1969 Seafair Trophy Race
The Sporting Thing
Winner by 3 Miles
Jumps Come High
By George N. Myers, Sports Editor, The Times
In hydroplane racing, there is an ancient adage: It is hard to win a 45-mile race by driving 48 miles.
And he who bobbles his goggles boggles.
Bill Muncey, the voluble Babe Ruth of thunderboating, can attest to that.
And Bill Sterett, a graying drawler from ol' Kaintuck who had to learn to walk all over again two years ago, drove the perfect race at the perfect pace to quaff, on behalf of Miss Budweiser, foam from the Seafair Cup.
Brazenly gambling in Miss U. S. in the first heat, Muncey, the world's only active winner of four Gold Cups, charged the start and "it was gorgeous."
But Bill jumped the gun. So did Leif (Lafe) Borgersen in Notre Dame and Dean Chenoweth in Myr's Special.
Thus, the only "legal" boat that finished the specified five laps was Sterett's Bud—the first of three 400-point rewards that earned a maximum 1,200 and the cheers of the sunbaked throng on the shores of Lake Washington.
Even with a penalty lap of three miles, Muncey finished second in the heat and still was a contender until, in his second heat, groping to adjust his goggles, he adjusted them clear off his face.
With the naked eye and an oil-smeared windshield, Muncey tippy-toed at less than 90 miles an hour to a third place in the heat. And, though Muncey has backed into many a championship through the mathematical complexities of the game, Sterett made the computer useful only to count up to 8,500 in dollars for the Budweiser treasury.
Muncey, by coincidence, also was party to the closest thing to disaster in an afternoon gloriously free of unhinged bodies.
In the thunderous start of the grand finale, Budweiser, Atlas Van Lines and Miss U. S. exploded past the buoy virtually together. About 100 yards out, Muncey dipped a sponson and Miss U. S. vanished in a geyser.
But when the spray settled, U. S. still was afloat, pointed the right direction—and in third place behind Bud and Atlas. The positions never changed.
Sterett, whose true grit was in no way compromised by a flip in a 7-liter hydro which nearly detached his right leg from its socket two years ago, merely stomped the throttle and made it a parade to the victory podium.
And when all the ifs are added up, toss in a thrown rod by Miss Bardahl, goaded by Freddie Alter to the day's two fastest heats and an 800 point tie with Budweiser going into the showdown.
But Bardahl, fresh out of retirement as the defending two-time national-point champion, clanked dead out of the first turn of the final heat.
It was a day for poets and painters, usurped by sport and its spectators.
By hordes, they swarmed the beach with sun-tan lotion, sleeping bags and six-packs, clad in shorts, miniskirts and mini-er bikinis.
And with the shoreline teeming, there still were enough midsummer funseekers to spill 8,016 customers into Longacres and a record throng of 23,657 into Sicks' Stadium.
It was the Pilot fans' last look of the season at the New York Yankees. A stranger in town might have thought he had wandered into a big-league city.
WEEKEND WORRIERS: It was billed as a "consolation race" between heats on Lake Washington. But the only one consoled was Walt Kade in Savair's Mist. (Nobody else showed up, but Kade wasn't sure of that until he was flagged off the course after three laps, constituting an "official" race).
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 4, 1969)
History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Leslie Field, 2004