Seattle's rich history of unlimited
hydroplane racing dates back to July 1950, when it was announced that
the Gold Cup was leaving its familiar home in Detroit in favor of the
A local boat called the Slo-mo-shun IV won the Gold Cup race in
Detroit that year. The Gold Cup was traditionally run at the home of the
winner, so for 1951, the Cup was coming to Seattle. City officials
decided the race would be a great addition to the Seafair festival.
Since then, the unlimiteds have become as much a part of Seattle
tradition as Seafair itself. The Slo-mo's string of four Gold Cup
victories from 1951-54 solidified the sport in the hearts of Seattle
fans so much so that after the Gold Cup returned to Detroit in 1955,
local officials decided to hold a race of their own, and the Seafair Cup
Following are several of the most memorable moments in Seafair racing
Two killed as Quicksilver crashes at first Seattle Gold Cup:
Seattle's first Gold Cup race came to a sudden, tragic end when Orth
Mathiot, 57, and Tom Whitaker, 28, died when their boat, the
Quicksilver, turned sideways while traveling near 120 mph. They were the
first fatalities in 44 years of Gold Cup racing. The Slo-mo-shun V,
winner of two previous heats, was named the winner.
Cantrell rides Gale IV into front yard on Lake Washington shore:
During the 1954 Gold Cup, "Wild" Bill Cantrell was piloting the Gale
IV and battling with the Slo-mo IV when the rudder on his boat came off,
sending Cantrell straight toward the Lake Washington shoreline. The Gale
IV hit the bulkhead of Dr. F.A. Black's property, flew through the air
and landed in the Black's rose garden. Cantrell reportedly jumped out of
the boat, brushed the roses off and joined the party.
Muncey sinks Coast Guard vessel:
The 1958 Gold Cup was historic for several reasons. The estimated
crowd of 500,000 was the largest single U.S. gathering for any event to
that point (broken by the Woodstock concert a decade later). But what
the crowd saw was even more amazing. Driving the popular Seattle boat
Miss Thriftway, Bill Muncey lost control and slammed into a Coast Guard
patrol boat, sending it to the bottom of the lake. It was the only time
in history that a U.S. Coast Guard vessel has been sunk. Muncey jumped
out of the Thriftway moments before the collision.
Near-miss for Miss Notre Dame:
Owner Shirley Mendelson McDonald had one wish as an unlimited owner,
to win the Gold Cup, like her father Herb did in 1937 with an earlier
Notre Dame. During the 1965 race, it looked like her wish would finally
come true. Rex Manchester piloted the "Shamrock Lady" to a clear lead
over the Miss Bardahl in the final heat and appeared to be on his way to
victory when the Miss Exide caught fire. The heat had to be stopped and
re-run, with the Bardahl taking the checkered flag ahead of the Notre
Dame. It was the second time in five years that Manchester had been
deprived of victory on Lake Washington due to an accident to another
boat. Sadly, McDonald never had her Gold Cup wish fulfilled.
Pay 'n Pak beats Budweiser in best race (ever):
It was a gray, wet day that tested the endurance of thousands of
race fans on the shores of Lake Washington in 1973. Those that stayed
saw arguably the best day of racing in Seafair history, featuring three
tension-packed heats between Mickey Remund in the Pride of Pay 'n Pak
and Dean Chenoweth in the Miss Budweiser. The Bud won a record-setting
first heat, considered by many to be the greatest single-heat battle
ever. The Pak won the second heat after the Bud lost power, setting up a
winner-take-all final that had the fans on their feet cheering wildly.
Despite rumbles of unsafe weather conditions by some drivers, Remund
outlasted the Bud, but not without a furious charge by Chenoweth on the
Jerry Bangs killed in Squire Shop mishap:
Seattle attorney Jerry Bangs was the third victim in the history of
hydroplane racing on Lake Washington. During the first heat of the 1977
race, Bangs was piloting the Squire Shop when his boat hooked a sponson
and threw him from the cockpit, killing him instantly. Bangs was a
prominent trial lawyer who loved boat racing as a hobby.
Race moves to Sand Point in 1974 for one year:
It was a move to save money, but it turned into an 8 1/2-hour
headache for Seafair officials. Concerned over cost overruns and an
inability to charge admission in a city park, city and race officials
moved the Seattle course from the Seward Park area north to the Sand
Point Naval Base, an area where fans could easily be charged for
attendance and parking. Despite fuel truck problems, bouys becoming
dislodged, overcrowded cranes, official clocks malfunctioning, drivers
miscounting laps and just about anything else that could go wrong, a
race was held that was won by the Pride of Pay'n Pak. Fans may remember
driver Tom D'Eath standing on the Miss U.S. as the boat burned out of
control, desperately waving to a fireboat that would come no closer.
D'Eath finally jumped in the water and swam to safety. The race was
moved back to the original course the next year.
Pico flips, then wins; E-Lam rides Budweiser to log boom:
"Upside down and in the winner's circle, I love it," driver Mark
Evans said in 1997 after guiding his boat, the Pico American Dream, to
the winner's circle. Evans became the only driver to flip in a heat and
come back to claim victory in the championship final with the same boat.
Evans flipped during heat 2A, but gained valuable repair time during the
heat re-start. As a second attempt to run heat 2A began, the Miss E-Lam
lost position out of the inside lane and drove up onto the Miss
Budweiser, nearly sending both boats crashing into pleasure craft and
swimmers anchored south of the log boom.
Muncey wins fourth straight Seafair race:
Bill Muncey, driving the Atlas Van Lines, was an icon in Seattle
racing for 25 years. In his career he won nine races on Lake Washington,
including a record four in a row from 1977-80. By mid-season in 1980,
the Atlas/Budweiser duels were in full swing, with both boats setting
qualifying records earlier in the year. In Seattle, Dean Chenoweth and
the Bud flipped going for a qualifying record, leaving Muncey
uncontested to claim his fourth straight win in Seattle.