July 2013 Archive
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
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
Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013
There was no doubt that the crowd for Diamond Cup weekend was record setting. The Coeur d’Alene Press estimated the crowd at 100,000, but other estimates put Sunday’s throng at closer to 60,000 to 80,000 spectators.
Law enforcement reported that despite the size of the crowd that it was extremely well behaved. A minimal number of arrests were made, and the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves.
The city’s merchants reported excellent retail sales during race weekend. Many also said the bump in sales carried over into the week that followed the race. Total sales for the week of the race were estimated at $350,000 over a comparable sales period. Also noted by the merchants was an increase in sales to our neighbors north of the border with many Canadian dollars finding their way into local cash registers.
The badly damaged Miss Burien was recovered late Monday afternoon from an estimated eighty-two feet of water. A diving crew headed by Loren “Skip” Murphy had located the wreckage in murky water with a visibility factor of only seven feet. They struggled through the day to bring the larger pieces of the boat to the surface where they were placed on Fred Murphy’s barge for transport back to the pits.
The boat was declared a total wreck with the only usable part to survive the wreck being the Burien’s big Allison V-12. The crew had checked it out at John Pointner’s welding shop before trucking what was left of the boat back to the Seattle area.
|What is left of Miss Burien sits on the trailer awaiting its return to Seattle after the 1959 accident.|
Used with the permission of the Crimmin Project - high resolution versions can be purchased by contacting Ned Crimmin at email@example.com
Also on Monday, the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association reported that they had decided to move forward with plans for a third annual Diamond Cup race. The crowds on Saturday and Sunday had helped the committee raise the $15,000 needed to balance the association’s budget.
The races were also considered an artistic success with the drivers, owner, spectators, and media expressing their pleasure with the officiating, facilities, and racing during the weekend. To celebrate the success, the CUHA hosted a “victory dinner” on June 29th to honor the many volunteers that had planned and worked on the race.
After the dinner, the CUHA elected a new slate of officers. Replacing John S. Richards as commodore was the young Coeur d’Alene Press publisher Duane Hagadone. Joining him on the executive board were Norris Benson as vice commodore, Ken Campbell as treasurer, and Ken McEuen as secretary.
During the meeting, Richards displayed a tray containing the $9,000 promissory note that had been signed by members of the previous year’s Diamond Cup board in order to keep the race effort afloat. He then had Duane Hagadone (representing his father Burl), Don MacDonald, Ben Pederson, Ken McEuen, Norris Benson, Carl Gridley, Bill Webster, Arnold Porter, and Doug Downing join him in burning the note, signifying that the debt had been repaid from the receipts of the ’59 race.
Despite all of the positive news, there was one owner that was far from pleased with the outcome of the weekend.
|A view of the Miss Bardahl Cockpit after it was towed back to the pit area following the injury to Jack Regas|
Coeur d’Alene Press Photo
Lost in the reports of record crowds, strong retail sales, and the race committee’s strong sense of accomplishment was a statement issued by Ole Bardahl shortly after race concluded. With controlled emotion, the owner of the badly damaged Miss Bardahl announced that he would be selling his boat and that it was his intention to leave the sport.
“I don’t want to race anymore,” an emotional Bardahl was quoted as saying. “Not with Jackie (Regas) or any other driver lying there like that as a result of this sport. The only thing that matters now is Jack’s return to health.”
By the time he returned home, his stance on selling the boat had softened a bit, but his statement to the Seattle press revealed that he was deeply angry about the rules of the sport and its leadership.
Charging that there was “more squabbling than racing” in most unlimited contests, he said that he wouldn’t race his boat again until the “unnecessary hazards…and needless bickering are removed.” He indicated that the decision to sell or retire the boat was based on “the conditions which I think brought on that accident.”
“The possibility of an accident is heightened,” he said in a prepared statement, “by the mismanagement of a few selfish non-racers and hangers-on interested in self-aggrandizement and personal profit.”
Bardahl refused to accuse anyone by name. He did urge that “any individual who profits monetarily from a race, directly or indirectly,” be prohibited from serving in any capacity with the American Power Boat Association or as a regatta official.
“The owners and drivers who take all the risk and spend all the money are at the mercy of the whims of the few who govern the sport for their personal gain or glory,” he said. “Unlimited racing needs a drastic housecleaning.”
The owner also criticized the safety efforts found in hydro racing, saying that “it is a full lap or more before aid is even sent to a stricken driver…and often is in the form of equipment unable to rush a driver to medical attention or save a boat from needless sinking.”
Bardahl further suggested that rules should be written specifically for unlimited racing, with enforcements through fines or suspensions; sanctions should be refused for races where adequate safety precautions are not taken; drivers should be screened “for personal attributes and desirability as well as driving skill.”
The CUHA quickly responded to Bardahl’s charges. Speaking through former Commodore John S. Richards, the association took the position that the race had been conducted under maximum safety regulations. They also defended the race officials and U.S. Coast Guard for the manner in which they conducted the race.
Richards recounted the response times for the two injury accidents, making the case that the time involved was reasonable given the seriousness of the accidents. He also agreed with Bardahl’s call for reform in the sport, and expressed the association’s call for greater sponsor representation on the board of directors of the American Power Boat Association.
“It is always unfortunate when accidents occur in any sport, Richards said. “We must recognize that they do, despite all the precautions and safeguards that can be taken.”
“In this instance, the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association feels every precaution and safeguard was taken and feels that the race, as it was conducted by Stanley Donogh and Commander Weston left nothing to be desired.”
Bardahl had called by standardization of officials at every race so that the rules were enforced the same at every race. He charged that different officials and different sponsors changed the rules and safety precautions from race to race. He alleged that this lack of familiarity with race problems led to unnecessary risk.
While he didn’t point the finger at any specific driver (or drivers) for their recklessness, he did say that there were drivers who did such things as “habitually cutting off other boats and failing to signify well-being after a minor mishap.”
Since Miss Bardahl’s driver, Jack Regas, was attempting to cut inside of Norm Evans and Miss Spokane at the time according to media reports of the accident, it appears that Bardahl may have been pointing in Evans direction, indirectly blaming his driving for the crash. Add to this Evans’ behavior after his own crash, and it becomes obvious that he was likely taking the locally sponsored Spokane boat and driver to task through his comments.
It didn’t take long for the APBA to respond to Bardahl’s statements. Without mentioning Bardahl by name, the group announced strict rules of course patrol and safety for the Gold Cup two weeks after the Diamond Cup. The Coast Guard was given direct responsibility for supervising the program, and the guidelines stated that inside the course there would be three boats provided with water pumps, skin divers, and rags. In addition to the three boats, the rules demanded the presence of a fleet of safety boats outfitted with stretchers, fire-fighting equipment, smoke bombs as warning signals, and two-way radio or telephone communication with patrol officials. (The rags were to be used to quickly patch holes in damage boats to keep them from sinking.)
It appeared that the APBA had received Ole Bardahl’s message, and had responded appropriately.
|Jack Regas (in life vest) and Ole Bardahl (with binoculars) discuss a test run prior to the 1959 Diamond Cup race.|
Museum of North Idaho Photo
Regas meanwhile remained in a coma for the first three days after the race. By Wednesday, he was reported as semi-conscious. By Friday he came completely out of the coma briefly and his first words were to request a sandwich from the nursing staff. He also spoke briefly with Bardahl crew chief George McKernon and recognized his wife. He held her hand but didn’t speak to her.
By August 6th Regas had improved enough that he could be transported from Coeur d’Alene by chartered plane to the San Francisco area nearer his home in Oakland, California.
On August 7th, Regas underwent delicate brain surgery at the University of California hospital to remove fluid from around his brain. The surgery lasted four hours and was termed a success.
Eventually, Jack Regas would recover enough to leave the hospital and return home, but the long-term effects of the accident would be profound.
Jack’s once pleasant and outgoing personality changed. According to his daughter, Sharon Barousa, he became a different person emotionally, and the change deeply affected his relationships with others and his ability to work. It would eventually lead to the dissolution of his marriage.
The personality change and his cognitive issues from the accident also made it impossible for Regas to deal with the stress of the world of work, so he has been the recipient of disability benefits since the late 1960’s and has not worked at gainful employment since that time.
When I interviewed Sharon in 2012, she shared with me that he still has no memory of the accident or of his many successes before that day in Coeur d’Alene. He knows that he did something special because of the way people treat him today, but he has no memory of that time to speak of at all.
Today, he lives with Sharon in Nampa, Idaho, and just turned ninety years of age. He has taken up residence in a trailer adjacent to her home, and she has become his guardian and best friend. On occasion, she has taken him to the vintage events in Seattle and the Tri-Cities where he has enjoyed the admiration of his many fans including the elite of today’s hydroplane drivers. While he doesn’t know why, he is comforted that he had an impact on the sport that changed his life forever.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: More Change Comes to the Sport and Preparations Begin for a Third Annual Diamond Cup
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: Attrition and Survival of the Fittest
Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs
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Thursday, July 4, 2013
There were several intriguing story lines to follow going into race weekend in 1959. Would W.T. Waggoner’s Maverick be able to defend its 1958 Diamond Cup championship? Would Miss Bardahl be able to win its second straight race of the 1959 season? Would Norm Evans be able to secure a win with the local favorite, Miss Spokane? Could Bill Muncey overcome his bad luck streak in the Diamond Cup and see success with Miss Thriftway.
Although one of the story lines would actually play itself out, little did anyone know that the main storyline would be attrition and survival. By the end of the weekend, the big bad lake would take its share of victims…and only the strong would survive.
Saturday of race weekend dawned with clear skies and rising temperatures. The predicted high had the temperature soaring past ninety degrees. In contrast to the previous year, the weather was trending towards great and the winds were minimal.
With the good weather, the fans arrived in droves. Local law enforcement estimated that the crowd on Saturday was nearly four times that watched the ’58 race. To underscore the crowd estimate, virtually all hotel and motel rooms had been rented for the night. Hydromania had broken out in all its glory.
When the course opened for testing, both $ Bill and KOL-roy 1 made qualifying attempts. Ray Crawford did break the 90 mph barrier with Bill Schuyler’s boat, but the time was taken down because the boat was on the course before the time set aside for qualifying. He made a second attempt with the $ Bill, but fell short of the benchmark speed. KOL-roy 1 didn’t even come close, so both boats spent the weekend on tilt in the pits.
All five boats made it to the start of the first section of racing, but Jack Regas in Miss Bardahl and Bill Muncey in Miss Thriftway maneuvered themselves into position to a slight advantage as the boats crossed the starting line. By the time the two lead boats had made it to the turn, Regas had built a small lead.
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Bardahl hooked as it slid through the top of the turn. Regas regained control, but Muncey saw his opportunity and took it. By the end of lap one, Miss Thriftway had built a healthy four-second lead over Regas and Miss Bardahl. Norm Evans and Miss Spokane was trailing a full ten seconds behind the leaders, and Pay n’ Save and Nitrogen were not even in the picture.
For the next two laps, Muncey maintained the four second differential. As the boats moved through the north turn on lap four, things quickly changed. Suddenly, Regas found power from someplace deep in the Miss Bardahl’s Rolls-Merlin engine and the Green Dragon was suddenly on Muncey’s hip through the south turn.
Calling on his myriad of racing skills, Muncey kept Regas at bay for all of lap four. Regas countered his every move, but the margin seemed to stay within 100 feet through three-fourths of lap five.
As the duo hit the exit pin on the fifth circuit of the course, Regas suddenly found another burst of speed. With the crowd on their feet the two charged for the finish line. Miss Bardahl closed the narrow gap, but Muncey crossed the finish line with the Thriftway in first with a scant fifty-foot win.
The gap at the finish was only four-tenths of a second representing a .277 of a mile per hour. It would be one of the closest races on record.
As Heat 1-B got underway, Miss U.S. 1, Hawaii Kai, and Maverick came to the start line deck to deck. As soon as the boats crossed the line, the complexion of the race changed suddenly, and it became a parade of boats for the remainder of the heat with Bill Stead and Maverick in full control.
From the first to fifth lap, Stead built what would become a six hundred yard lead over his closest challenger, Don Wilson and Miss U.S. 1. Bill Brow in the Miss Burien and KOL-roy followed them across the line a good deal later. Hawaii Kai broke down in the middle of the first turn and Bryan Wygle found himself watching the action from the infield of the course. Coral Reef failed to complete even one lap.
Maverick’s owner W.T. Waggoner was not present to enjoy Stead’s easy heat victory. He had taken ill earlier in the day and was immediately flown to Phoenix for treatment aboard his private plane. The report out of Arizona Saturday evening had him in critical condition.
The first estimates of the Saturday’s crowd placed the number at 40,000 to 60,000 people. Despite the huge crowd, law enforcement reported no untoward incidents in the Lake City overnight.
The weather stayed warm overnight, and Sunday brought temperatures soaring to near triple digits. The continued hot weather brought even more spectators to the lake and early estimates put the crowd above the number present the day before.
The heat draw appeared to favor Miss Thriftway as the listing for the second sections of racing were announced. Bill Muncey was set to face Miss U.S. 1, Hawaii Kai, Coral Reef, and Miss Pay n’ Save in Heat 2-B, and the white and orange boat appeared to have the edge on all of those hulls.
Heat 2-A appeared less predictable, as Maverick and Bardahl posed the potential for a major battle. Joining them were the very competitive Miss Spokane and Miss Burien, as well as the off-times unpredictable KOL-roy and Nitrogen teams.
The first instance of the effects of attrition came with the announcement that Mira Slovak would replace Chuck Hickling in the Miss Pay n’ Save. Hickling had hit a roller during Saturday’s racing and had been thrown into the dashboard of the boat when it suddenly hooked sideways. A doctor’s report later indicated that he had suffered severe bruises and torn ligaments in one of his knees.
Variable winds from the south and rogue wave action from the log boom on the south end of the course formed deep rollers on the southeast corner of the racecourse.
Despite the deteriorating water conditions at both ends of the course, Bill Stead and Maverick started off where they left the day before – out in front and leading the parade. Taking the lead on the back straight from a surprisingly strong Miss Spokane, Stead built a small lead going into lap two.
Enjoying cleaner water out front, Stead built on his lead. Behind him, conditions were not so good for his competition. As Bill Brow brought Miss Burien through the south turn behind the two lead boats, the deep swells took their first victim of the day. Hit a crosswise roller, Brow suddenly went airborne, nearly fifty feet in the air according to some witnesses. The boat then flipped over as it caught air and descended back to the water nose first.
The impact with the water disintegrated nearly the entire left side of the boat, tearing away the decking and destroying the stringers and other internal structures of the boat.
Brow was thrown clear of the accident and Bob Larson in the KOL-roy saw him lying amid the rapidly sinking wreckage. Larson quickly shut down his boat and helped the rescue patrol boat personnel pull Brow from the water. Reports indicate that it took only thirty-nine seconds for the rescue to be completed.
Surprisingly, Brow was relatively unhurt. He was taken to Lake City General Hospital where doctors diagnosed him as suffering from shock and deep bruising.
The race was delayed nearly an hour as the course was clear of what little remained of the Miss Burien hull.
In one of the most exciting starts, all four boats making the start for Heat 2-B roared across the start line in a deck-to-deck line with Bryan Wygle and Hawaii Kai leading by only a foot or two. From there to the exit pin of lap one, it was all Hawaii Kai as the Pink Lady posted a blistering 115.632 circuit of the course to blow the competition away.
Trailing by some distance was Bill Muncey and Miss Thriftway and the rest of the field. Miss U.S. 1 failed to start and Don Wilson watched the race from the dock in the pit area.
As Miss Pay n’ Save slid through the south turn on the first circuit of the course, the rogue water took its second victim. Hooking a sponson in the rough water where Miss Burien had flipped, Pay n’ Save spun around, and went dead in the water. Driver Mira Slovak was tossed about in the cockpit, but managed to stay in the boat. He restarted the engine, but with the spin went any chance of the boat making the final heat.
Hawaii Kai went on to win with a speed of 105.017 mph for the five laps. He was followed distantly by Miss Thriftway, Coral Reef, and Miss Pay n’ Save.
Heat 2-A (Rerun)
Don Dunnington brought the bright blue and yellow Nitrogen across the line in first place to start the rerun of Heat 2-A. Trailing him were Maverick, Miss Bardahl, and Miss Spokane in that order.
The first turn was about as far as Dunnington was able to maintain the lead before Maverick asserted itself and moved into the lead. By the end of lap two, Norm Evans had also moved Miss Spokane past the faltering Delaware boat into second.
Trailing Miss Spokane and charging were Jack Regas and Miss Bardahl. As he neared the south turn at the end of lap two, Regas closed the gap significantly. Evans had the inside lane, but Regas made a move to take the inside away as the two boats started to power slide around the buoy line.
As he made the move, Regas and the Bardahl appeared to hit the wake of one of the lead boats or perhaps hit another of the rogue rollers lurking in that part of the turn. Whatever the cause, Miss Bardahl rose from the water an estimated twenty feet in the air at which point gravity took over and the boat slammed back into the water nose first at roughly 130 mph.
The hydraulic force of tons of water drove the bottom of the boat up and through the firewall and cockpit, throwing the instrument panel and the steering wheel into the upper body and face of Jack Regas. The force was equivalent of the full weight of the boat (6,100 lbs.) being doubled back directly on the driver.
Regas lay motionless in the boat’s cockpit when the spray settled from the accident. He was taken from the boat, placed on oxygen, and transported directly to Lake City General. The record shows that he suffered three broken ribs, a broken right hand, cuts, bruises, and a badly sprained leg in addition to the skull fracture. He was unconscious and stayed in a coma for nearly a month.
That Regas was alive surprised many who saw the condition of the cockpit when the boat was returned to the pits. The steering wheel was disfigured from its impact with Regas’ body and the hold he put on it to stay in the boat. A gaping hole replaced where the left sponson once had been.
Since Maverick had completed lap three when the flares ended the heat, Bill Stead secured his second win of the weekend. His average for the three laps was 107.290 mph. Evans and Miss Spokane placed second a few seconds back. Nitrogen and KOL-roy took the third and fourth place spots.
|Miss Spokane and Nitrogen prepare to leave the dock for the 1959 final as Hawaii Kai is lowered into the water.|
Kyle Walker Collection
By the time the field was set for the final heat, attrition had taken a tremendous toll. As stated earlier only the strong survived. The waves had whittled the original eleven boats down to a precious few.
Topping the list of survivors was Bill Stead and Maverick with 800 points from two heat wins. Bill Muncey and Miss Thriftway were not far off the pace with 700 points. Also in the hunt were Hawaii Kai (625), Nitrogen(531), Miss Spokane (525), and KOL-roy 1 (465).
Norm Evans miscalculated a bit and found himself trailing Maverick, Miss Thriftway, and Hawaii Kai across the start line. The three leaders roared side by side down the front chute and well into turn one, but as the boats emerged from the wall of spray at the back side of the turn, the mahogany and lilac Miss Spokane suddenly appeared in the lead.
Evans built a two and one-half second margin over Muncey and Thriftway by the end of lap two. Stead and Maverick were another one and one-half seconds further back. The lead grew even further after three.
It looked like the local boat would win the heat if not the race if Evans could hold the lead for the remaining two laps. Evans continued to charge, but disaster struck as he entered the north turn near Playland Pier on the site of what is now Independence Point.
Suddenly the Miss Spokane bounced crazily, twisted to one side, and dug the right sponson into the lake. The boat suddenly hooked to the left causing it to spin, and as it did so Evans was thrown ahead of the careening hull into the water. He landed several yards away from boat and as the boat spun a second time it nearly hit Evans where he lay in the water.
|The spray begins to fly as Miss Spokane digs its right sponson in, throwing Norm Evans into the water.|
Photo used with permission of the Bob Carver family
As the flares flew to end the race, the coast guard patrol and Bryan Wygle in Hawaii Kai approached the scene to help Evans. Suddenly he swam to the boat where it had come to a rest nearby and climbed up on the deck. He collected himself for a few moments, and then shocked everyone by climbing back in the cockpit to attempt to restart the boat.
Rescue crews took Evans back to the pits to be evaluated by medical personnel. He was treated for several facial cuts, but was otherwise uninjured. As the medical staff attended to him, Evans yelled over his shoulder to the Miss Spokane crew: “Get it ready to run! It’s alright!”
The race was over, however, and there would be no restart. Miss Spokane was disqualified because Norm’s abrupt exit from the boat had caused a race stoppage. When he failed to signal immediately he was all right, the corner judge fired a flare in the interest of his safety.
As the leader, Miss Spokane had completed three laps, so the race was deemed official at the time of the stoppage. Placing first in the final was Bill Muncey and Miss Thriftway because of his position when the Miss Spokane was disqualified. Bill Stead and Maverick placed second, leaving the Thriftway and Maverick tied with 1100 points for the race.
Race officials then set about implementing the tiebreaker rules. The first such rule was based on the total elapsed time for the race. The total elapsed times for each boat were also incredibly close with the Maverick having a total time of 25:42.6 and the Thriftway 25:44.4 - a paper-thin 1.4 seconds separating the two. Their average speeds were also close with Maverick averaging 105.058 mph for the three heats, and Miss Thriftway averaging 104.922.
The Maverick was thus declared the winner for 1959 by a margin of .136 miles per hour. Bill Stead had edged his rival by scarcely a boat length after the forty-five miles of competition in the closest Diamond Cup ever run.
New course records were set during the race. Stead drove the Maverick to a new forty-five mile race record of 105.057 and a new heat record at 107.290. The Hawaii Kai set a new single lap course record of 115.632 during Heat 2-B.
Stead had proved himself to be the fittest of the remaining fleet, and in so doing he had secured his second straight win in the Diamond Cup. The celebration back in the pits was relatively subdued, however. With two driver’s hospitalized, everyone’s mind was on the well being of the injured. There would be time to celebrate at some later time.
Miss Burien was brought up from the bottom of the lake on the Monday after the race. The Coeur d’Alene Press published a report of divers Loren “Skip” Murphy, Graydon Johnson, Dick Williams, and Dan Donaldson assisting with the recovery of the hull from a depth of 82 feet. The team used Fred Murphy’s pile driver and crane apparatus to lift the various parts of the boat off the lake bottom.
Late in the evening the recovery was complete, and what was left of the boat was placed on its trailer for the return trip to Seattle. In the end, only the Burien’s engine proved to be salvageable.
And so the story of the 1959 race came to a close. It would prove to be the most dangerous of the Diamond Cup series. In five separate incidents, five drivers were treated for injuries, and two of those were serious enough to be hospitalized. The water of the big lake was unforgiving, and the attrition was as extremely high.
The race was also one of the most competitive with many deck-to-deck battles and the race winner determined by an eyelash in time. The race had attracted a record crowd to the shores of the lake. To most it would be remembered as one of the best shows ever.
Would the fan interest and resultant revenue be enough to bring the race back for a third year? It was time once again for the Coeur d’Alene Unlimited Hydroplane Association to reflect on the bottom line and assess the potential for the future.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: The Bardahl Controversy and the Decision on a Third Installment
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: DIAMOND CUP WEEK ’59 AND MORE…
Coeur d'Alene Hydromaniacs
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