1969 APBA Gold Cup
Mission Bay, San Diego, California, September 28, 1969
"Triple Crown" For Sterett, Miss Budweiser
The 1969 Unlimited Hydroplane racing circuit was shortened from the usual ten races to seven and going into the last race, the Gold Cup at San Diego, the field was tightly packed with the top three boats standing within 450 points in national standings. The top three drivers were within 275 points in the standings for the national driver's championship.
The $61,000 American Power Boat Association Gold Cup Race at San Diego would be the deciding event for the year's titles: National Driving Championship, National Boat Championship and the top purse winnings standings. This richest of Unlimited Hydro races would contribute more than $13,000 to the winning entry.
Eleven hydros entered the time trials the week before the race and a final field of ten bouts qualified for the five-boat heats of the Gold Cup.
Miss Budweiser of Tampa, Fla., led the national standings with 5375 points; driver Bill Sterett was third in driver standings with 4875 points. Myr's Special of Detroit, Mich., was second with 5150 and driver Dean Chenoweth was leading the drivers with 5150 points. Miss U.S. of Detroit, Mich., was third with 4925 and driver Bill Muncey, four-time Gold Cup winner, was in second place with 4925 points. Notre Dame of Detroit was fourth with 4082 and driver Leif Borgersen was fifth with 4082 points. Fifth boat was Atlas Van Lines of Phoenix, Ariz., with 3153; driver Jim McCormick was fourth with 4225.
Other entries were Savair San Diego Mist of Detroit with 1546; Pride of Pay 'N Pak of Spokane, Wash., with 1484; Miss Bardahl of Seattle with 800; Savair Probe of Detroit and Mr. P's of Seattle, both without national points.
In heat 1A early Sunday, a foggy Sept. 28 on Mission Bay, Pride of Pay 'N Pak threw a scare into the Gold Cup field by defeating Miss Budweiser, Miss U.S., Savair San Diego Mist and Miss Bardahl in that order.
In heat 1B Notre Dame held to her blistering qualifying run times and defeated Atlas Van Lines, Myr's Special, Savair Probe and Mr. P's, which did not start.
A strong westerly kept building throughout the day, carrying a hazy fog in front the Pacific and kicking up a light chop on the course which had been glassy smooth the week leading to the race. The qualifying speeds of 110 mph were hard to match on the rough waters and winning heat speeds were somewhat slower with Pride of Pay 'N Pak averaging just over 102 mph and Notre Dame turning close to 104 mph.
In the second go-round it was Myr's Special winning heat 2A at 104 mph, defeating Savair San Diego Mist and non-finishers Pride of Pay 'N Pak and Notre Dame. Miss U.S. failed to start. In heat 2B it was Miss Budweiser on top, defeating Miss Bardahl, Atlas Van Lines, Mr. P's and Savair Probe.
This put Miss Budweiser in the driver's seat with 700 points; Myr's Special was close behind at 625; Atlas Van Lines was standing third with 525; Savair's San Diego Mist was fourth with 469; Miss Bardahl had 427; Pride of Pay 'N Pak and Notre Dame were deadlocked at 400; Savair Probe had 296; Miss U.S. had 225 and Mr. P's had 169.
Miss Budweiser continued her run in the third round by defeating Mr. P's, Savair San Diego Mist, and Miss Bardahl. Notre Dame dropped out on the last lap. Lap speeds continued to drop as winds strengthened. Miss Budweiser turned the six laps of heat 2A at an average 96 mph.
In heat 2B it was Pride of Pay 'N Pak bouncing back to defeat Atlas Van Lines, Savair Probe and Myr's Special which only managed to complete one lap. Miss U.S. failed to start. Pride of Pay 'N Pak's winning speed was just under 95 mph.
After three heats it was Miss Budweiser decisively out in front with 1100 points. Atlas Van Lines was second, but 275 points off the pace at 825. Pride of Pay 'N Pak was third at 800; Savair San Diego Mist had 694 and Myr's Special was fifth at 625.
Gold Cup scoring gives 400 for first, 300 for second, 225 for third, 169 for fourth and 127 for fifth. Thus, Miss Budweiser needed only to finish last to pick tip 127 points and still defeat by two points Atlas Van Lines if she was to finish first. The question of the national driver's title was hanging fire as Chenoweth was still leading Sterett at the end of three heats.
For Sterett the choice was clear: the Gold Cup and the national boat title were far more important goals in this final match and he elected to play it safe.
The fog which had been worsening all afternoon, suddenly lifted and the winds lessened as the gun sounded the start of the final dash for the gold. Miss Budweiser was dead last across the line, well out of the tangle of roostertails aid clashing wakes.
Luck was with Sterett as Atlas Van Lines and Pride of Pay 'N Pak went dead in the water near the end of the first 2½-mile lap. Savair San Diego Mist developed engine trouble soon afterwards and struggled along to try and salvage some points, but went dead in the water for the last time less than a lap from the finish line.
Chenoweth kept Myrs Special on the course and took heat honors, but Sterett kept Miss Budweiser running smoothly on her fourth engine of the day and captured second place points for the Gold Cup, National Boat Title and defeated Chenoweth by a scant 100 points for the driving title: the triple crown of unlimited hydro racing all on one afternoon!
Final Gold Cup standings: Miss Budweiser 1400; Myr's Special 1025 Atlas Van Lines 825; Pride of Pay 'N Pak 800; Savair San Diego Mist 694; Miss Bardahl 596; Savair Probe 521; Mr. P's 469; Notre Dame 400; Miss U.S. 225.
Miss Budweiser's fastest heat average of 103.587 mph average was in keeping with past Gold Cup winning speeds which have been in the 100 mph-plus range for 11 of the last 13 Gold Cups. The first Gold Cup was raced for in 1904 and won with a course average of 23.6 mph. In 1905 that average dropped to 15.9 mph for the winner.
Course speeds gradually improved tip to 1920 when Gar Wood won the cup in his Miss America with a hot 70-mph average. That Gold Cup mark stood until 1946 when Guy Lombard piloted his Tempo VI to victory at 70.8 mph.
Course speeds dropped for a couple of years, but then began climbing. The century mark was reached in 1955 by present APBA Unlimited Vice President, Lee Schoenith, driving Gale V at 102.5 mph.
The 30-foot-long three-and-a-half-ton hydros reach speeds of 180 mph on long smooth stretches, with roostertails of white water flying 30 feet into the air. The roar of the powerful Rolls and Allison aircraft engines makes conversation impossible. More than 100,000 spectators turned out for this spectacle at Mission Bay and loved every minute of it as the powerful "Thunderboats" did their thing.
(Reprinted from Sea and Pacific Motor Boat, November 1969, p.44-45)
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