1974 APBA Gold Cup
Lake Washington, Seattle WA, August 4, 1974
Pak Scuttles Bud for Gold Cup
The half-million dollar U-95 turbine hydro was resting in 180 feet of water off Sand Point last night.
The new Miss U.S. turbocharged unlimited was severely damaged by fire.
One leading Gold Cup contender, Lincoln Thrift, withdrew before the first heat of battle and another, Valu-Mart, pulled out after running one heat.
With all of the other serious challengers struck down on this bizarre, marathon day of racing, the Pride of Pay’n Pak over-powered arch-rival Miss Budweiser — not once, but four straight times — to win boat racing’s premier event,
A chilly, north wind whipped the waters of Lake Washington when the winner-take-all finale finally got under way at 8:10 last night. After a two-lap, deck-to-deck duel, the Pak, driven by soft-spoken George Henley of Eatonville, took charge and won going away.
In the process, he got a good bounce — or, more precisely, Miss Bud driver Howie Benns got a bad one.
As the two boats straightened out for the straightaway dash after coming out of the No. 3 turn on the second lap, the Bud hopped violently and Benns was pitched from his seat.
"He kept hold of the wheel but his rear end was on the side of the cockpit," Bud owner Bernie Little said later. "It broke the side of the seat."
Considering yesterday’s demolition derby, it was a minor league mishap.
Henley took a commanding lead when the Bud faltered and all the Pak had to do was finish to give Henley and Pay’n Pak owner Dave Heerensperger their first Gold Cup.
It was a perfect wedding present for the Pak owner, who was married Saturday.
"I wouldn’t say this is a happier moment than getting married but she’s been awfully lucky for me in racing," Heerensperger said later, between gulps of champagne.
The racing action started at noon in a blazing August sun and ended at 8:27 p.m. with spectators clad in beach wear huddling to keep warm.
It was wild and weird — just about normal for unlimited hydro racing, proving that a change of race course doesn’t alter the pattern of action.
Seafair officials estimated the Sand Point crowd at 27,000 ashore with another 8,000 on boats tied to the log boom.
The foreboding flash of red flares ringed the course the first time the hydros in the fast flight moved into action.
While the Pak and Miss Bud battled for the lead, one of the U-95’s turbine engines exploded as the boat bounced out of the second turn on the south end of the course.
Driver Leif Borgersen bailed out almost immediately and the boat began to sink as chunks of metal from the mangled engine ripped gaping holes in the boat’s hull.
With smoke still coining from the sinking hydro, a rescue helicopter picked Borgersen out of the water and patrol boats tried to get a line on the badly damaged craft. Unable to support the weight of the hydro, the rescue workers had to cut the lines and let the boat settle to the bottom of the lake.
"I think I’ll get out of this crazy sport," said the uninjured Borgersen, who has been involved in a couple of other mishaps in different hydros.
The incident likely will close — at least for a while — another chapter in unlimited racing. The late Jim Clapp pioneered turbine power and spent a fortune developing the U-95 but yesterday’s mishap likely will end the project. There were reports earlier, in fact, that money from Clapp’s estate was not budgeted for the U-95 to run past the Seattle race on the national circuit.
The boat probably will be salvaged, though, in hopes of selling the hull and certainly for the valuable exotic systems aboard.
With the field cut to four hydros, the hot dogs tried again as the racing program fell further and further behind schedule.
The Budweiser, given another chance after conking out before the U-95 accident, got the inside and was leading the Pak when the third-place Miss U.S. caught on fire after an engine explosion in the north turn.
Driver Tommy D’Eath gave up earlier attempts to douse the blaze himself and leaped into the water. Rescue boats converged on the scene but the U.S. continued to smoke. After a couple of minutes the smoke erupted into a bright orange blaze.
While flames licked away at the cockpit and deck of the Detroit hydro as driver D’Eath fumed a 65-foot Coast Guard boat finally moved into action and doused the fire with chemical foam.
D’Eath later voiced strong criticism of race officials for not moving faster. "The first boat there could have put it out with one little fire extinguisher," he said later. "If I had another boat I wouldn’t go out on this course."
Henley was all smiles — as usual — and used words like "beautiful, fantastic and unbelievable" to describe the race, the Gold Cup win and even the course, roiled by the early evening wind.
But Lee Schoenith was far from complimentary and Little agreed.
"I’ve never had my heart in my throat so much as I did in that final heat," Schoenith said. Little even suggested it would "make the Detroit River look smooth. Look at that current out there." But the Budweiser owner made it clear as long as there was a Seattle hydro race his boat would compete.
"Look, this is no excuse," he said. "George Henley drove one helluva race."
About a half-hour before the first heat of action, Lincoln owner Bob Fendler huddled with driver Mickey Remund and then announced the boat wouldn’t compete. While he wouldn’t say he felt it was too dangerous in so many words, that was the implication. After a smooth and speedy qualifying run Saturday, the Lincoln looked erratic in a morning test yesterday.
Billy Schumacher, returning to the hydro wars as the Valu-Mart pilot in a surprise move Friday, trailed the top boats in the first attempt to run off Heat 1-C.
With all the attention on 1) the Pak-Bud duel and 2) the U-95 sinking, the Valu-Mart slipped unnoticed back to the pits and was put on the trailer for the day. The Valu-Mart had suffered sponson damage and the crew didn’t want to risk more extensive damage by running.
The boat, with Schumacher driving, is expected to compete in both Phoenix and San Diego in September.
Victory was the fourth on the unlimited circuit for the Pay’n Pak this season in six races and boosted Henley’s lead over the Budweiser in the national standings to an overwhelming 1,287 points. Henley picked up a perfect 1,800 points for the afternoon.
Prior to the finale, the Pak and the Bud met three times in the Fan Plan race format which matches the fastest boats head-on-head. Each time it was a sizzler but the Pak always managed to prevail.
As the ill-fated top challengers were plucked off, one by one, it appeared as if boat racing’s winningest driver, Bill Muncey, might steal it all.
Muncey piloted the Atlas Van Lines to victory in both preliminary heats of the "middle" flight. But his engine conked out in his first run-in with the speedsters in 3-B and in the finale he slipped to fourth.
Thus ended his bid for a sixth Gold Cup Conquest.
While other boats faltered, the Kirby Classic of Seattle, Bill Wurster‘s low-budget operation made it to the final heat by coming all the way from the slow-poke qualifying section.
He almost blew it by miscounting a lap and heading for the pits a lap early in 3-B but crewmen waved him back for another turn and he collected enough points to move into the finals. And when Miss Madison fizzled to a stop, the Kirby boat sucked up fifth place money.
For winning the finale, Henley collected $7,500 of the $52,500 purse and he was the happiest guy in the pits. Otherwise, that distinction probably goes to Nell Carswell, 3315 W. McGraw St. Ms. Carswell had the Pak in the Seafair sweepstakes contest and won $10,000.
It was one of THOSE days for her, too.
HEAT 1 A — 1. Kirby Classic 87.776; 2. Sunny Jim 75.219. (Solo, Red Ball Express and NW Tank Service DNF.)
HEAT 1-B — 1. Atlas Van Lines 98.271; 2. Red Man 82.822. (Pizza Pete DNF, Miss Madison DNS.)
HEAT 1-C — 1. Pav ‘n Pak 112.056; 2. Miss Budweiser 109.845. (ValuMart withdrawn, Miss U.S. burned. U-95 sank.)
HEAT 2-A — 1. NW Tank 84.546; 2. Kirby Classic 81.154; 3. Sunny Jim 76.335.
HEAT 2-B — I. Atlas Van Lines 97.420; 2. Pizza Pete 96.222; 3. Miss Madison 93.441. (Red Man DNF.)
HEAT 2-C — 1. Pay ‘n Pak 107.100; 2. Miss Budweiser 104.448.
HEAT 3-A — 1. Miss Madison 96.1; 2. Pizza Pete 81.48. (Red Man, NW Tank DNF.)
HEAT 3-B — 1. Pay ‘n Pak 97.438; 2. Miss Budweiser 92.783; 3. Sunny Jim 73.449; 4. Kirby Classic 64.883. (Atlas Van Lines NDF.)
CHAMPIONSHIP HEAT — 1. Pav ‘n Pak 102.195; 2. Miss Budweiser 99.612; 3. Pizza Pete 95.626; 4. Atlas Van Lines 87.167; 5. Kirby Classic 67.847. (Miss Madison DNF.)
NATIONAL POINT STANDINGS
Pay ‘ N Pak, Seattle, 7,000; Miss Budweiser, Lakeland, Fla., 5,713; U-95, Seattle, 3,550; Atlas.Van Lines, Detroit, 3,298; Miss Madison, Madison, Ind., 2,315; Miss U.S., Detroit, 1,694; Pizza Pete, Detroit, 1,688; Sunny Jim, Seattle, 1,657; Miss Northwest Tank Service formerly Miss Cott Beverage, Miami, 1,518; Mr. Fabricator, Carrollton, Ohio, 1,330; Kirby Classic, Seattle, 1,218.
(Reprinted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 5, 1974)
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