1978 Squire Seafair Trophy
It’s called the Seafair Trophy Race, but if you roamed through the unlimited hydroplane pit area yesterday afternoon you might have thought yourself involved in a celebrity sweepstakes.
A large giggle of teenagers identified the approximate location of The Fonz, a visitor from Videoland. If you have never seen the Fonz on television you are perhaps to be congratulated. But he is very definitely a celebrity, and a congenial one at that.
Slick was there and so was Downtown Freddie Brown. His Royer Highness, Charles I, was in attendance, and the guy wearing a smile and a necktie who was offering to shake hands with all those teen underage drunks along the shore was a get-tough candidate for prosecuting attorney.
But you needed to stroll past the headquarters of the Atlas Van Lines racing team to correctly identify the man of the hour. Bill Muncey was momentarily absent, 30 minutes before the final heat of the day, but one of the crewmen was dozing on the hood of the futuristic hydro, a sheaf of heat sheets clutched in one fist. Two other Atlas mechanics leaned on the rear "wing" of the cabover hydro and a lazily watched the aerial aerobatics of the Blue Angels. The Navy jet fighters were the only vehicles on or above Lake Washington yesterday faster than the craft they crewed.
That was emphatically established when the mechanics dropped Muncey and his hydro into the water for the final heat of the day. He had been penalized earlier in the day for changing lanes during the flying run toward the starting line.
So in the final, winner-take-all heat Muncey was uncharacteristically late to the starting line, avoiding the other boats as though they were infected with terminal paint-peel. Muncey knew without doubt he had the fastest boat afloat, and that the only way he could lose was to do something dumb. And he didn’t
Three boats beat him across the starting line, yet he steamed into the lead coming out of the first turn and never needed to look back at his pursuers.
With the exception of the newest and an older Miss Budweiser, they were a fairly sorry lot. Pete LaRock made a creditable return to racing after a year on the beach, but his Squire invariably left an embarrassing ring of black smoke around the Lake Washington bathtub, blighting an otherwise sparkling scene dominated by Mount Rainier on the south and Mount Baker on the north.
Barney Armstrong’s Machine, the musical entry, made a lot of noise to little effect, something it shares with a lot of rock bands. Van’s P-X proved not quite as fast as the sandwich trucks bearing the same name. Miss B and L seemed to stand for Born Loser. Elliott Dog Ration was aptly named, and Dr. Toyota, victim of a collision with Tempus, literally ended the day with its tail in a sling. They are all rendered obsolete when Muncey’s motor coughs to life, and Atlas shrugs.
But the fact of the matter is that Muncey’s newest hydro would similarly dominate any field of boats, during any era of the spectacular sport.
Listening to complaints about a lack of real competition in hydro’ racing these days, Muncey could offer only one lame excuse, in advance of the Seafair Race. "There’d be lots of good competition if I weren’t running."
"Nobody is going to beat Muncey," predicted Billy Schumacher just before yesterday’s final heat, and he once dominated this sport very nearly as Muncey as done this year. "Muncey has just been playing with the other boats, and he’s still wiping them out. His boat is so far ahead of the others, and any driver is only as good as his equipment.
"Well, maybe next year (Budweiser owner) Bernie Little will build a boat just like Muncey’s," Schumacher added, and smiled. "And then we’ll have a two - boat race. Anyway," he said, waving his arm toward the crowd lining the lake shore, "they all seem to be enjoying it."
They sure did. The weather was perfect, there wasn’t a second’s delay all day in any heat of racing, and the Seafair people scheduled lots of entertaining action for the waits in between.
As Bill Muncey, and The Fonz might have summed it up, it was one of those Happy Days.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 7, 1978)
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