1977 Seafair Trophy
Muncey Plucks Sixth Win
By Chuck Ashmun
Seafair’s ‘77 version of hydro mania, now history, will never be forgotten by those who participated.
The tragedy which struck during the dash for a trophy and a national unlimited-hydroplane championship overshadowed a spectacular show which attracted thousands of onlookers to Lake Washington.
"I don’t think I’ll ever get over it," said the winning driver, Bill Muncey. "It’s something that will affect me as long as I live."
Muncey and his fellow boat racers were saddened by the death of Jerry Bangs, an extremely popular driver who was killed during a preliminary heat.
They found it difficult to talk about the heats other than the one in which Bangs lost his life. The Squire driver was attempting to overtake Miss Lynnwood Equipment for the second-place spot in Heat 1A when he was thrown into the water near the south-turn entrance buoy.
Asked his feelings about continuing the regatta and winning it, Muncey said:
"I’m not very happy about it at all. It’s great to win a race, but not to lose a friend. It just isn’t worth it.
"But I also felt I had a responsibility to one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen in Seattle in years and years to go boat racing. Jerry wouldn’t have been happy doing anything other than what we did."
What Muncey and his fellow drivers did was continue the spectacle — go back out on that sometimes-unforgiving water and resume the race.
Muncey moved the Atlas Van Lines to the front shortly after the winner-take-all final heat began and scored his sixth victory in eight regattas this season. Mickey Remund, driving Miss Budweiser, finished second. Pete LaRock, in the KYYX cockpit, was third.
The three other boats in the final heat, Natural Light, Pay ‘N Pak and Miss Lynnwood Equipment, did not finish the required six laps around the tight, two-mile course.
While Muncey was breezing to his sixth career win on Lake Washington, Remund was stretching his lead to an almost insurmountable advantage in the national point standings.
"We’ve covered up the 2 on the U-12. It now says Number One," said Remund. "If I can get two seconds when we go to San Diego, we’ve got it wrapped up no matter what Muncey does. But if we break another prop and tear up the back of the boat, he will go right on by."
The mass of humanity which jammed the shoreline and log boom surrounding the race course cheered the spectacular "Blue Angels" air show between heats and enjoyed sunny weather and some intriguing starting maneuvers by the unlimited pilots.
A roar erupted along the beach when Muncey’s boat went dead in the water before the start of Heat 2B, giving Remund a chance to cushion his lead in the chase for national honors.
The Bud beat the Atlas at Muncey’s own game, it appeared, in that crucial start, swinging wide in the north turn, then moving back toward the center of the course as it swooped down the straightaway.
The Atlas was caught in the roostertail spray. Remund had completed almost a lap before Muncey was able to get his engine going again and begin the chase.
"When I got back to the pits, all I said to the crew was ‘Miami and Owensboro,’ Remund said later. "I got nailed the same way there."
Bill Newton, chief referee, said he spoke to both Remund and Muncey after the heat and told them: "If there are any grudges, let’s forget them right now."
The final heat was not without incident, however. The KYYX crossed the starting line prematurely, and the Lynnwood Equipment went dead in the south turn (the boat lost its propeller when the driveshaft snapped) as drivers concluded the race under a yellow flag.
With the Natural Light also unable to finish and the Pay ‘N Pak headed back toward the pits, LaRock doggedly completed a seventh, penalty lap and returned to the pier with a third-place finish.
Ron Armstrong, Pay ‘N Pak driver, said he had seen LaRock’s boat stop in the north turn earlier in the heat and thought the KYYX boat was out of the race.
"I thought there were three dead boats on the course; the motor was running like I’d lost four or five cylinders, and smoke was pouring out," Armstrong said. "So I just decided to head for the pits before something catastrophic happened."
"The one thing neat about this race," Muncey told Armstrong, "was to look back and see my own boat chasing me." Muncey owns both the Atlas and Pay ‘N Pak.
In addition to the unlimited racing; limited-class boats staged a two-heat regatta which did not go off as well as planned. Every boat but one jumped the gun at the start of the second heat, and the lone legal starter conked out.
‘The limiteds’ prize money was distributed according to the first-heat results.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times August 8, 1977)