Milestones And Major Initiatives 1946-2000


1. Unlimited engines allowed in the Gold Cup for the first time since 1921.

2. 225's fail to make an impact on the Gold Cup class after being highly touted to do so prior to World War II.

3. Miss Great Lakes become the first "Unlimited" to win an important race after World War II.


1. A national circuit evolves with Miss Peps V appearing at six of the nine races.

2. The average field for these races reaches four - an all time high

3. Notre Dame wins the Silver Cup being the last boat with a pre-war Gold Cup class engine to win an important event.

4. President's Cup on live television as was the Ford Memorial.


1. After recognizing the practice imformally in 1947, the A.P.B.A. establishes a High Point Championship for the Gold Cup Class.

2. The Unlimited Class is established formally with the first U-registration since 1933.

3. The A.P.B.A. approves the use of dignified commercial names on race boats.

4. Twenty nine different boats appear on the circuit - a high since 1912

5. The Gold Cup draws 22 entries from six major cities making it the best attended race in history.


1. Six races including the Gold Cup are staged in the Detroit area and all but one are on live local television.

2. Again boats from six major cities are among the 22 entries for the Gold Cup which is on live local television for the first time.

3. Such Crust, a single engine Allison hull, breaks Gar Wood's straightaway record set in 1932 by two m.p.h. Later in 1949 Miss Canada IV breaks Wood's record by 15 m.p.h.

4. Such Crust breaks Miss England II's lap record by 5 m.p.h., but needs a 7 nautical mile course to do it as opposed to the 5 nautical mile course utilized by Miss England II. In 1948 Tempo VI was 12 m.p.h. short on a 5 mile course.


1. Slo-mo-shun IV does 160 m.p.h. through the mile trap raising the record by 19 m.p.h. She also wins the Gold Cup and the Harmsworth Trophy to establish the three point prop rider design as a major force in Unlimited Racing. This is the first time the triple crown has been accomplished since Miss America in 1920. The previous high for raising the mile record was 12 m.p.h. by Miss America VII in 1928.

2. Qualifying is required at all Unlimited races after being required only for the Gold Cup in 1949. The qualification rule grew out of the number of sub standard entries that participated in the 1948 Gold Cup.

3. Eastern boats attend a western race for the first time since Gar Wood came to California in 1922.

4. Of five local races only the Harmsworth is covered by Detroit TV


1. Seattle becomes a significant force in Unlimited racing. The Seattle Gold Cup becomes the second such event to be televised beginning a tradition of local TV for the Seattle race which has lasted to the present day.


1. Only four of ten scheduled races have enough starters to qualify for High Point Consideration

2. The Gold Cup draws only six boats from three major cities for the low field since the end of World War II

3. The President's Cup draws only five boats - the low field since 1947

4. Slo-mo-shun IV raised her straightaway record by 18 m.p.h.


1. A second west coast race is set up on Lake Tahoe, but no boats from Seattle or Detroit attend,


1. The average field rises to seven starters - an all time high.

2. Ten boats are allowed to start the Ford Memorial resulting in a multiple boat crack up in the first turn of heat one. Beginning with the Detroit Silver Cup only six boats are allowed to start at one time requiring the preliminary heats to be run in sections.


1. The Gold Cup is on live national television for the first time. Heats 2-A, 2-B and the final are included on the program.

2. Fifteen races are attended by at least two Unlimiteds making an all time high since 1912 and 1913.

3. The Unlimited-Gold Cup class scores another all time high as 31 different entries appear on the circuit.

4. Significant prize money - $25,000 - is offered for the first time since 1923 and 17 boats - an all time high for a non Gold Cup race - appear at Seattle for the Seafair Trophy.

5. Shanty I defeats six other boats that go to as many races as she does to win the High Point Championship. Previously the high was three boats. Other years only one or two boats went to as many races as the High Point Champion.with the some seasons the Champion traveling its circuit alone.


1. The Unlimited Racing Commission is created and begins its tenure with the second event of the season - the Ford Memorial. The sport was formerly run by the Inboard Racing Commission made up of very few individuals connected with Unlimited Hydroplane Racing. In effect the Unlimiteds decided to steer their own ship.

2. After receiving good coverage in Sports Illustrated for a number of years, Unlimited High Point Champion driver Russ Schleeh is featured on the cover.

3. Thirty three different entries appear on the circuit - another all time high - with an average starting field of ten boats yet another record.

4. Hawaii Kai III, Miss Thriftway and Miss Wahoo all turn competition laps in excess of 113 m.p.h. making the step hull obsolete .

5. Both the Gold Cup and the Silver Cup are on live national television.

6. Eastern and Western boats attend a significant number of races in each other's sector.

7. Detailed rules for the Gold Cup are formulated.


1. Winner-take-all final heat format is adopted for selected races.

2. Detailed rules for the Unlimited class are developed.

3. Gold Cup final heat is on live national TV as in 1957

4. Coverage in Sports Illustrated declines markedly,

5. Engine change restrictions adopted.


1. For the first time in history a major boating magazine does an extensive Gold Cup Preview. Also national over the air coverage at an all time high for a four year period.

2. Winner take all final heat format abandoned.

3. Final heat of the Gold Cup again on live national television.

4. Gold Cup bonus point rule changed to allow points to only those boats completing the race according to their average lap times. Previously bonus points were awarded only for the fastest heat and race. The fastest heat bonus was designed to give boats with low heat point totals a chance to win the race, but it was counterbalanced by the fastest race bonus which generally went to entries with high heat point totals.


1. Gale Enterprises loses its lawsuit with the I.R.S. and its racing activities are not allowed as a business deduction.

2. The Gold Cup is cancelled due to high winds. This capped a season of acrimony and protests that resulted in several events not having a declared winner on race day. As a result a rule was passed making the referee's decision final allowing all questions to be decided on the day of the regatta.

3. The High Point rule is changed granting all entries position points instead of just the top five.


1. The Donogh Plan is inaugurated pitting entries of equal capability as determined by qualifying speed against each other throughout the regatta.

2. The Gold Cup is put up for bid as a result of the cancelled Las Vegas regatta and draws a bid of $35,000. However the Donogh Plan World Championship goes for $40,000.

3. Bonus points are eliminated from the Gold Cup entirely after being introduced in the middle thirties


1. The U.R.C. demands minimum prize money of $10,000 at all races. Since 1956 prize money had been sprinkled around the circuit with half the races being professional in 1961. This requirement was made necessary by the I.R.S. decision of 1960 to demonstrate to the government that Unlimited owners were businessmen rather than just sportsmen.

2. At the beginning of the season only four races were definite which grew to six events as the year progressed. New commissioner J. Lee Schoenith assured the race sites that they would have a representative field and delivered. As a consequence there was really a national circuit with a good number of boats from both the east and the west making the entire tour. However this was the low race total since 1946, but in ensuing years the total was brought up to 10 by Schoenith. In addition the average field was 11 boats.

3. Both the Gold Cup and the President's Cup are shown on national television albeit on a delay basis. This tradition ran through 1972 on ABC television for the Gold Cup.

4. Miss U.S. I raises Hawaii Kai Ill's mile record by 13 m.p.h.


1. U.S. Equipment wins its tax case granting a business deduction for racing activities

2. The Gold Cup racing format is changed from a three heat 90 mile event to a 60 mile four heat race.

3. The Gold Cup is awarded to the highest bidder to determine the race site. In former years the winner of the Gold Cup decided where it would be defended.

4. The A.P.B.A. rules that points cannot be transferred between hulls of the same name and number during the season for High Point purposes.

5. Detroit Gold Cup on live TV unlike 1956 and 1950

6. Donogh Plan abandoned.


1. One referee is appointed for the entire circuit to standardize rule interpretation

2. Prize money is raised to $15,000.

3. Average field has 13 starters - an all time record

4. Detroit Gold Cup again on live local TV.


1. Gold Cup prize money is bid at $50,000, but the World Championship goes for $60,000. A modified Donogh Plan is resuscitated for this first World Championship race sanctioned by the Union of International Motorboating for the Unlimited Class. The Harmsworth Trophy had been retired in 1964.

2. Driver High Point rule is adopted and all point earned during a regatta are scored for both boat and driver High Points.


1. Eighteen boats appear for the Suncoast Cup at Tampa, Florida - an all time non Gold Cup record.

2. The 2½ mile course is adopted as an alternative to the 3 mile course which had been standard since 1956

3. New "radically designed" Miss Bardahl cracks up at the President's Cup. This boat was a prototype for today's Unlimiteds being a low profile cabover design. Prior to the crack up Miss Bardahl had decisively defeated Miss Budweiser in the first heat. Miss Budweiser as Miss Exide was one of the top boats of 1965.

4. Detroit Gold Cup is on live local TV and has record prize money of $76,000.


1. Prize money minimum is raised to $25,000.

2. An all time high of nine entries are nationally sponsored

3. The 1963 High Point rule is reversed and points are allowed to be transferred from hull to hull for National Championship consideration. The only caveat is that the initial hull had to be declared un-seaworthy.


1. A one heat consolation heat is included in the racing program for all boats not making the final heat.


1. Point ties at the end of the race are to be determined by final heat finish rather than elapsed time or average lap speed.

2. Engine change restrictions are dropped.


1. The Fan Plan developed by Phil Cole is introduced matching entries of equal speed as determined by qualifying times except for the final heat where boats from each speed section compete in a winner take all format.

2. Qualifying is required of all boats at all races.

3. The cut off rule is clarified due to a number of incidents during the 1970 season.


1. One referee system is abandoned

2. The Jim Hendrick Radio Network is started.


1. The new Ron Jones low profile hull makes previous designs obsolete.


1. The twin turbine U-95 makes her debut.

2. Points are allowed to be transferred from a boat that had not been declared unseaworthy to a replacement hull for high point purposes.


1. The Fan Plan format is shelved.

2. CBS television begins coverage of the Gold Cup on a delay basis.


1. Winner-take-all final heat format is brought back for all events.

2. At the President's Cup for the first time during the professional era not enough boats show up to run sectioned preliminary heats.


1. Atlas Van Lines establishes the cabover design as the way to go in Unlimited racing


1. Seattle is allowed to charge admission on race day. Without this the Seattle race might have been lost and perhaps today there would be no Seattle boats resulting in the possible demise of Unlimited racing.

2. Prize money is raised to a $37,500 minimum.

3. The Gold Cup is bid to Owensboro, Kentucky for $110,000 and not enough boats qualify to run the preliminary heats in sections.


1. Sectioned preliminary heats are not run at Detroit, Evansville and El Dorado, Kansas.

2. Prize money is up to $45,000 per race.


1. The first single engine turbine makes her debut

2. Budweiser is allowed a substitute hull for another substitute hull without the latter being declared unseaworthy.

3. Sectioned preliminary heats are not run at Miami, Evansville, the Madison Gold Cup and El Dorado, Kansas.

4. Minimum prize money goes up to $57,500.


1. No delayed telecast of the Gold Cup for the first time since 1974, but ESPN runs its first Unlimited race.

2. Instead of yearly bids the Gold Cup is awarded for four years into the future. The sponsor is given the option to run a three heat race.

3. The purse for the World Championship at Acapulco, Mexico is set at $175,000 the largest prize money in history by $65,000. This is also $115,000 above the minimum required for a standard race.


1. A modified fan plan is adopted for most races

2. ESPN televises every race on a delayed basis. From this point on all races are available on a delayed basis either through ESPN or local stations.

3. A radically cut back bow appears on the new Atlas Van Lines

4. Prize money is set at $80,000.

5. Miami, Evansville and Geneva, New York do not run sectioned preliminary heats.


1. The first foreign entry since 1938 crosses an ocean for a World Championship. The purse is $150,000 as it was for the 1982 World Championship.

2. Gold Cup prize money is at $120,000 -a record.


1. The modified fan plan format was dropped.

2. Budweiser sponsors four out of 10 races.

3. Seven boats enjoy national sponsorships - the most since 1968-

4. Prize money is raised to $100,000 with the World Championship again going to Houston for $125,000.

5. The three heat option is deleted from Gold Cup rules

6. Don Jones becomes the first paid commissioner.


1. The first enclosed cockpit appears on the Miss Budweiser,

2. Miller American establishes turbine power as the only way to go to win in Unlimited racing as she takes five of nine races en route to the High Point Championship

3. Prize money is raised to $110,000 for each race.


1. A horsepower limitations is imposed on turbine engines and the Lycoming L-11 is banned

2. Budweiser is the sponsor of eight of 10 races on the circuit

3. A turbine powered entry wins on salt water for the first time.

4. Prize money is set at $121,000 with the Gold Cup going for $136,000.


1. The Gold Cup is awarded to San Diego for a record $151,000


1. The top boats receive a reported 1.5 million dollar sponsorships.

2. Restrictive minimum weight rules are adopted.

3. Gold Cup prize money goes up to $160,000.


1. An enclosed cockpit is required on all boats. Only one driver has died since this rule was promulgated as opposed to 13 before this point in time in the modern Unlimited era which began in 1946.

2. The two mile course becomes standard to minimize blowovers.


1. As a result of a rule passed in 1989 permitting hulls to be freely substituted from race to race, Budweiser and Circus have reserve hulls at selected races.

2. Prize money is raised to $133,000 per race with the Gold Cup going to Detroit for $178,000.

3. A record 12 races for the professional era come off with half of them being in major league cities.


1. Flag start replaces the clock start for every race except the Gold Cup with lane draws determined by lot.

2. Specific qualifying and testing periods are introduced with points being awarded for qualifying.

3. Detroit becomes the de facto home of the Gold Cup.

4. Five heat Lee Schoenith Plan run in the Gold Cup for the first time.

5. In races other than the Gold Cup, boats are matched according to qualifying speed in the preliminary heats with the best boats from each section competing in the final heat.

6. Only two national sponsorships for competing 'boats.

7. Prize money up to $140,000 for standard races.


1. The Hughes Plan, which was inaugurated at the Madison Regatta in 1986, is selected for all races except the Gold Cup. Preliminary heats are three laps instead of five and there are three sets of preliminary heats instead of two.

2. Flag start lane selection is by qualifying speed for the first heat and then by prior heat finish except for the final heat which is to be determined by total points.

3. Ron Jones double wing hull wins its first race.

4. Detroit Gold Cup offers $200,000 in prize money -- the highest for any race in the history of the sport.

5. Prize money for non Gold Cup races up to $150,000.


1. Heat draw system revived after two years of boats of comparative speed racing together in the preliminary heats.

2. Three different teams have substitute hulls at various races.

3. Ron Jones double wing hull defeats Miss Budweiser in the final event of the year running head to head. This prompts Budweiser to finish their own double wing hull and new sponsor Exide to purchase the Circus double wing hull.


1. Fuel restrictor adopted to save engine parts.

2. Budweiser sharpely cuts back on its race sponsorship program.

3. 2½ mile course becomes standard again.


1. Inverse lane draw system inaugurated for the second heat of all races.


1. Further fuel flow restrictions.

2. Gold Cup on live cable TV.

3. Detroit race on local television for the first time in 25 years.

4. Non-Gold Cup prize money up to $160,000.


1. Engine revolutions curtailed to further enhance dependability.

2. ESPN2 replaces ESPN as U.H.R.A.(formerly U.R.C.) cable outlet

3. Detroit Gold Cup on live cable TV and local television.

4. Gold Cup prize money reaches $210,000.


1. Flag start is abolished and the clock start returns to Unlimited Racing.

2. The A.P.B.A. reasserts control over the Unlimited class,

3. Commissioner is changed for the first time in mid season. The new commissioner lasts less than a month.

4. Some races are spread over two days.

5. Sport is down to one national sponsor.


1. Sport goes to a handicap system with consecutive wins prohibiting an entry from starting in lane one and then an additional lane for each consecutive win. Once the string is broken an entry is no longer handicapped.

2. Prize money is to be divided equally with no winners or losers financially except at the Gold Cup,

3. Budweiser sponsors 5 races up from two in previous years.


1. Sport loses four race sites as in 1961 and 1991.

2. In a further move toward handicap racing winners are now penalized .1 gallon per win with a each loss resulting in the recapturing of .1 gallon fuel flow per minute. Lane penalization has been abolished.

3. Bernie Little and Gary Garbrecht buy the sport gaining with the purchase the right to make the rules.

4. Miss Freei driven by Russ Wicks breaks the mile record at 205 m.p.h. Miss U.S. I had held the record for nearly 40 years.

5. Sport is back up to four national sponsors. Budweiser is back to sponsoring two races. Prize money is stagnant after a number of years.