Hawaii Kai III : The "Pink Lady" Legacy [The "Quasi-Kai"]
The "Pink Lady" Hawaii Kai III was arguably the finest race boat of the 1950s. Owned by Edgar Kaiser and driven by Jack Regas, the Kai epitomized the all-conquering Ted Jones design, which defined the state of the art in Unlimited hydroplane racing.
Between 1956 and 1960, Hawaii Kai III won ten races and set records of speed and endurance that stood for many years. But she is best remembered for her richly sentimental triumph in the 1958 APBA Gold Cup on Seattle's Lake Washington, where she trounced the favored Bill Stead and Maverick in one of the more competitive contests in Unlimited history.
The boat that enjoyed such a dramatic life was given a dramatic "death" in 1972. The Kaiser family gave the "Pink Lady" a Viking funeral at the Kaiser estate on Orcas Island in the state of Washington. The Kai was set ablaze and cut adrift as the sun set on her colorful career.
During the winter of 1990-91, the staff of the Hydroplane And Raceboat Museum in Seattle decided to revive the Hawaii Kai III legacy for a new generation of race fans.
The former Breathless II, built in 1957, was called upon to stand in for the departed "Pink Lady." Breathless II was the perfect choice to wear the Kai's tropical rose and coral mist racing colors. She is a line-for-line hull duplicate of the original Hawaii Kai III, although the sponsons are a bit different. The "Quasi-Kai" is a stunning representation of a racing legend.
Actually, Breathless II was a significant boat in her own right. Originally owned by J. Philip Murphy of Piedmont, California, she flew the burgee of the Lake Tahoe Yacht Club, together with her two sister ships: Breathless and Muvalong. Breathless II was driven by the owner's two sons, Jay and Roger Murphy, and also by Red Loomis.
The Murphys were quite well off financially, but chose not to put a lot of dollars into their boats. They ran largely with stock equipment--although they did experiment with a fuel injection system on Breathless II's Allison engine. To the Murphys, Unlimited hydroplane racing was strictly a hobby.
Breathless II's best showing was at the 1960 Seattle Seafair Regatta, where she ran two heats at 105 miles per hour with Roger Murphy driving and bested the winner (Bill Muncey in Miss Thriftway) in one preliminary heat.
After the Murphys retired from racing, their flagship Breathless II passed through many hands. She appeared as Blue Chip, The Loaner, Miss Wickman, Shakey's Special, Sunny Jim, Schrader Wood Stoves, Ingraham '69, Precision Marine, Pacific Datsun, Tad Dean's Body Shop, and Dionysius, among other aliases.
Her drivers in competition included Walt Kade, Fred Alter, Bob Fendler, Tom Martin, Pete LaRock, Tom Kaufman, and Bob Maschmedt.
Over the years, she finished fourth in the 1957 APBA Gold Cup, second in the 1958 President's Cup, fourth in the 1963 Madison Regatta, and fifth in the 1974 Owensboro Regatta.
In 1976, a 22-year-old Lee "Chip" Hanauer made his Unlimited debut with the veteran craft, then sponsored by Barney Armstrong's Machine. Chip qualified the 19-year-old former Breathless II at 102.975 miles per hour for the Seafair Regatta and picked up a couple of fourth-place heat finishes with speeds of 91.997 and 91.631.
Although obsolete, the future "Quasi-Kai" continued to show up for races until as late as 1983. That year, Tom Martin took her on a sentimental journey to the San Diego race on Mission Bay, but was unable to qualify.
The boat then faded into obscurity until the call came from the museum group to assume the Hawaii Kai III identity.
The original "Pink Lady" can only be descibed with superlatives. Designer Ted Jones had worked similar magic when he introduced Slo-mo-shun IV in 1950 as the first prop-riding three-pointer to run successfully in the Unlimited Class. Jones had likewise achieved results with Slo-mo-shun V, Shanty I, Maverick, Miss Wahoo, Miss Thriftway, and Miss Bardahl in the decade of the fifties. But Hawaii Kai III outperformed them all.
The Kai and the men who raced her so successfully have earned a permanent place of honor in the annals of boat racing history.