A San Diego Memory

On September 18-20, [1998] RALPH'S Unlimited Hydroplane Thunder Tour '98, presented by LAS VEGAS, resumes in San Diego with the annual Bayfair Bill Muncey Cup on Mission Bay.

San Diego hosted its first Unlimited race in 1964, but the city fathers had Thunderboat racing in mind long before that.

In the aftermath of World War II, the citizens of San Diego were looking for ways to change over from a war-time to a peace-time economy. High on the list of civic priorities was the development of Mission Bay as a natural amphitheatre for major league boat racing and other water-related activities.

When the UHRA (then the URC) granted its first sanction to San Diego, the Unlimited fraternity found a fully developed facility ideally suited for hydroplanes, and a community that was ripe for a shot at boat racing's "big time."

The winner of the inaugural San Diego Cup was Jim Herrington's Mariner Too, driven by Warner Gardner. The victory came as a surprise to most participants and fans. Herrington and Gardner had never before won a race. And throughout her brief racing career, Mariner Too had been a problem boat.

"That crazy Mariner," as Gardner described her, had always been a roughriding craft. Moreover, she had never even placed in the top three at any of her eight previous race appearances.

But on race day, October 4, 1964, Mariner Too had her act together. The favored Miss Bardahl and Ron Musson won two preliminary heats but experienced mechanical difficulty in the finale. Gardner and Mariner Too were there to pick up the marbles. They finished first, second, and first to outscore Miss Bardahl, 1100 points to 927, this being in the days when race winners were determined on the basis of total points.

In the Final Heat, Gardner scored a decisive win over Bill Brow and Miss Exide, 111.156 miles per hour to 104.732.

Unfortunately for Mariner Too, the San Diego Cup proved to be her first and last day of triumph. In 1965, the Herrington team acquired the Miss Lapeer, the former Miss Spokane. It wasn't long before Mariner Too was shunted to the background in favor of Miss Lapeer, which was preferred by Gardner because of that boat's superior handling characteristics.

Mariner Too, the 1964 San Diego Cup champion, ended her days in obscurity. After being retired from competition, she served as a test bed for a turbine engine program that reached its conclusion in 1973 with Herrington's unsuccessful turbine-powered Miss Lapeer — a 34-foot behemoth that never reached competitive speeds and was quickly retired.