1954 Salton Sea Regatta

Inside Stuff

By Ty Cobb

Three of the world’s fastest hydroplanes will shoot for speed records in a few weeks, down on the Salton Sea, which is in southern California and below sea level. Two of the swift craft will be local boats, one from Reno and the other from Lake Tahoe.

Bill Stead of Reno will have his Hurricane IV ready to defend the speed record he set at Salton Sea last year. Jay Murphy of Tahoe and Oakland will be at the helm of Breathless. The third contender in the unlimited, Gold Cup class will be a brand-new boat, Rebel.

This is built and driven by Ted Jones of Michigan, who designed the world’s fastest craft, Slo-mo-shun IV, but later broke with owner Stan Sayres. Jones also designed Breathless, owned by the Murphy family (steel construction firm which built the Bay Bridge). This week Jones flatly predicted that both Breathless and Rebel have the potential to hit 200 miles per hour:

Rebel is untested as yet. Those who saw Breathless in action in the recent Sky-High Regatta at Tahoe can go along with Jones on his forecast. Breathless didn’t win, due to numerous mishaps off the Camp Richardson shore, but certainly in spots showed amazing speed.

Hurricane IV is already established as a tremendous speedster, and the continual improvements made by Stead and his crew chief George Goeschl indicate that this boat has a lot ahead of it yet. Right now they’re modifying the sponsons, and will sheathe them in aluminum to protect them against the heavy battering of speed and water. Sponsons are the twin projections from beneath the hull of a hydroplane. At full speed, the hydroplane is virtually flying over the surface, with only the lower part of the propeller and the sponsons actually in the water.

Before heading overland for Salton Sea’s November 6 weekend races, Stead will give his Hurricane IV a trial spin —at full throttle—in Pyramid Lake. He wants to see if the craft came out of its sinking at Lake Tahoe last month OK, as it appears to have. Lacking any official timing gadgets, Stead may have a fast airplane pace him across Pyramid to get an idea of what speed Hurricane can now attain.

The Salton Sea races will be in two phases. One, a direct race over a regular course between the three big Gold Cup boats. The other, a run against the clock, with maximum speed reached on a straightaway measured course.

--- Nevada State Journal, October 10, 1954