1956 Sahara Cup
Hawaii Kai Nabs Cup -- Miss Seattle 2nd
by John Romero, Review-Journal Sports Editor
Hawaii Kai III, Edgar Kaiser's Rolls-Merlin powered hydroplane, won the first annual Sahara Cup today, (held on Lake Mead, Nevada) but the engine-to-engine test between the Kai and the Allison-powered Shanty I still has not been settled.
Driver Jack Regas, a chopped-haired youngster from Livermore, California, shot the Hawaii Kai III to victory in Sunday's Sahara Cup finale as Shanty I, the early leader languished helplessly on the sidelines with a blown supercharger. The two boats made a shambles of the opposition working their way up to finals, each winning two heats.
Another problem - will Kaiser give up the Kai and boat racing completely as he had previously stated before the race, or would he now continue? The Sahara win Sunday, some observers thought, might convince him to stay in the sport.
The problem nobody worried about today was the success of the Sahara Cup Regatta. It was astounding. Sid Street, a Kansas City 266 cu. in. hydroplane driver summed it up for everyone: "I've been to a lot of regattas in my time, but believe me, this is the best I've ever raced in."
The box score for the two days of racing included three - count 'em - three - world records in the limited divisions, plus a new competition record for unlimited hydroplanes on the 2 1/2 mile course.
It may be the only 2½ mile record ever established, because drivers voted Sunday for a three-mile course next year, and the Sahara officials said they would comply.
This morning, Bud Saile's Miss Wayne was scheduled to try for Stan Sayres' world prop-driven water speed record of 178.497 m.p.h. on the same course approximately, that Donald Campbell used last year to set a new unrestricted water speed mark. The Hawaii Kai III, originally scheduled to run for the record, withdrew because of engine difficulty which occurred in the last two laps of its winning effort Sunday.
Behind the Scenes:
- Bill Muncey, driver of Miss Thriftway, the Seattle unlimited owned by Willard Rhodes, escaped serious injury and possible death Sunday in full view of some 10,000 spectators at Lake Mead - and not one of them knew what had happened.
- In the final heat race of the Sahara Cup, Muncey was hard after leader Jack Regas in Hawaii Kai III, when he suddenly rolled dead in the water coming out of the North turn. Through glasses, observers saw Muncey leap frantically from the cockpit, throw his seat cushion overboard, then dive in the cockpit again. Then he stood up and waved for help.
- No one on shore knew how close Muncey had come to injury. The boat apparently hit something in the water, or perhaps the propeller just gave way. At any rate, the steel prop blade broke, hurtled upward into the hull gouging out a huge hole. The drive shaft then twisted crazily loose from supporting struts. The thrust bearings in the gear box at
Muncey's feet let go and whistled like shrapnel inside the boat. Muncey made a distance estimate with his index finger and thumb to crewmen. "Missed me by this much," he said.
- The most disgusted driver Sunday was Mira Slovak in Miss Wahoo. After leading Hawaii Kai in a heat race, Slovak went into the North turn too fast, almost lost control, and allowed Regas in the Kai to slip past and go on to win. Wahoo was second, and close, however. After that, Slovak never could get the engine started again. He watched the finals helplessly adrift in the center of the course.
- Drivers voted unanimously for a three-mile course next year and that's what they'll get.
Owner Bud Saile says the twin screws on his Miss Wayne make for greater acceleration and less slippage, but says he'll junk the boat and build a new one next year with a single engine.
- Crewmen worked Friday and Saturday night to get Maverick, William Waggoner's second boat, ready for the race, missed the final heat when a police escort couldn't get them through traffic from Boulder City in time. Then a loose primer line almost kept driver Bill Stead from starting the motor. He (Stead) was allowed to race in the finals. Drivers voted him in a courtesy.
- "Guess I'll get a lecture from Lou (Lou Fageol) for gumming up the start," said Regas after winning the final. Regas trailed Shanty I badly until Shanty's supercharger blew. Regas buzzed the press box after the win to celebrate, and almost rammed dry land.
- The Sahara Cup Trophy of clear plastic suspended in bronze wire was called the most beautiful trophy ever designed. Jerome Gould on Los Angeles did it.
Sahara Cup Summaries:
|Heat 1A (Saturday October 13, 1956)||Heat 1B (Sunday October 14, 1956)**|
|1. Shanty I||Russ Schleeh||1. Hawaii Kai III||Jack Regas|
|2. Miss Seattle||Norm Evans||2. Miss Wahoo||Mira Slovak|
|3. Miss Thriftway||Bill Muncey||3. Tempo VII||Bill Cantrell|
|—||—||4. Miss Wayne||Bud Saile|
**Heat 1B was run on Sunday (October 14) as well, because during the first running of 1B on Saturday (October 13) one of the boats "broke" one of the buoys so they stopped the Saturday 1B and reran it on Sunday morning.
|Heat 2A (Sunday October 14, 1956)||Heat 2B (Sunday October 14, 1956)|
|1. Shanty I||Russ Schleeh||1. Hawaii Kai III||Jack Regas|
|2. Tempo VII||Roy Duby||DNF Miss Thriftway||—|
|3. Miss Seattle||Norm Evans||DNF Miss Wahoo||—|
|4. Miss Wayne||Lee Schoenith||DNF Miss U.S. I||—|
|Final Heat (Sunday October 14, 1956)|
|1. Hawaii Kai III||Jack Regas|
|2. Miss Seattle||Norm Evans|
|3. Tempo VII||Roy Duby|
|4. Miss Wayne||Bud Saile|
Note: Maverick with Bill Stead at the wheel placed 2nd in the final heat, but was running for exhibition only. Points and place did not count. See related verbiage under "Behind the Scenes".
|Hawaii Kai III||1200|
(Transcribed from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Monday - October 15, 1956)
[Thanks to Ted Shenenberg for help in preparing this page]