1974 APBA Gold Cup
Lake Washington, Seattle WA, August 4, 1974
Gold Cup Day at the New Site
After all the caterwauling over what a wretched place Sand Point was for a hydroplane race, I made a hideous discovery.
It is not much worse than the hallowed site at the Stan Sayres Memorial Pits.
All week long, I heard pitiable laments:
"There isn’t even any drinking water at Sand Point!"
"You can’t see past the officials’ tower and those damn cranes in the pits!"
"Impeach Arden Aegerter! "
My memory was that, at the old Seward Park course, there never was any drinking water. If you sat behind the official barge or the cranes in the pits there, you could not see.
Still, when the public for 23 years has walked in to see an event free, the temptation is irresistible to barbecue anybody who upsets tradition and has the temerity to ask you to pay.
I arrived at Sand Point on Gold Cup Day determined to find fault. It was a short search.
The sun was too hot, and there were almost no trees. The grass was not green, and it was beat down. There were a lot of terrible places to sit, where you could see no more than a passing roostertail, and that’s where most of the people sat.
But there were glimmers of ingenuity.
A dozen or so fans, on folding chairs, had a splendid view of much of the course from the concrete loading platform of the Navy’s old Small-Arms Pyrotechnic storehouse.
Another dozen were atop a Marine Corps display—one each tractor, medium, full-tracked, low-speed Model 82-30 (53,500 lbs., $36,000).
Twice that many covered the roof of a giant Washington National Guard van.
I watched one heat from the summit of Bunker 21, a concrete mound overlaid with wild grasses and floating thistledown. It commanded a sweeping view, through binoculars, of three-quarters of the course. But it was no place for hay fever.
I trudged the length of the course and watched another heat from the swimming pier of the Sand Point officers’ beach, my feet barely dangling over the lapping water.
Though limited, it was the most dramatic view I found, as the boats exploded into sight from the starting buoy and thundered into the south turn. But I could not see Miss U. S. when she burst into flames in the north turn.
At almost the same moment, however, a grass fire crackled nearby, and the flames licked dangerously near hundreds of automobiles parked on the airport runway.
Firemen controlled that blaze, I gather, some-what more quickly than the fire was subdued on Miss U. S.
I found an even better vantage point a few hundred yards farther south, looking straight up the course from a low, unpopulated promontory thick with wild broom, blackberry canes and thistle.
I would like to have watched a heat from there. But a young man and a girl, wearing suntan lotion and not much more, were paying very close attention to each other, lying in the thistle, only a few feet away.
I was embarrassed that, if they discovered I was there, they might be embarrassed.
For variety, I watched one heat from an assigned seat on the official tower.
The entire course lay before me. Every time the boats roared into the south turn, all I could see through my binoculars was the tattoo on a photographer’s bicep.
When U-95 went down, I had an excellent view. I then was on a slope almost directly behind the official tower, very close to a sign reading: "Let’s Return the Race Back to the Stan Sayres Pits."
Beside the sign was a table, where you could sign a petition.
I managed a little added elevation by climbing onto a big, green litter-disposal bin. It was the best view I had all day.
A man with an official badge made me get off.
The most comfortable place to watch was in a tree-shaded strip of 300 yards immediately south of the pits. About half the area was roped off for "military personnel" and guests of Pay ‘n Pak.
But, as in most spots directly on shore—at Sand Point and Seward Park—the boats were visible only as they passed.
It broke on me that there was no overwhelming evidence that most of the people who go to a hydroplane race are obsessed with seeing the race.
The attraction seems to be the atmosphere, the noise, the crowd itself.
It is a day for suntan lotion and the plastic frost chest, gaudy halters and grungy cutoffs, flying Frisbees and inflatable rafts, watching the imperturbable ducks, ogling the string bikinis—more string than bikini.
For all those purposes, Sand Point proved itself eminently adequate, with one horrible difference. The other place was free.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 5, 1974)
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