By Fred Farley - ABRA Unlimited Historian
The six traditional Unlimited race sites (Detroit, Madison, Seattle, San Diego, the Tri-Cities, and Evansville) have hosted a total of 308 major Unlimited races since the end of World War II.
A total of 522 major Unlimited races have been contested since 1946.
DETROIT, MI (1946)
The Motor City hosted its first major race in 1916 (the APBA Gold Cup) and continued to do so--off and on--until 1939. The Detroit Yacht Club was the usual host club.
After time-out for World War II, Detroit hosted the first major post-war race--the 1946 Gold Cup. Since 1946, Detroit hasn't missed a year. The DYC hosted the Silver Cup from 1946 to 1961; the Windmill Pointe Yacht Club hosted the Detroit Memorial Regatta from 1947 to 1961.
Both the DYC and the WPYC dropped out after 1961 over the issue of prize money. Unlimited Commissioner J. Lee Schoenith denied both of them a sanction in 1962 for that reason. This led to the formation of the Spirit Of Detroit Association, which hosted the Unlimiteds every year from 1962 to 2002.
IN 1990, Detroit was designated as the "permanent home" of the Gold Cup. The last eighteen Gold Cup races have been run there.
When SODA went bankrupt after 2002, the Detroit River Regatta Association was formed. The DRRA has continued the Detroit Unlimited tradition the past five years.
Detroit holds the record for the number of major Unlimited races run in a single year--four in both 1949 and 1950. These included the Gold Cup, the Harmsworth Trophy, the Silver Cup, and the Detroit Memorial.
A total of 85 major Unlimited races have been run at Detroit since 1946
MADISON, IN (1950)
Informal racing took place in Madison as early as 1911. But the first major race didn't occur until 1929. That was when the now-defunct Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association conducted a race for the 725 Cubic Inch Class, which evolved into the Unlimited Class after World War II. The MVPBA conducted the Webb Trophy at Madison in 1930. The Webb Trophy was the MVPBA equivalent of the APBA Gold Cup--their top award.
The 725s raced at Madison throughout the 1930s until the disastrous Ohio River flood of 1937 and World War II brought down the curtain for a while.
The current series of regattas in Madison began in 1949. This was a "wildcat" race, administered by the Ohio Valley Motor Boat Racing Association of Cincinnati. The largest class present was the 225 Cubic Inch Class.
The first Unlimited race took place in 1950. The Unlimited races at Madison in 1950-51-52-53 were one-heat multi-class free-for-all affairs. They didn't count for National High Points.
The first High Points Unlimited race at Madison occurred in 1954. This came about largely through the efforts of MADISON COURIER columnist Phil Cole. (A High Points Unlimited race must be scheduled for a minimum of two heats with at least four boats making a legal start.)
Madison has an uninterrupted string of High Points Unlimited races every year since 1954.
The Madison committee is the longest continuously active Unlimited committee in the country. Madison Regatta, Inc. (formerly the Madison Boat Club) has hosted the Unlimiteds every year since 1950. Seattle didn't start until 1951. Detroit has been on the circuit since 1946...but with four different committees.
A total of 54 major Unlimited races (excluding the free-for-all races) have been run at Madison since 1954.
SEATTLE, WA (1951)
The Emerald City hosted the Unlimiteds for the first time in 1951. This was for the Gold Cup on the strength of SLO-MO-SHUN IV's victory in the 1950 Gold Cup at Detroit. Seattle hasn't missed a year since 1951. That's 57 consecutive years of Unlimited racing.
The Seattle Yacht Club and Greater Seattle, Inc., jointly sponsored the Seattle race for ten years--from 1951 to 1960. The SYC dropped out after 1960 and Greater Seattle, Inc. (later renamed Seafair, Inc.) has been the sole sponsor ever since.
Seafair, Inc., last administered the race directly in 1974. In 1975, the Seafair Boat Club was formed as a puppet organization to physically put on the race.
SAN DIEGO, CA (1964)
The city fathers of San Diego first planned to host an Unlimited race on Mission Bay shortly after the end of World War II. As the area changed over to a peacetime economy, Mission Bay was developed with that purpose in mind, although the city didn't get around to actually conducting its first race until 1964.
An outfit called Mission Bay Associates hosted the San Diego race from 1964 to 1970 but then went bankrupt. Unlimiteds did not return to San Diego until 1974, when the race returned under new management, largely through the efforts of boat racing legend Bill Muncey, who lived in nearby LaMesa.
San Diego has an unbroken string of Unlimited races to its credit for the last 34 years, which brings its total to 41 since 1964.
TRI-CITIES, WA (1966)
The Columbia River towns of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland first climbed on the Unlimited bandwagon in 1966 with the first annual Atomic Cup. There had been talk of inviting the Unlimiteds there as early as 1958. But 1966 was when it finally happened.
The Tri-City Water Follies group now has 42 consecutive years of Unlimited racing to its credit.
EVANSVILLE, IN (1979)
"Ideal Evansville" replaced Owensboro, KY, on the Unlimited calendar in 1979. Evansville was the world headquarters of Atlas Van Lines, Inc., which sponsored Bill Muncey's race team. Muncey played a major role in Evansville being awarded its first sanction.
"Thunder On The Ohio" has been an Unlimited mainstay for 29 consecutive years.
The 725 Class boats, the forerunners of the modern Unlimiteds, raced at Evansville in 1938-39-40.