1989 Seafair Rainier Cup

Seafair To Hydro Fans: Dry Off

No Inner-Tubers Allowed On Waters

New insurance requirements could put a crimp on spectators at this year's Rainier Cup unlimited hydroplane race on Lake Washington, Seafair officials said yesterday.

Fans who like to watch the races from inner tubes, air mattresses and other flotation devices will have to pull their craft from the water before racing will -- Chip Hanauer talks about flipping his hydroplane in Syracuse, N.Y. begin.

Seafair officials said fans could be in the water before the races, in between heats and during the Blue Angels performance, but will have to go ashore during competition. The Unlimited Hydroplane Commission is under orders not to start a race until the water is clear.

Although all details have not been worked out, spectators near shore, inside the controlled viewing area, will have to remove their rubber rafts from the water 10 minutes before the start of any heat.

"The prospects of something happening here are remote, but I think it's a prudent safety decision," said Bob Gobrecht, Seafair's managing director.

Insurers have required all other unlimited race sites to remove spectators from the water during races this season. The ban was prompted by a fatal accident at a drag boat race.

Gobrecht said Seafair thought it would be exempted from the requirement because its viewing areas are a long way from the race course.

"But it was something we felt could happen," said Gobrecht.

He said Seafair is "investigating right now" how fans will be told when to leave the water, but said some sort of public address system will be used.

"We're counting on people cooperating with the plan."

Meanwhile, In what could be an even bigger change for race fans, Gobrecht said there's a chance next year's Seafair hydroplane races may be on a Saturday rather than the traditional Sunday.

Gobrecht said he has discussed scheduling the 1990 hydro races on Aug. 4 instead of Aug. 5 to avoid a conflict with the Sunday closing ceremonies of the Goodwill Games.

"It's not so much that the races and the closing ceremonies would on the same day, but that the Seattle Police Department may not have enough officers to be at both."

Gobrecht said he has discussed the possibility of a date switch for the races with Seattle Police Chief Patrick Fitzsimons and with Bob Walsh, Goodwill Games president.

"The ideal situation would be to have the races Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but the congestion and noise could be an unfair imposition on the Mount Baker community," said Gobrecht.

"We have not met with Mount Baker community leaders yet, but there is a strong covenant between Seafair and the host community that anything with a Seafair event does not happen without community endorsement."

-- Staff reporter Brad O'Connor contributed to this report.

(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, July 27, 1989)