June 2013 Archive

Monday, June 24, 2013

HYDROMANIA: DIAMOND CUP WEEK ’59 AND MORE…

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
Author/Historian
Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

HYDROMANIA: LOOKING BACK IN HOPES OF MOVING FORWARD…

When a business plan fails to work properly, it is a common practice to assess the reasons why, and to rewrite the plan to address the issues that have led to the deficits and failures. With a reported deficit of nearly $7,500, it was apparent that the 1958 business plan formulated by the Board of Directors of the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association (CUHA) had serious errors in its make-up, so every aspect of the plan was formally reviewed in the days following the inaugural race.

The CUHA leadership knew going into the race that expenses for the first year would likely be larger than those for the races that followed it, and they budgeted accordingly. There was no infrastructure in place at the outset of planning for the event, so everything needed to make the race functional had to be built from scratch including the pit area, starting clock, buoys and anchors, spectator seating, and the official barge. The budget reflected the need for these items, which were costs that would be largely unnecessary for future races once the infrastructure was in place.

What the committee did not foresee and could not plan for was the number of paying customers that attended on race day. To their surprise, the head count for the weekend turned out to be one-seventh of the anticipated crowd size. Saturday’s windy, rainy weather and perhaps a fear of being caught in massive traffic jams had kept the crowd closer to 30,000 than the 200,000 plus originally projected by the committee.

After much discussion the CUHA decided to rewrite their plan and to begin work on a second Diamond Cup. Their first action was to select their leadership. John S. Richards stayed on as Commodore, as did Duane Hagadone as his assistant. Banker Martin Chesnutt took over as secretary and Norris Benson stayed on as treasurer.

The leadership then focused on the three biggest issues facing the CUHA:

  1. how to retire the debt from the first race
  2. how to go about getting “new blood” involved on race committees
  3. how to properly lay the groundwork for a successful second annual race

To resolve the first issue, a small group of the CUHA board elected to sign a promissory note from their own funds to cover the full $7,500+ debt in its entirety (in 2013 dollars this represented a $60,635 commitment). The committee also organized a Christmas dance to be held at six separate locations around town as the first step in retiring the note. The locations included the Boots and Saddle supper club, the Athletic Round Table, the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Club, the Coeur d’Alene Elks Lodge, the Sourdough Inn supper club, and the Coeur d’Alene Eagles Lodge.

To initiate a plan to attract new blood to the race committees, the CUHA leaders organized a public meeting for the following week and made a call for all potential volunteers to attend. As a special incentive, a color movie of the ’58 race was added to the meeting agenda to attract the attendance of more volunteers.

Application was made to the American Power Boat Association for a 1959 race date, and the sanction approval was received in mid-November. The boats would be racing a month later under the new sanction dates of July 18th and 19th. It was hoped that the July dates would guarantee better weather for the event.

In early May, the CUHA made a bold move to jump start the fund raising for the ’59 race. The plan was to ask the television media to pay the committee a flat fee of $10,000 for the broadcasting rights to the race. They also asked the television stations in Spokane to black out the race locally and indicated that if there were no local black out that there would be no television coverage allowed at all.

In modern times, it is not unusual to have sports events blacked out in their primary viewing areas unless the event is sold out. In 1958, this was far from the norm, and it elicited an immediate backlash from the APBA and the Spokane television stations.

The APBA fired a directive off to the CUHA, telling the committee in no uncertain terms that they risked withdrawal of the race sanction if they didn’t rescind the $10K demand for the right to televise the event.

A virtual war of words followed. The CUHA claimed there was no rule that precluded them from selling their media rights, and that the APBA had changed the rules after the sanction had already been received.

While the television issue was being resolved by a sub committee appointed to deal with the issue, another committee was created to focus on a pending fund raising drive and on meeting the committee budget.

The announced fund raising goal for the ’59 race was set at nearly $25,800 if the group was to stay in the black. With only two months until race day, frenzied weeks of fund raising would be needed to raise the required amount.

In hopes of reducing the bottom line, the financial committee also revisited the budget and set about trimming marginal items. They also made a concerted effort to organize volunteer labor whenever possible and to seek donations of needed materials. By doing so, they were able to meet the goal with the money raised in the early stages of the fund raising drive.

With the financial pressure off, the CUHA turned its attention to planning for the race. With a projected field of up to sixteen boats, much needed to be done to get things ready for the influx of hydros and spectators.

Fearing that there would not be enough room for the anticipated larger field of boats, the committee decided to initiate an expansion of the third street pit area. The plan would enlarge the existing facility by eighty-five feet to a full 100 yards in length. The new area would allow a minimum of fourteen boats to fit in the new space and on the water below the seawall, with room to create a second line for additional boats if needed behind the first contingent.

This photo shows the finished expansion of the Third Street pit area with new pilings, rip rap, and ladders along the eighty-five feet of new seawall.

Museum of North Idaho Photo

Costs were kept at a minimum, with Morrison-Knudson donating use of a dragline excavator to deepen and lengthen the channel in front of the new section of seawall to a depth of nearly six feet. The excavator removed an estimated 1,800 cubic yards of material as it increased the waterway in front of the boat launch incline.

The Atlas Tie lumber mill donated pilings for the seawall expansion, Fred Murphy’s pile driver put them in place, and the Diamond-Gardner lumber mill donated the wood needed to build the rip rap and ladder system for the new section.

The work took place over the course of the last week in June, and during that time the area was a veritable beehive of activity. The work was completed in record time with a small group of skilled labor donated by the local carpenter’s and operating engineer’s unions.

Things were definitely looking up as the committee faced the final two weeks before the race. The CUHA was even better prepared than they were the year before to put on a boat race, and they felt they had successfully addressed the deficits in their business plan to ensure that the second year of the Diamond Cup was a roaring success.

Indeed, it was finally time to put the finishing touches in place and to get the boats wet once again.


NEXT INSTALLMENT: Diamond Cup Week '59 and more...
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: The 1958 Diamond Cup Race and its Aftermath.

Steve Shepperd
Author/Historian
Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Car d'Lane 2013 | June 14 & 15th

What better way to enjoy Father's Day weekend than taking your old man downtown CDA for Car d'Lane?  As usual, the cruise and flame throwing will be Friday night with show winners announced and trophies presented on Saturday.

According to cdadowntown.com, this year will also include a NAPA Auto Parts Poker Run on Thursday, June 13th.  For more details on this call 208-667-7446.



Saturday, June 1, 2013

HYDROMANIA: THE 1958 DIAMOND CUP RACE AND ITS AFTERMATH

In 1958, the Coeur d’Alene Press was an afternoon newspaper. When the Press landed on the front porches all over town on Saturday, June 28th, everyone pretty much already knew what the headline would be for the day.

Extremely windy conditions had wiped away the first day’s schedule of racing, and the Press headline for Saturday afternoon’s paper said it all: Diamond Cup Racing Scheduled All Day Sunday – Wind Alters Plans.

With an entire day of activity wiped out, the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association had to radically rearrange an already full race program. Trying to save the races for the limited class hydroplanes, the CUHA at first scheduled the limited hydro races to early Sunday morning and then eliminated them altogether when someone pointed out that the downtown neighborhoods might have trouble dealing with roaring boat engines as early as 6:30 a.m.

Sunday’s action started mid-morning when the Adios made a last ditch attempt to get into the field. With seconds left on the clock, George McKernan fired up the big Allison Type W, and all twenty-four cylinders roared to life. The boat took a warm-up lap, and charged toward the starting line with its roostertail shining against the morning sun. It was then that the referee inexplicably fired a flare from the official barge, signaling an immediate return to the pits by the big white and black hydro.

Gliding back to the dock, race officials told McKernan that he had three minutes to return to the course to continue the qualification run. The crew quickly turned the boat around, and this time McKernan experienced more than a little difficulty getting the engine to restart. Suddenly the engine fired, and for the second time that morning the boat made it on the course with only seconds to spare.

This time there was no official interference during the qualification circuit, and when the official time for the Adios was announced, McKernan had successfully placed the boat in the race by a mere .22 of a mph, recording a speed of 90.220 mph.

With Adios now in the fold, a crowd estimated at only 30,000 people settled in to watch the very first heats of competition for the Diamond Cup for unlimited hydroplanes. With a field now totaling eleven boats, the first section of racing would offer two heats of racing. The moment had finally arrived to get the boats wet in pursuit of the big trophy.

The draw had taken place on Friday night, but the success of the Adios in qualifying finalized the field for Sunday’s race program. Heat 1-A featured Miss Burien, Miss Seattle, Miss Thriftway, Coral Reef, and Miss U.S. 1. Heat 1-B put together Miss Bardahl, Maverick, Miss Pay n' Save, Thriftway Too, Adios, and Miss Spokane.


Heat 1-A

The first heat of racing went against the pre-race handicapper’s predictions, and it was no walkover for Bill Muncey and Miss Thriftway. The big white and orange boat never put up a challenge to Fred Alter and a red-hot Miss U.S. 1. Alter pulled away from the field and averaged a very respectable 104.166 mph for the fifteen-mile heat.



Crews prepare Adios and Thriftway Two for Heat 1-B as Miss Thriftway is returned to the trailer

Museum of North Idaho Photo


Heat 1-B

It was déjà vu all over again, as the two favored boats, Miss Bardahl and Maverick both fell off the pace early on in losing to Bryan Wygle in the Thriftway Too. The innovative cab forward hydro navigated the rough water conditions more easily than its competitors on the way to five-lap average of 99.410 mph.

Following Heat 1-B, the draw for the second set of sections took place. As luck would have it, the winning boats from the first sections of racing landed together in the same heat. Thriftway Too and Miss U.S. 1 topped the list of boats in Heat 2-A along with Miss Spokane and Adios. Heat 2-B matched pre-race favorites Maverick and Miss Bardahl taking on Miss Thriftway, Miss Burien, and Miss Seattle.


Heat 2-A

It was all Miss U.S. 1 again, as Fred Alter and the mahogany and white U-2 outclassed the rest of the competition on the way to its second win on the day. Thriftway Too never came close after the first lap, and Alter steered his way to a one-lap course record of 110.769 mph and a five-lap average of 99.228 mph.


Heat 2-B

The predicted battle between Bill Stead and Maverick and Mira Slovak and Miss Bardahl failed to happen, as the big green and yellow boat threw a propeller blade mid-way through the heat and failed to finish. With the Bardahl sidelined, Stead demonstrated why he was considered the favorite to win the trophy by posting the fastest heat of the day with an average of 106.698 mph. So dominant was Maverick’s performance that at the finish he had pulled away to a full thirty-two second leads over Bill Muncey and Miss Thriftway.


The busy Third Street Pit Area on race day in 1958

Museum of North Idaho Photo

Final Heat

All of the preliminary heats were five-lap, fifteen-mile long affairs. As was the practice with some of the races during that era, the championship heat was doubled to a distance of thirty-miles. With the added laps of racing, attrition became a big factor in the outcome.

In actuality, attrition had already affected the final field. Damage to engines and hulls had trimmed the field only six boats. Miss Bardahl was not able to compete because of damage caused by a broken propeller blade in Heat 2-B. Adios, Miss Pay n' Save, and Coral Reef were all forced to withdraw because of equipment failure. The Adios had blown a supercharger, while Pay n’ Save and Coral Reef had both thrown a rods through the sides of their engines.

Miss U.S. 1 was the points leader coming into the final with two heat wins for 800 points followed by Thriftway Too and Maverick with 700 points apiece. Muncey’s Miss Thriftway (525), Bill Brow in Miss Burien (469), Chuck Hickling in Miss Seattle (394) rounded out what was left of the field.

The final was by far the most hair raising of the day. Five of the six boats crossed the start line deck-to-deck, with only Dallas Sartz and Miss Spokane trailing the field. With no one willing to give ground, the battle continued well into the first turn, where Thriftway Too collided with Miss Thriftway, smashing away half of the Thriftway’s distinctive tail in the process.

Coming out of the chaos unscathed was Bill Stead and the Maverick who had taken the inside lane at the start and maintained it through the first turn. He took the lead on the back straightaway and was never headed during the remaining nine and one-half laps. At the end stead held a fifteen football field lead over Thriftway Too, the second place finisher.

Returning to the dock, Stead was met a broadly smiling owner W.T. Waggoner and an exuberant Maverick team. According to tradition, the crew rewarded Stead’s winning effort by throwing him into the lake in celebration.


Ruthanna Hawkins (Rauer) presents the Diamond Cup trophy to Maverick driver Bill Stead – Also pictured is Maverick owner W.T. Waggoner and the 1958 Miss Washington Anne Hendrickson.

Ruthanna Rauer Collection

Later, Stead would offer this assessment of the race:

“I never really was pushed. And once I got out front, I had my own water, my own turns, my own everything.” It was especially so after that hectic first turn.

While the race was pretty much an artistic success, it was less so financially. Falling woefully short of the predicted crowds of 200,000+, the regatta committee fell equally short with its bottom line. When all receipts had been counted, the weekend resulted in a $9,000 deficit in 1958 dollars. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that same amount in 2013 dollars would $72,414.

On the positive side, there were only a few arrests made during the inaugural weekend, and despite crowded streets there were no major incidents reported by law enforcement.

When the dust settled, the biggest question facing the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association was simple: Would there be a second annual Diamond Cup?


NEXT INSTALLMENT: The regatta committee considers its options as to whether to do it all again in 1959.

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: The Inaugural Race Week


Steve Shepperd

Author/Historian

Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs






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