Regatta Review #226

Thursday, July 10, 2014

100 Years Of Gold Cup Racing

By Fred Farley - H1 Unlimited Historian

Officially known as the "American Power Boat Association Challenge Cup," the Gold Cup is the ultimate prize that every competitor strives to win at least once.

In terms of prestige, it compares on an international level to England's Harmsworth Trophy and Australia's Griffith Cup.

First contested in 1904, the trophy was created by Tiffany's at a total cost of $900. Millions have been spent and lives sacrificed in the pursuit of the APBA Gold Cup.

100 YEARS AGO (1914):

The 1914 Gold Cup at Lake George, New York,  is historically significant as the first Gold Cup race to be won by a woman owner, Paula Blackton. The only other distaff champions in the Gold Cup series are Fran Muncey, who won seven races between 1982 and 1988, and Lori Jones {co-owning with husband Mike Jones} in 2001.

Mrs. Blackton's BABY SPEED DEMON II, a 20-foot step hydroplane, finished second in Heat One and first in the next two outings. Bob Edgren, a popular newspaper sportswriter of the day, drove in Heats One and Three; the owner's son, Jim Blackton, Jr., took the wheel for Heat Two.

J. Stuart Blackton, Sr., won the first heat with BABY RELIANCE V but broke a piston in Heat Two. Mr. Blackton, Sr., was a pioneer of the fledgling motion picture industry and owner of Vitagraph Pictures.

An obscure committee boat operator at the 1914 Gold Cup was a youthful George Reis, who would win the Gold Cup three times in succession in 1933-34-35 as owner/driver of EL LAGARTO.

75 YEARS AGO (1939):

The first victory in the Gold Cup series by a three-point hydroplane (two sponson and a propeller) occurred in 1939 on the Detroit River.

MY SIN, a Miller-powered product of the famed Ventnor Boat Works, won all three heats of the 1939 race with Zalmon Guy Simmons driving. The other three-pointers in attendance were Lou Fageol's SO-LONG, "Wild Bill" Cantrell's WHY WORRY, Marion Cooper's MERCURY, and George Davis's HERMES IV.

The 1939 Gold Cup was the first major appearance by Cantrell who would become a racing legend. ("Wild Bill" would win the 1949 Gold Cup as driver of MY SWEETIE.)

The 1939 Gold Cup Regatta occurred the same weekend that World War II began in Europe with the German invasion of Poland. The long-feared global conflict was now an ugly reality.

After the war, Simmons sold MY SIN to bandleader Guy Lombardo who drove the boat, renamed TEMPO VI, to victory in the 1946 Gold Cup at Detroit.

MY SIN/TEMPO VI had a completely submerged propeller. Not until the late 1940s would the boats start to "propride."

50 YEARS AGO (1964):

Ron Musson won his second of three consecutive Gold Cups with the "Green Dragon" MISS BARDAHL in 1964 on the Detroit River.

Musson, however, needed an assist from his friend Don Wilson, driver of MISS U.S. 5.

Heading into the Final Heat, TAHOE MISS pilot Chuck Thompson appeared on his way to the bank after winning all three of his preliminary heats. During the five-minute warm-up period for the Final, TAHOE MISS developed an engine problem and pulled back into the pits. Frantic crew members swarmed over the boat but couldn't find anything wrong with it.. Thompson then re-entered the course just moments before the one-minute gun and made a very belated start.

This was in the days when total points earned in all heats determined the winner of a race. Musson and MISS BARDAHL scored the most points that day with 1325, based upon heat finishes of second, first, first, and third. Thompson and TAHOE MISS finished sixth in the Final for a total of 1295. Thompson would have won the race if he had been able to overtake fifth-place Wilson and MISS U.S. 5. Thompson began to make up ground on Wilson but fell 99/100ths of a second short at the finish line.

Wilson was aware of what was involved and pushed the largely untried MISS U.S. 5 at an ever-increasing pace to stave off the belated challenge of TAHOE MISS. When asked if he had intentionally given his friend Musson a helping hand, Don replied, "You bet I did. Remember, I used to drive for Ole Bardahl." (The year before, Wilson had relief-driven the "Green Dragon" at three races when Musson was injured.)

25 YEARS AGO (1989):

The 1989 Gold Cup on San Diego's Mission Bay is noteworthy as the race that MISS BUDWEISER (Turbine-3) snapped Chip Hanauer's seven-year Gold Cup win streak.

Tom D'Eath and MISS BUD won the Final Heat and held off a last-minute challenge from second-place George Woods and OH BOY! OBERTO, while Hanauer's MISS CIRCUS CIRCUS sat dead in the water with a blown engine.

With five down and one lap to go in the Final, D'Eath's roostertail dropped noticeably. With less than 2-1/2 miles to the checkered flag, Woods was making a bid.

Both drivers realized that they were dangerously low on fuel. In the first turn of lap-six, OBERTO went by the faltering BUDWEISER. D'Eath picked up the pace and charged down the backstretch, narrowing the gap. Both boats entered the second turn virtually dead even.

It was a drag race, with the Gold Cup at stake, to the finish line with MISS BUDWEISER taking it by 2.14 seconds over OH BOY! OBERTO, 124.953 miles per hour to 123.983.

The race certainly reaffirmed that old saying, "It isn't over 'til it's over."

Share this page