed his sleek U-2 boat through all three heats. But there were two, maybe three faster hydroplanes on the lake Sunday.
It was Muncey who, in the fading twilight, received the cheers of the uncounted masses which solidly packed the huge natural amphitheater. The tremendous crowd, one of the largest in the regatta history, stayed until the last thunderboat roared past the finish line.
It was a remarkable tribute to the popularity of the sport.
What of Billy the Kid and his proud new checkered beauty, Miss Bardahl?
Dynasties fall and kingdoms totter but what about crusty old Ole Bardahl, who for years has ruled the roostertail empire with a firm hand?
Ole's souped-up, snub-nosed charger coughed, sputtered and gave up the ghost in the final heat. But the brilliant young whiz kid at the wheel gave the crowd the greatest thrill of the day. A full 20 lengths behind crafty Jim McCormick and his Rolls-Griffon powered boat from Reno, Schumacher staged an eye-popping stern chase in an earlier heat. They came down to the finish bow to bow, but the Bardahl couldn't quite make it.
A shining star of the day was rookie driver Tommy (Tucker) Fults. Skippering his hydroplane lake a veteran, he won second money with his Allison-powered My Gypsy.
Another boat with blazing speed which disappointed her admirers was Miss Budweiser. Bill Sterett had a live boat under him, and established a strong lead in two of his heats, but engine troubled killed his hopes.
After it was all over, Bill Muncey proved that the race isn't to the fastest, but to the most consistent.
Echoes from the Lake
Neither Bardahl nor the winning Miss U.S. were performing up to expectations and it was the 8-year-old Miss Electric, Harrah's Club and Budweiser which were electrifying the fans with speeds of nearly 170 down the chute . . . there were so many dropouts in the final heat, they were thinking of drafting the winning Indian canoe Makah Warrior to fill out the entry list . . . Just Wondering — Whatever became of the barber's favorite hydro Wildroot Charlie? . . . Marshall Dillon can draw faster, but the loudest gun in the West is the cannon on the officials' barge which sounds like a bomb to gun-shy, nerve-wracked reporters . . . POME — It's easy enough to be pleasant, when the boat hums along like it oughter; but the driver worth while is the bloke who can smile when his hydro goes dead in the water . . . button dealers in the small-boy set were doing a brisk business, asking prices ranging from five cents to ten dollars, with Hawaii Kai getting the top rating . . . Just Asking — Is there a prettier picture in sports than a hydroplane in full acceleration, with a long, graceful cascade of foamy spray sparkling in the bright sun like the giant tail of a strutting peacock? . . . the speedboats go faster but the Indian canoes which raced yesterday with their 11-manpower motors, have the more picturesque names — Lone Wolf, Makah Warrior and the Seven Sisters . . .Salute of the Week — To the harassed, tireless, unpaid Seafair officials who for the 18th year made the Lake Washington hydro regatta one of the most spectacular sports events of the nation .. .
(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 5, 1968)
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