The Apple Cup Revisited [1983]

Unlimited Hydroplanes raced on Lake Chelan in the heart of Washington's famous apple orchard region between 1957 and 1960. The Chelan races were a natural extension of "hydromania" which swept the Pacific Northwest as a result of Stanley S. Sayres' Slo-Mo-Shun IV bringing the sport west in 1950.

Lake Chelan is a 60-mile long body of water nestled along the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. Chelan, Washington, small-town U.S.A., with a 1957 population of 250, and about 40 miles from a city of any size, decided to go "big-league".

Through the planning of such men as Norm Evans and Jack Lafferty of Chelan, Jerry Bryant of the Seattle Seafair race committee, driver Lou Fageol, and O. Jim Forney, who became the first race chairman, the Lake Chelan Boat Racers, Inc. organization was formed. The Apple Cup races were held in the month of May each year, and served as the curtain-raiser each season.

This review of the Chelan competitions will document the four Apple Cup Trophy races, and will provide memories of such items as the debut of several brand new boats, appearances by such long-forgotten drivers as Dick Short, Del Fanning, and Jim McGuire, and Chuck Hickling's initial thunderboat victory.

The first Apple Cup unlimited hydroplane race, held on May 5, 1957, was a trouble-strewn event, as the three favored boats conked out before the full 90 miles were run. William T. Waggoner's entry, Maverick (ex-Rebel, Suh!) ran almost faultlessly to earn 1200 perfect points and first place in the apple country's new event. Another boat which had not been too successful to date, Bill Boeing, Jr.'s Miss Wahoo, piloted by Czech refugee Mira Slovak, finished second with 1000 points.

Hawaii Kai III, driven by Jack Regas, and a favorite to take the cup, was top qualifier at 113.+ mph for the three qualifying laps. Bill Stead was the next- high qualifier aboard Maverick at 112.+ mph.

The order of finish in the preliminary heats was: Heat 1-A - Hawaii Kai III, Miss Wahoo, and Miss Seattle. Miss Thriftway threw a rod and did not finish. Heat 1-B - Maverick, Shanty I, and Miss Bardahl (the ex-Tempest) did not finish. Heat 2-A - Miss Wahoo, Shanty I, Miss Seattle did not finish (threw a rod), and Miss Bardahl did not finish due to a overheated gear box, Heat 2B - Maverick, Hawaii Kai III did not finish due to a twisted quill shaft and Miss Thriftway scored a DNF after leading Maverick by 30 seconds mid-way through the heat.

The Final Heat was theoretically a lulu, with Hawaii Kai III, Shanty I, Miss Wahoo, and Maverick pitted against each other. Miss Wahoo, apparently stuck in the pits with Slovak unable to get the engine going until almost the one-minute gun finally dashed down the course, made an illegal start, turning on the wrong side of a buoy, but crossing the starting line first. This maneuver cost an extra lap, so Miss Wahoo was actually one lap behind from the start.

As the boats neared the west turn, Hawaii Kai III held the lead over Shanty I, and it looked like a ding-dong 10-lap heat, but a wind had come up and was dusting the surface of the previously calm lake with pretty fair waves. The Kai, which had been repowered with a new motor between heats by the Slo-mo-shun crew, slammed into a wave, tearing the cowling off and conking her out for good. Shanty I, hot on the Kai's tail, hit the same wave and went into a violent spin, tossing driver Russ Schleeh into the water some 40 feet away. Schleeh got back aboard and worked the boat to the inside of the course, but she was holed and leaking, which spelled the finish for Shanty I.

Meanwhile, Maverick was leading Miss Wahoo around the course. Schleeh waved his teammate on when Stead spotted Schleeh in the water in the west turn. Maverick slowed, then continued her charge to the checkered flag. Miss Wahoo tried to catch the flying Maverick, but could not do so. Miss Wahoo, one lap behind Because of that illegal start, had to be content with second place.

Final Standings
1 U-12 Maverick (1)
2 U-77 Miss Wahoo
3 U-28 Shanty I
4 U-8 Hawaii Kai III
5 U-27 Miss Seattle (1)
DNF U-4 Miss Bardahl (1)
DNF U-60 Miss Thriftway (1)
DNQ U-19 Miss Rocket
DNQ U-62 Thriftway Too

*  *  *

The second Apple Cup was held May 11, 1958. Home-town boy Norm Evans was in the seat of Miss Bardahl, which had been christened just one week prior to the race. Also engaging in their first competition were Miss Thriftway, (a replacement for the boat that disintegrated at the Madison Regatta in 1957), Miss Spokane, and Miss Pay 'n Save. The field of qualifiers was rounded out by William Waggoner's defending champion Maverick; cab-over Thriftway Too; Coral Reef, the re-christened Miss Rocket; Miss U.S. I, the lone Eastern entry; Miss Burien, a former Miss Bardahl; and Miss Seattle, formerly Slo-mo-shun V.

Of the ten qualifiers, only one dropped out for mechanical reasons during the qualifying heats. Machinery was functioning perfectly and each section of each heat was a real contest. There is a reasonable explanation for this. The revised 1958 racing rules, calling for preliminary heats shortened from the former 30 miles to 15 miles, shifted the emphasis from endurance to speed.

The order of finish in the qualifying heats was Heat 1-A - Miss Thriftway, Miss Bardahl, Miss Seattle, Miss Burien, and Coral Reef. Heat 1-B - Thriftway Too, Maverick, Miss U.S. I, Miss Spokane, and Miss Pay 'n Save. (Maverick was disqualified for fouling a buoy on her third lap.) Heat 2-A - Maverick, Miss Bardahl, Thriftway Too, and Miss Spokane. Miss Pay 'n Save did not finish due to gear box trouble. Heat 2-B - Miss Thriftway, Miss U.S. I, Miss Burien, Coral Reef, and Miss Seattle.

The new rules provided that the contest be decided on points scored in the final 30-mile heat only, and that Final heat turned into a heart-breaker for the Thriftways, each of which had led the pack in the preliminary heats. Thriftway Too, in the early stages of the finale, suffered a hole in her bottom and fell out in the third lap. Miss Thriftway, looking as though she were going to make it three firsts in a row, developed engine trouble and dropped out during the eighth circuit.

Norm Evans, driving the Ted Jones-designed, Ron Jones-built Miss Bardahl, had a great duel with Fred Alter aboard George Simon's Miss U.S. I in the Final heat. With no intention of losing the $1,500 purse, Evans stuck his foot in the carburetor and roared over the finish line to get the first checkered flag in his unlimited racing career. Miss U.S. I finished second, followed by Miss Spokane, driven by jet pilot Dallas Sartz in his first boat-racing competition, and Bill Stead aboard the Maverick. Miss Burien lost part of her sponson and did not finish.

Final Standings
1 U-40 Miss Bardahl (2)
2 U-2 Miss U.S. I (2)
3 U-25 Miss Spokane
4 U-12 Maverick (1)
5 U-60 Miss Thriftway (2)
6 U-62 Thriftway Too
7 U-4 Miss Burien (1)
8 U-37 Miss Seattle (1)
9 U-19 Coral Reef
10 U-47 Miss Pay 'n Save
DNQ U-882 Sudden Sunnee

*  *  *

Twelve boats qualified for the third Apple Cup on May 10, 1959, including three brand-new hulls. The new Miss Thriftway replaced the U-60 destroyed after sinking a U.S. Coast Guard cutter the previous season at the Seattle Gold Cup race. The new U-00 Maverick replaced the U-12 Maverick which burned and sank at Lake Tahoe during pre-season testing. Sam DuPont's new Nitrogen from Wilmington, Delaware was the biggest unknown quantity.

Don Wilson, aboard Miss U.S. I, broke the course qualifying mark at 116.+ mph, only to watch the new Maverick take the Harry Wolfe Trophy for the fastest qualifier at 114.648 mph. The race was shaping up as potentially the best ever, with but one small cloud of uncertainty - the wind. On Friday and Saturday, the winds gusted to 30 mph, and the course closed early both days. The starting time for the first heat was advanced two hours. Television people whined, but so did the wind.

In Heat 1-A, Bill Muncey in Miss Thriftway turned in a truly magnificent driving job. Starting in fourth place, he worked his way through the pack to victory, Miss U.S. was second, Maverick was third, and Wahoo finished fourth, followed by two rookies, Don Dunnington in Nitrogen and Dick Short in Fascination.

In Heat 1-B, Chuck Hickling in Miss Pay 'n Save and Miss Bardahl jockey Jack Regas hit the starting line on the button, with Bill Brow and Miss Burien hot at their heels. Miss Burien blew her engine on lap three. Bardahl and Pay 'n Save had a great duel. On the final lap Bardahl went for broke, but Pay 'n Save closed the door to finish first. Miss Bardahl was second and Miss Spokane third. Brian Wygle brought Thriftway Too home fourth and Harry Reeves and Coral Reef were fifth.

By the time Heat 2-A rolled around the wind began to pick up. Maverick hit the line first and took the lead on lap one. After two laps Thriftway Too blew a gear box. On the third lap Maverick hooked and driver Bill Stead ended up on the deck. He waved everything OK, but then discovered he was sinking. The heat was stopped and Maverick was towed back to the pits, a foot-square hole showing in the side of the sponson. With water conditions worsening, harried officials quickly called for Heat 2-B.

During Heat 2-B the water was getting a little tough. Miss Bardahl seemed to have a slight edge in rough water and finished in first place, followed by Miss Thriftway, Miss Spokane, Wahoo, and Coral Reef.

The re-run of Heat 2-A saw no better water. The brisk chop was soon replaced by rollers, and these conditions didn't allow any challenging. Miss Pay 'n Save got out in front and achieved her second checkered flag of the day. Miss U.S. I came in second, followed by Nitrogen. Fascination failed to finish.

The lake was now a blanket of whitecaps. A drivers' vote brought a postponement. It was then decided that one boat would try the course, Miss Bardahl was put into the water and porpoised for one lap. Regas came back to the pits and his thumbs-down gesture substantiated his performance on the race course. The Final heat was cancelled and the race declared a contest. With two heat victories and 800 points, Chuck Hickling and Miss Pay 'n Save took home the cup.

Final Standings
1 U-47 Miss Pay 'n Save
2 U-40 Miss Bardahl (2)
3 U-60 Miss Thriftway (3)
4 U-2 Miss U.S. I (2)
5 U-25 Miss Spokane
6 U-79 Nitrogen
7 U-101 Miss Wahoo
8 U-19 Coral Reef
9 U-00 Maverick (2)
10 U-62 Thriftway Too
11 U-88 Fascination (1)
DNF U-4 Miss Burien

*  *  *

Newspaper accounts of the final Apple Cup, held on May 8, 1960, headlined the "tiff" between Mira Slovak and Bill Muncey. Slovak appeared to be the culprit as the two drivers aimed roostertails at each other during two match-ups. Slovak and Wahoo only scored 400 points for the day, finishing fifth over-all. Muncey and Miss Thriftway earned 1025 points and gained first place honors.

The new Miss Burien, replacing the old boat which sank the previous year at the Diamond Cup, made her first appearance, driven by Chuck Hickling. Another new boat made her debut, Bob Gilliam's Miss Everett, driven by Red Loomis. The former Miss U.S. II, renamed Miss Tool Crib and driven by Del Fanning, had mechanical gremlins and failed to qualify.

Other entries included the Miss Thriftway, Wahoo, Miss Bardahl with rookie Jim McGuire at the wheel, Joe Mascari's Hawaii Kai III with Ron Musson driving, Miss Spokane with another rookie, Rex Manchester, piloting the "Lilac Lady", and Nitrogen, the only eastern contender, with Norm Evans driving.

In Heat 1-A, the boats were packed at the start except for Hawaii Kai, which trailed. Musson stomped on it and blew a supercharger. The remaining three boats hit the first turn in a fountain of spray and Muncey was washed down. The Thriftway lost two-thirds of a lap before re-starting the engine. Wahoo meanwhile had come off the exit pin first, closely followed by Nitrogen. They finished Wahoo, Nitrogen, and Miss Thriftway.

Heat 1-B again had a good start. Miss Bardahl dove into the first corner first with Miss Burien right behind. Miss Spokane and KOLroy I trailed. Bardahl retained the lead throughout the entire heat. Miss Burien, pressing hard on the first turn of lap two, hooked and spun out. Hickling got going again, and the ailing Miss Spokane turned into the infield with an expired engine, Miss Burien regained second place ahead of KOLroy I.

Miss Spokane and Hawaii Kai were out for the day, so the field was shortened to seven boats and a single-section Heat 2 was scheduled. The highlight of this heat was a rematch of the first heat "duel" between Miss Thriftway and Wahoo. Slovak took a two boat-length lead as Wahoo took the buoys close. Muncey took the Thriftway wide and would dive in on the exit buoy. On the third turn of the third lap, this cost Muncey another bath. He got going again quickly, and by this time Wahoo began to show signs of heating up. As Wahoo went dead in the water, Thriftway took first place. Steady-driving Norm Evans in Nitrogen was second, followed by Miss Burien, Miss Bardahl, and Miss Everett.

The Final heat was a repeat field of heat 2, with the exception of Wahoo, which had pushed a rod through the side of the engine. Miss Thriftway had no trouble getting out in front. Muncey held the lead, took the checkered flag, and captured the cup. Nitrogen was doing a good job of cornering but just didn't have it in the straightaways. Miss Burien was right behind Nitrogen and finished third. Miss Bardahl, working hard to make up for a poor start, came in fourth, and Miss Everett limped in fifth.

Final Standings
1 U-60 Miss Thriftway (3)
2 U-79 Nitrogen
3 U-4 Miss Burien (2)
4 U-40 Miss Bardahl (2)
5 U-101.5 Wahoo
6 U-02 Miss Everett
7 U-13001 KOLroy I
DNF U-25 Miss Spokane
DNF U-8 Hawaii Kai III
DNQ U-1300 KOLroy
DNQ U-5 Miss Tool Crib

After four years of Unlimited hydroplane racing, the Chelan races were cancelled, amid a combination of increased sponsor's expenses, crowd-control problems, and perhaps simply the fact that a major-league sporting event became just too large for small-town America to handle any longer.

(References and research credits: A.P.B.A. summary sheets, Phil Jursek, Fred Farley, David Greene, Bob Carver, Russ Swanson, Ray Krantz, Yachting magazine, Motor Boating magazine, Apple Cup programs.)

(Text reprinted from the Unlimited NewsJournal, March 1983)