Friday, May 10, 2013


The pressure was truly on… two months and counting until the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association had to have everything in place to get the big boats wet and qualifying underway for the very first Diamond Cup for unlimited hydroplanes.

The very first task to be completed was the find a usable location for the course and to properly survey it for approval by the American Power Boat Association. Less than a week after the decision to make a go of the race, race officials and a representative from the APBA took to the air in a helicopter with Kootenai County Surveyor Ray Kindler to look at potential race sites.

When the group later spoke to the press, they shared that central to any racecourse plan had to be Tubbs Hill because of its potential as a vantage point to watch the race. This is reflected in the initial press report announcing that the course the CUHA initially selected was between Silver Beach and Tubbs Hill, encompassing the south side of the rocky hill, Sanders Beach, the Potlatch Mill area, and a portion of U.S. Highway 10. That design had the course running east west and no more than 600 to 800 feet from the shore, offering unparalleled views of the racing.

Shortly after that release hit the papers, however, the CUHA made a rapid course correction (no pun intended) and issued another statement saying that they had chosen another location. While no reason was given for the change, it is likely that huge crowds jammed along a quiet residential street, a busy lumberyard, and one of the busiest east-west highways in the country posed too large a logistical problem for the race committee to solve.

A Coeur d’Alene Press photo showed an aerial view of the course with the approximate configuration drawn onto the photo.

Front-page photo showing course location

Coeur d'Alene Press Photo

The new location had been formally approved by Unlimited Racing Commission commissioner Ross Merrill and would take full advantage of Tubbs Hill, the City Beach, and City Park as viewing areas. The Ray Kindler designed course would run in a northwest to southeast direction with Tubbs Hill on its eastern side, and a log boom viewing area on its western side. The north turn of the course would run within 1200 feet of City Beach and the south turn would take the boats to a location near Arrow Point. The start line would be situated near Corbin Point on Tubbs Hill, and the course would pass within 1000 feet of land at that location.

With the course mapped out, attention focused on its primary need: money. The CUHA finance committee began its fund drive within days of the decision to go racing, and in the first week raised a total of $11,750 (Note: that sum would equal $94,993.37 in 2013 dollars]. Donations to the fund by businesses and individuals were listed each day in a special “Honor Roll” section of the Coeur d’Alene Press. In the first month, total contributions exceeded $10,100.

After crunching numbers, the committee estimated that the total budget needed to put on the first race was $30,000 [$242,536 in 2013 dollars]. Much of the costs were seen to be for the first year only, but here was still much to be done for the committee to meet their goal.

The CUHA next filed articles of incorporation in Boise for the non-profit association. Incorporators included Duane Hagadone, Martin Chesnut, Ron McDonald, Lee Brack, L. R. Wood, Perry Christianson, and Burl Hagadone as the board of directors.

The Coeur d’Alene City Council passed a resolution giving the CUHA complete charge of the races and related activities. Extra costs for policing, clean up, sanitation, and other city services would be borne by the CUHA in return for use of City Beach, Tubbs Hill, and a section of land at the foot of Third Street that would be used as the pit area.

Governor Smylie announced from Boise that the boat teams would be exempted from having to pay Idaho pleasure craft licensing fees. Perhaps in response to this official action, Smylie was named by Commodore John S. Richards as an honorary commodore of the race, a position Smylie enthusiastically accepted.

KING-TV from Seattle announced that they would be broadcasting the race to the Spokane and Seattle viewing areas. KREM-TV would carry the Seattle coverage. KHQ-TV of Spokane later announced that they would also be broadcasting the race live.

Members of the race committee traveled to the small central Washington town of Chelan to meet with their counterparts on the Apple Cup organizing committee to discuss the details necessary to run a successful race. The CUHA leadership also met with Greater Seattle Inc., sponsoring group of Seattle’s Seafair week to get additional ideas for incorporation into their race plan.

Meetings took place that worked out plans for policing the community during the race and addressing the availability of parking. New parking areas were roughed out in the area adjacent to the City Park and Memorial baseball field, parking that is still used to this day.

Representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard traveled to Coeur d’Alene, and an official plan was created for the Coast Guard to securely police the course during the race week and weekend.

The pit committee set to work on transforming what had been for over a century the pier for collecting logs from the lake for the now closed Coeur d’Alene Lumber Mill/Box Factory into a pit area for the boats competing in the race. This committee’s work would have a lasting effect on the development of the waterfront and would spur other changes that would completely transform the city’s waterfront area.

Historic picture of the land where the Third Street Pit area was built showing the train trestles and debris

Museum of North Idaho Photo

The committee started by ripping out a railroad trestle once owned by the Northern Pacific in that jutted into the water in its entirety. They also removed a section of the Great Northern trestle adjacent to it, shortening it to fifty feet in length. The trestles had been used to dump logs trained into the area into the lakes waters to be stored until needed.

New pilings were driven along the ancient wooden seawall along the lumber mill pier. This was followed by the addition of new rip-rap, extensive backfilling, and leveling of the large area to be used for the parking of the boats along the seawall.

A steam-powered dredge was brought in and tons of wood debris and silt were removed from the channel in front of the seawall. This had to be done to allow the propellers of the raceboats to function properly in an area where once only flat bottomed boats could operate without dragging bottem.

A fifty-foot high scaffolding structure was erected on what was left of the Great Northern pier for use as a control and communications tower. A television and radio tower was also constructed adjacent to the pits to accommodate the media.

Most everything used in constructing the pit area was donated by local businesses, thus keeping the costs down. It reportedly cost the race organizers only $5,000 [approximately $40,400 in 2013 dollars] to construct the entire facility Coeur d’Alene tractor provided machinery, Luke’s Transfer and Storage provided a bulldozer and crane truck, and Secaur Cement supplied most of the concrete and fill used.

Tubbs Hill also received the attention of the race committee. Heavy brush and several view restricting trees were removed. The work was done in conjunction with a crew from the Coeur d’Alene National Forest ranger station.

A crew under the direction of County Surveyor Ray Kindler placed the anchors and marker buoys for the racecourse.

Booster button sales began to raise revenue. The brightly colored buttons sold for $1 each and could be found throughout the downtown business district. As preparations continued, the CUHA received its official sanction. The race date assigned added two weeks to the preparation time with the race scheduled officially for the weekend of June 28th and 29th. Even with the added time, time was tight for the organizers.

A press release from the CUHA proudly announced that the committee had received its first official entry: the community owned Miss Spokane. Many additional entries were announced in the days that followed.

Just prior to the beginning of race week, the newly crafted, three-foot tall Diamond Cup trophy was unveiled. Designed by local commercial artist (and hydroplane enthusiast) Ted Anderson, the trophy would be awarded to the winning team each year. The diamond shaped trophy on a mahogany base was created by Everson’s Jewelry of Coeur d’Alene and was studded with rhinestones. The cost for creating the trophy was placed at $700 [or over $6,800 in modern terms]. Not surprisingly, the money for creating the trophy was donated by the Athletic Round Table. They also paid for the creation of smaller trophies to be taken home by the winning teams.

Moved into place with less than a week to go were the log boom anchors and the official barge. The barge was three stories high and was constructed from steel scaffolding and plywood that had been donated by local lumber firms. The barge was placed on Corbin Point. Placed atop the structure was a huge starting clock designed and constructed by Glen Halliday’s Allied Weldery (Note: the weldery is still in business on North Second Street in Coeur d’Alene).

General Telphone Company provided telephone service to the barge and pit area. Washington Water Power installed a 50 kilowatt transformer and connected power to both locations.

One of the final steps was the installation of the course buoys and log booms. The course buoys had been designed by race referee Stanley Donogh and had been constructed in Seattle from various sizes of tire inner tubes. The two dozen markers were then trucked to Coeur d’Alene to be installed around the course.

Finally everything was in readiness. And so it was, that on the hottest day in two years that the first boat officially got wet. With the temperature hovering at a blistering 99 degrees, the course was opened on Sunday afternoon, June 22nd, and Austin Snell’s Tacoma-based Coral Reef became the first-ever unlimited hydro to circle the Diamond course.

Austin Snell’s Coral Reef being lowered into the water for the very first run by an unlimited hydroplane on Coeur d’Alene Lake

Museum of North Idaho Photo

NEXT INSTALLMENT: The Inaugural Race Week


Steve Shepperd


Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs

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