Tuesday, July 23, 2013

HYDROMANIA: MORE CHANGE COMES TO THE SPORT AND PREPARATIONS BEGIN FOR A THIRD ANNUAL DIAMOND CUP

As I did my research on the history of the Diamond Cup, I found that 1960 was truly a benchmark year for unlimited hydroplane racing. Many of the changes that would ultimately cause the demise of the Diamond Cup had their genesis in the events of 1960.

What had started the decade of the 1950’s as a rich man’s hobby filled largely with weekend racers began to emerge as a more professional sport dominated by a few owners and drivers who seemed more intent on the almighty dollar than on advancing the well being of the sport.

Most of the call for change came from the eastern contingent of owners. There had always been a division in the sport that was largely based on geography. The western boats would rarely travel eastward unless they were competing in the Harmsworth Trophy or Gold Cup races. The same was mostly true of the eastern boats as well.

Now there was a contingent comprised primarily of the elite of the Detroit boat owners that absolutely refused to travel anywhere unless the money was sufficient to incentivize them to do so. The growing number of western races only intensified the men’s demands for increases in prize and travel money to get their boats to move.

That was the atmosphere that greeted the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association as they began to focus on planning for the third annual version of the Diamond Cup.

Shortly after the 1959 race concluded, the CUHA Board of Directors met to evaluate the second annual race. It was a consensus that the race had been an unqualified success, and so the board chose to apply for race dates in middle to late July.

The CUHA elected a new slate of officers for the association. Elected to take the position of Commodore was Duane Hagadone. Supporting him as the newly elected race chairman was Carter Crimp. Ken Campbell joined the two as treasurer, while Ken McEuen stayed on as secretary and Norris Benson took over as vice commodore.

Less than a month later, the CUHA was rocked by the death of Ken McEuen. The association secretary and local grocer had suddenly taken ill and was transported to a Spokane hospital for treatment. He passed away on the day of his fifteenth wedding anniversary to wife Gloria.

Lee Brack attended the annual American Power Boat Association meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He returned from the meeting with news that several of the race sponsors had formed a group, Sponsors Unlimited, to represent their interests.

The APBA had also gone on record as favoring a nine-race season with four races in the west region and four races in the east region and the Gold Cup on Lake Mead in Nevada.

The health problems that had arisen for Maverick owner W.T. Waggoner led to his decision to retire from racing and to sell the boat. Upon hearing of Waggoner’s decision, driver Bill Stead decided to announce his retirement from racing as well.

At the spring meeting of the APBA, Coeur d’Alene was granted the dates of July 23 and 24 for the third annual Diamond Cup. There were no conflicting races on the schedule, so the door was open for good representation from both the eastern and western boat camps. There was reason for optimism that the field for the 1960 race would be a quality field with many boats.

Of course, that optimism was quickly dashed by news reports out of Seattle that some of the eastern boat teams didn’t want to race on the western “millponds” such as Coeur d’Alene. News was also received that the APBA had adjusted their schedule, positioning an exhibition race at St. Clair, Michigan on the same weekend as the Diamond Cup.

The immediate impact was that the eastern contingent would have to make a choice where one was not previously required. While the exhibition offered no national championship points, it did offer bonus points for those considering participation in the Harmsworth Trophy international competition.

Under the Harmsworth rules, the U.S. representative had to be powered by an American designed and manufactured engine. The Allison V-12 was the most powerful engine available to American contingent, and it was thus the predominant engine choice of the eastern contingent as well. The late move to approve the St. Clair sanction almost guaranteed that there would be no eastern boats in the pits for Coeur d’Alene’s race.

The Diamond Cup committee was incensed by the move. This was reflected in Commodore Duane Hagadone’s comments to the press:

“We were very unhappy when we learned of the conflicting dates,” Hagadone said. “We’ve protested to Jim Spinner, the APBA secretary in Seattle, and he passed the complaint along to George Trimper (the commissioner of the APBA), but Trimper assured us it wouldn’t affect our race. If we find it will keep some Eastern boats away from our race, we’ll be pretty disturbed.”

On top of this turn of events, Lee Schoenith of Detroit’s Gale Enterprises threw fuel on the fire by announcing his intention to race in only two of the western races – Reno and Las Vegas. Citing a cut in the prize money offered, he indicated that he would not bring his Gale boats to Seattle, and that he had no intention of going to Coeur d’Alene. He told a Seattle reporter that he wouldn’t travel if it was going to cost his team money.

In the midst of all the negative news, preparations continued for the June race, and boats continued to add their names to the Diamond Cup entry roster. For example, it was announced that Miss Seattle Too team had entered, and that they would employ two drivers for the race.

According to the plan, Norm Evans and Dallas Sartz would split the driving duties. Evans would be at the wheel on Saturday and Sartz would take over on Sunday. The move was necessitated by the fact that Evans was also in the employ of Samual F. DuPont and was scheduled to drive DuPont’s Nitrogen on Sunday in the St. Clari exhibition.

Perhaps to sweeten the pot for potential entries (and perhaps respond to Schoenith’s money comments), it was rumored that the Diamond Cup committee was considering an offer of $400 to any boat answering the starting gun in the Coeur d’Alene race.

First into the pit area on Monday morning of race were Miss Spokane and $ Bill. They took what would become their customary positions at the southern most end of the pits, and spent the day preparing the boats for Tuesday’s testing and qualifying.

As the two teams sweltered in the 101 degree afternoon temperature along the seawall, the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association (CUHA) was forced to deal with reports out of Seattle that two of the western boat teams were considering not traveling to the Lake City as previously planned. Like the Detroit teams, they were using money as their reason for staying away.

Seattle hydro owners Bob Gilliam and Bob Miller said they would be keeping their boats home (the Fascination team and Miss B & I respectively) unless the CUHA provided more money. Gilliam said he could make more money staying home and participating in the Seattle race than he would by traveling to Coeur d’Alene.

Initially, the CUHA refused to capitulate to Gilliam and Miller’s demands, but it appeared that the “show me the money” spirit was spreading fast.

Tuesday brought a 101-degree high. In the morning hours, the Dean Edwards barge construction team towed the brand new floating barge into place south of Corbin Point with no time to spare. The new barge location would allow for a longer straightway heading into turn one, and it was hoped that this would make the course safer at the start of each heat.

Just barely beating the clock, the racecourse, the pit area, and the official barge were ready when the noon opening time for the course occurred.

First on the course to test at noon was Ray Crawford in $ Bill. The objective of the time the team took on the water was to evaluate the new engine configuration they had worked on during the off-season after failing to qualify in 1959.

Unfortunately, the “gas pains” that had plagued the boats fuel injection system on the $ Bill had returned. The team corrected that issue, but when Crawford returned to the course, he felt a vibration in the stern area and was sprayed with gas and oil from a broken line, so he shut the boat down and brought it back to the pits for more attention.

During the day, Glen and Milo Stoen’s Miss Seattle Too arrived in the pits. The former Miss Pay n’Save’s had been repainted with a bright red and white-checkered tail, which contrasted well with its deep mahogany decking.

Miss Spokane put two hours of testing time on one of its engines. Lap times averaged between 100 and 105 mph, and the one timed lap that Rex Manchester posted was a respectable 103.664.

Jack Regas appeared in the Diamond Cup pits nearly a year to the day after he was seriously injured in the ’59 race. Regas and his brother had traveled from his home near San Francisco on the recommendation of his doctor. The doctor had hoped a visit to Coeur d’Alene would help the former Miss Bardahl driver remember the incident and other things that had wiped from the driver’s memory.

“I came up to see if I could remember things,” said Regas. “My memory is real bad. I just can’t remember things. I can’t even remember driving the Bardahl at all.

In my interview with Jack’s daughter Sharon in 2012, she said that the trip north to Coeur d’Alene had no affect on filling in the blanks of his memory concerning driving the Bardahl or the accident. To this day, that portion of his memory is totally gone.

During the day on Tuesday, the Diamond Cup Committee announced that they would be offering $200 in “towing money” to any boat that successfully crossed the start line in a heat of racing. The gesture appeared to be aimed at Bob Gilliam and Bob Miller’s demands for appearance money, since the spokesman for the committee said it would likely help some of the smaller boat teams that had difficulty getting to some of the race sites because of the expense involved.

Wednesday dawned with no relief in sight from the heat. The mercury again hovered near 100 degrees as the teams continued to arrive in town. Miss Thriftway and Miss Bardahl slipped into their places along the pit wall and set up shop.

Miss Seattle Too picked up the fast lap money for the day with a hot circuit of the course at 108.810 with Dallas Sartz at the wheel. A blown oil plug aborted another timed run that came in at around 105 mph.

Miss Spokane and $ Bill also put in time on the water. The carburation issues appeared to be fully corrected for the $ Bill as it had a timed lap of 104.663 mph.

The temperatures cooled a few degrees, but stayed in the low nineties as Thursday’s qualifying and testing got under way. Jim McGuire put time on Miss Bardahl’s engine as the rookie drive got used to the course for the first time.

Thursday’s hot lap money went to Norm Evans and the Miss Seattle Too team when he blistered the course with a 115.106 mph run in the late afternoon. Just as the boat crossed the finish line of the time lap, a gear let go on the boat’s quill shaft, and a patrol boat had to tow Evans and the boat back to the pits.

Dallas Sartz also had timed laps in the Seattle Too of 110 and 112 during the day.

Hawaii Kai arrived during the morning to bring the field of boats on hand to six. Tool Crib joined the field later in the day when it pulled through the Third Street gate.

On the water, Jim McGuire took Miss Bardahl for a lap of 102.273 mph, and Bill Muncey cruised to circuits of 103.032 and 104.651. Hawaii Kai managed only 81.818 mph with crewman Burns Smith driving. When he returned to the pits, it was discovered that the Pink Lady had a severely damaged prop that affected its speed.

Hawaii Kai is lowered into the water in preparation for a testing run during the 1960 race week.

Museum of North Idaho Photo

On Friday, the temperature stayed in the low 90s for a second day in a row, and continued hot weather was predicted to stay in place for race weekend.

When the course opened for the day, $ Bill, Tool Crib, and KOL-roy had still not met the minimum qualifying speed, and $ Bill’s Ray Crawford and Tool Crib’s Del Fanning still needed to pass their driver qualification tests.

Bob Gilliam’s KOL-roy and KOL-roy 1 had joined the field overnight. Bob Larsen took the KOL-roy onto the course, but carburation problems kept the speeds well below the qualifying minimum. Gilliam later blamed an oversized propeller, fouled spark plugs, and too lean a fuel mixture for the problems.

Bill Schuyler’s team celebrated the qualification of the $ Bill. Ray Crawford put the boat solidly in the race with an average speed of 95.745 mph.

Bob Miller cruised into the pits shortly before noon with his Miss Everett to become the last of the scheduled entries to make it into the pit area for the race. It was then that it was discovered that the boat had a cracked strut and a bent shaft. The damage had apparently occurred during last minute testing in Seattle.

It was rumored that the Everett probably wouldn’t be ready until the first heat on Saturday, if it raced at all. Ironically, this meant that Miller would not likely be able to collect the promised $200 in tow money that he had demanded of the race sponsors.

Chuck Hickling put Miss Burien in the race with a respectable speed of 104.854 mph. Bill Muncey upped his best lap speed in the Miss Thriftway to 106.094, while Jim McGuire struggled to get the Miss Bardahl up to speed.

Friday’s best time went to Rex Manchester and Miss Spokane with a lap of 109.765 in choppy conditions. The time just narrowly surpassed Miss Seattle Too’s hottest lap of 109.533 with Norm Evans driving.

Rookie Del Fanning had difficulty starting Tool Crib. A stack fire erupted as he attempted to pull away from the dock during his first time in the cockpit. Later in the day, he made a second attempt to qualify, but his best lap time was 83.333 mph. He cut the run short when he received a hot oil bath when an oil line tore loose covering him with the hot liquid. The team failed to fix the problem before the course closed for the day.

The drivers and owners meeting took place at 7 p.m. Friday evening at the Coeur d’Alene Park and Recreation office. The office was located at the foot of Fourth Street near the pit area.

The luck of the draw put the two fastest boats in the same section. The Heat 1-A draw placed Miss Spokane in with the week’s other hot boat, Miss Seattle Too, along with $ Bill, KOL-Roy 1, and Miss Everett.

The draw for Heat 1B had good possibilities as well, with Miss Thriftway squaring off against Hawaii Kai, Miss Bardahl, and Miss Burien. With the strong pedigrees of the four boats in this section, it was anticipated that competition could be hot and heavy.

Two boats had remained unqualified when the course closed on Friday – Tool Crib and KOL-roy. Race officials ruled that they would to be given another opportunity between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday to make the minimum speed.

If either or both of them made the field, they would be added to the first section of heats in the order that they qualified. The order would be reversed only if the KOL-roy and KOL-roy 1 ended up in the same heat, since two boats from the same camp could not compete in the same heat of racing.

Drivers and owners were also reminded of the recently passed rule change that allowed them to change engines at any time during the two-day competition. The rule change had been made at the APBA annual meeting in Milwaukee after being a major topic of conversation after the ’59 Diamond Cup when the Miss Pay n’ Save and Coral Reef were beached for most of the day because of the previous no engine change rule.

The draw had been made and the time had come to race. Would the 1960 be a repeat of the chaos of ’59 or would this be the best race ever? Race organizers were lobbying for the latter.

Jim McGuire accelerate Miss Bardahl out of the pit area as Ray Crawford enters the north turn with $ Bill during testing.

Museum of North Idaho Photo

NEXT INSTALLMENT: The Third Time Is The Charm – the 1960 Diamond Cup race.
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: The Bardahl Controversy and the Decision on a Third Installment

Steve Shepperd
Author/Historian
Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs

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