Monday, June 24, 2013


One of the things that the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association (CUHA) learned from the first year of the Diamond Cup was that the testing and qualifying of the big boats was not enough to attract crowds every day to the city. Granted, there were thousands of people drawn to the actual boat races, but something more was needed to bring people to downtown during the week.

To create a master plan to address the issue, the CUHA board of directors put affable local auto dealer Jack Crollard in charge of a committee to plan and implement what would become “Diamond Cup Sportsarama Week,” an annual weeklong series of entertainment and sporting events for visitors and locals to enjoy while in the Lake City.

The plan that Crollard and his group ultimately came up with was similar in structure to Seattle’s Seafair week. Picture framed by a limited hydroplane race taking place its first weekend and an unlimited hydroplane race taking place on its last weekend, the Sportsarama included the men’s and women’s amateur state championship golf tournaments, an A.A.U. swim meet with 500 entries from all over the Northwest and Canada, and a professional boxing match.

If that were not enough, the committee also scheduled micro-midget racing for the Saturday night of race weekend at the Memorial Field ballpark.

The first event of the week was the two day Western Divisional Inboard Hydroplane Championships. As it had the year before, windy weather greeted the smaller classes of hydroplanes as they set up their pit area below the dike road at the west end of city beach for the races on Saturday and Sunday, July 11th and 12th.

The limited hydros persevered against the weather, and thirty-seven boats in five different classes took to the water to race. The event came off without a hitch and races featured some of the legends of limited and unlimited hydroplane racing among its drivers.

Chuck Lyford of Seattle placed first in the 48 cubic inch class of boats with his Rackett III. Chopsticks, driven by Jim Yaumachi of Pasco, won the 136 cubic inch class. The 225 cubic inch class went to Merle Solland in Hasty Too, and he overcame challenges from unlimited drivers Harry Reeves and Bill Muncey to take the trophy. In a very close race, Bob Crittendon’s High Lead took the 266 cubic inch class championship.

The 280 cubic inch classification featured two future hydroplane Hall of Fame drivers. The hotly contested race saw Billy Schumacher’s Dough Baby narrowly defeat Mira Slovak in his Wee Wahoo. The race was decided on elapsed time, and Schumacher eked out the win by a margin of only 3.5 seconds.

The first unlimited class boats to set up camp for the race on Monday were Bill Schuyler’s $ Bill and the community owned Miss Spokane. Windy weather kept the two boats off the water for the entire day, so the crews spent their time preparing engines and making last minute adjustments to the boats.

A new version of W.T. Waggoner’s Maverick joined the two teams later in the day, and that team spent the time putting a strip of chrome molding around the hull and a spoiler on the bow of the boat to help correct a handling problem.

When the course opened for testing and qualifying on Tuesday, the race teams were greeted with near perfect weather conditions. New driver of the Miss Spokane, Norm Evans, took the local boat out for a total of sixteen laps, topping out with a lap of 115.756 mph.

Miss Bardahl arrived on Tuesday afternoon, but the crew spent the rest of the day preparing the boat for testing.

First into the water on Wednesday was the $ Bill driven by Indianapolis 500 veteran driver Ray Crawford. Crawford was nursing injuries suffered in the 500 a little over a month earlier. The unusually shaped boat from Lompoc, California failed to make a lap faster than the 90 mph minimum speed during its time on the water.

Maverick took to the course twice, and hit a speed of 110.092 on one of its laps. Miss Spokane had the high speed for the day with a 110.769 lap. Crew Chief George McKernan posted a lap of 110.092 as the team waited for the arrival of their driver Jack Regas.

Two eastern boats joined the field later in the day. Samuel Dupont’s bright yellow and blue Nitrogen and Miss U.S. 1 backed into place along the seawall.

Thursday saw Miss Burien and Hawaii Kai III arrive, kicking off a busy day in the pits and on the water. All of the boats on hand made circuits around the course as the day progressed, but none of the laps they turned was timed. The drivers circled the course putting time on the big engines and testing settings to use for Saturday and Sunday’s racing.

Friday saw the addition of Miss Pay n’ Save, Miss Thriftway, KOL-roy, KOL-roy 1, and Coral Reef to the field as the final group of boats took their places along the seawall.

Maverick took ten testing laps during the day, topping out with one lap of 110 mph. Jack Regas matched that speed with Miss Bardahl, but hit a buoy and ran out of gas on two of its other runs. The prize for the top speed of the day went to local favorite Miss Spokane with a scorching 112.150 lap around the three-mile course.

Nitrogen, Miss Thriftway, and Hawaii Kai also thundered around the racecourse, but the Kai had the only recorded lap and it put the boat into the field with a speed of 100.559.

Chuck Hickling steps from the bow of Miss Pay n’ Save after a test run as Bob Gilliam’s KOL-roy stands ready to take a turn around the course.

Photo used with permission of the Walker Collection

Most of the fan focus was on Bill Schuyler’s $ Bill camp. The team was experimenting with a fuel injection system that many felt would revolutionize the sport if it was successful. Unfortunately, no matter what adjustment was made to the system aboard the brightly painted boat, it could not get going full speed. Instead, the big Allison engine coughed and sputtered its way around the course with the fuel flow either set too lean or with the carburetor loading up with too much fuel on hand.

Owner Bill Schuyler is pictured standing on the deck of his Wicken designed $ Bill as it was preparing to make one of its several unsuccessful qualification runs with Ray Crawford at the wheel.

Museum of North Idaho Photo

On Friday afternoon, Schuyler gave up in frustration. He and his crew decided to return to a conventional carburation system, and along with volunteers from the Maverick team they installed a spare carburetor offered to them by the Nitrogen team.

When Ray Crawford took the boat out to test the new set up, he saw no change in the boats performance. The boats speed topped out at just over 82 mph. It was later determined that the propeller was the cause of the under-performance, but by then it was too late for the boat to make the field for the race.

Friday ended with the second annual Diamond Cup parade led by Miss Diamond Cup Charmaine Dietz. She headed a line of march that included the Coeur d’Alene Elks band and several of the boats.

Also taking place Friday evening was the heat draw for Saturday’s racing. The draw for Heat 1A included Miss Thriftway and Bill Muncey, Miss Bardahl and Jack Regas, Miss Spokane and Norm Evans, Miss Pay n’ Save and Chuck Hickling, KOL-roy 1 and Dick Short, and the Nitrogen and Don Darrington. Heat 1B featured another set of very competitive craft with defending Diamond Cup champion Maverick with Bill Stead at the wheel, Detroit’s Miss U.S. 1 and Don Wilson, Miss Burien and Bill Brow, KOL-roy and Bob Gilliam, Hawaii Kai and Bryan Wygle, and the Coral Reef and Harry Reeves.

The stage was set, and the curtain was about to rise on one of the most dramatic of the ten Diamond Cups that were held. Little did anyone know how dramatic the events of the two days of racing would be.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Attrition and survival of the fittest – the story of the 1959 Diamond Cup.
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: Looking Back in Hopes of Moving Forward.

Steve Shepperd
Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs

Post comments or questions below, or follow Diamond Cup Hydromaniacs on Facebook

blog comments powered by Disqus