2010 Albert Lee Cup

Duel At Seattle

By David Greene

Sixty years ago the burghers of Seattle decided to hold an annual summer festival and came up with the name of Seafair. At the time Slo-mo-shun IV was making her initial test runs and it was thought that as a potential Harmsworth defender it would be nice to highlight the first Seafair with a race for the Harmsworth Trophy. J. Lee Barrett came out from Detroit and was very impressed with the Seattle course which was proposed for north of the floating bridge instead of South of it. However Barrett decided on Detroit for the site of the 1950 Harmsworth since both the challenger and most of the defenders would be from that area.

At the time Seattle was a good six day drive from Detroit for a truck hauling an Unlimited. Two Detroit boats had traveled to Las Vegas for a race in 1950, but Las Vegas was a much more fun city than Seattle. Fortunately that same year of 1950 Slo-mo-shun IV won the Gold Cup and decided to defend it in 1951 as the centerpiece of the 2nd Seafair. Now there have been 60 major boat races as the highlight of Seafair more than any other venue except Detroit which began their string in 1946. There was no race in Detroit in 1940 as there was in Washington, D.C. & N.Y.

Oh Boy Oberto had won two of the three races heading into the Seattle race with the Spirit of Qatar winning the Gold Cup. However if not for a judgment call at the Tri-Cities it would have been one for Oberto and two for Qatar. Oberto was the fastest boat at Madison, but Qatar had five m.p.h. on her at Detroit. She was two m.p.h. back at the Tri-Cities and was let into the ball game at this race by Qatar steadily decreasing her lap times in the final heat. The Ted Porter boats had not come back to the contender status that they had enjoyed in previous years and did not figure to win unless the two leaders faltered. Miss Peters and May had lost their best hull and driver, precluding a return to glory for the Schumachers in 2010.

Fred Leland's Lay's Kettle Cooked and Miss Albert Lee improved this year to join Miss Red Dot in the next echelon of contenders.

Spirit of Detroit was close to this group. Car Pros (U-25), Washington Truck Dispatch (U-57) and Matrix System completed the field.

Heading into Saturdays's first heat the prospects for a competitive race looked as dark and gloomy as the weather as Oberto was 7 m.p.h. off the Qatar pace when qualifying closed on Friday and was only able to reduce the margin to 4 m.p.h. Saturday morning. Steve David drew an easy first heat with Kip Brown in Miss Red Dot, Brian Perkins in Miss Albert Lee, Greg Hopp in Lay's Kettle Cooked, rookie Cal Phipps in Jillian’s Spirit of Detroit and Jon Zimmerman in Miss Peters & May as opposition. Dave Villwock was in a little tougher with the Porter boats as competition along with Ken Muscatel in Car Pros U-25, Mike Webster in Matrix System and Washington Truck Dispatch (U-51) filling out the field.

In heat 1-A Oh Boy Oberto had a clear lead in first place after one lap. Lay's Kettle Cooked, Miss Red Dot and Miss Albert Lee were dueling for second.

Oh Boy Oberto went on to win the heat by three roostertails. Kettle Cooked faltered in the last lap leaving the battle to Red Dot and Albert Lee.

Miss Red Dot got second when Perkins was penalized down to last place. Hopp’s Lay's Kettle Cooked recovered to finish third. Miss Peters and May was a ways back in fourth closely followed by the Jillian’s Spirit of Detroit.

As predicted Villwock had an easy time of it in heat 1-B winning by six seconds. Jeff Bernard’s Formulaboats.com (U-5) got the best of J. Michael Kelly in Graham Trucking to take second. The latter was penalized for illegally changing lanes and was moved from third to fifth. Washington Truck Dispatch moved up to third place. Matrix System was 9 seconds back in fourth. Car Pros failed to start.

The second day of the regatta again dawned dark and gloomy. Oberto was still about 3 m.p.h. down, based on Saturday's heat, to Qatar. They were drawn into heat 2-A along with Graham Trucking and Miss Albert Lee in addition to Miss Red Dot and Miss Peters & May.

Formulaboats and Lay's Kettle Cooked were matched in heat 2-B with Spirit of Detroit, Washington Truck Dispatch, Matrix System and Car Pros along for the ride. Qatar was down in High Points by 370 with two races remaining and therefore could not afford to be beaten.

Due to their finish in heat one Miss Albert Lee started on the inside with Oberto and Qatar outside. Albert Lee and Formula dueled on the first lap with the former setting a clear advantage on the second lap. Miss Red Dot was close. Formula came on a little in the final lap and lost the heat by about 2 seconds. Oberto was inside on Qatar and kept in front by a small margin on the initial two laps before Qatar fell back to a definite fourth in the final lap. Miss Peters & May and Miss Red Dot ran sick and accounted for fifth and sixth. Brown’s Red Dot was given a one lap penalty and docked 150 points.

Interestingly, Villwock was not able to sweep by the field and win the heat as she did in a similar situation at the Tri-Cities.

In heat 2-B Jeff Bernard, on the inside, got off first and led Lay's Kettle Cooked way outside by 3 seconds at the end of lap 1. Hopp narrowed the gap to one second in the next lap and and pressed hard on the final go-round as the two leaders came off the final turn together. It was a drag race to the finish with Lay's on the outside winning by a slight margin over Formula. The Spirit of Detroit had no trouble finishing third. Car Pros got fourth easy after Washington Truck Dispatch fell off the pace in lap two. Matrix System followed in last place.

Oh Boy Oberto was matched with a rejuvenated Lay's Kettle Cooked in heat 3-A. Miss Red Dot was also drawn in this heat Car Pros, Washington Truck Dispatch, and Matrix System did not figure to cause much trouble for the leaders. Qatar also did not project to have much trouble with Formula 5, Graham Trucking, and Miss Albert Lee in 3-B. Miss Peters and May and the Spirit of Detroit were also in the heat.

Unfortunately, Kettle Cooked had engine trouble in heat 3-A and could not mount a challenge before going dead in lap 2. Steve David got a good lead after lap one and beat Miss Red Dot by three roostertails at the finish. Car Pros was a clear third over Evans’ U-57.

Matrix System challenged the latter in the first two lap before falling back in the final lap.

Dave Villwock won heat 3-B by a good margin over Kelly in Graham Trucking, but the U-7 was close at the end of lap one before finishing second. Formulaboats was third losing again to her sister ship. Miss Albert Lee was reasonably close in fourth place. Miss Peters & May and the Spirit of Detroit brought up the rear.

Miss Red Dot, Miss Peters & May and Washington Truck Dispatch were rounded up for the Provisional heat to determine the trailer for the final heat. Spirit of Detroit, Car Pros and Matrix System demurred.

Zimmerman, on the outside, and Brown, on the inside, fought two laps for the lead until the former prevailed by a roostertail at the finish. Washington Truck Dispatch was far back in last place.

Fortunately for Oberto, still three m.p.h. off the Qatar pace, she had points on the latter and chose the inside for the final heat. Villwock took lane two. Others in the final heat included Lay's Kettle Cooked, which was close to Oberto in speed, and Graham Trucking, Miss Albert Lee, Formulaboats, and Miss Peters & May, which did not figure to be factors.

Steve David and Dave Villwock had a knock down, drag out fight for the Albert Lee Seafair Trophy for all five laps of the final heat. Spirit of Qatar was one second back for the first three laps before falling back to two seconds in lap four. All this time it was felt that it was just a matter of time before Dave Villwock put the hammer down and went by. Heading into the final lap Villwock pulled close again, but Steve David held on to win the heat by a small margin. The crowd was going wild for one of the great heats in the history of the sport.

Graham Trucking was a steady third, but was penalized to fifth for jumping the gun. Lay's Kettle Cooked was fourth for two laps before going dead in the water. Miss Albert Lee succeeded to third place. Formulaboats.com placed fourth. Miss Peters & May was the trailer and was well back in last place.

The Oberto crew and driver Steve David came up with an extra 2 m.p.h. for the final heat and Qatar driver Dave Villwock could not muster his fast lap of 145 m.p.h. in the preliminary heats for the final. David, by beating Villwock when he was apparently three m.p.h. down after the preliminary heats, ranks as one of the greatest accomplishment of the modem era.

Previously Bill Muncey, in beating the defending 1963 High Point Champion Miss Bardahl in the 1964 Guntersville race with the new unruly Notre Dame, matched David's performance. The defeated Ron Musson at Guntersville had beaten Muncey in the Miss Thriftway in the 1960 Detroit Silver Cup with the stock Allison Nitrogen Too in another triumph reminiscent of Steve David this year at Seattle. And, who can forget Chip Hanauer defeating Tom D'Eath in the Miss Budweiser at Seattle in 1989 aboard the school bus Miss Circus Circus, and Hanauer again pulling the rabbit out of the hat in 1999 at the Detroit Gold Cup with Miss Pico defeating Dave Villwock and the Miss Budweiser. Steve David now has ?2 victories to his credit, more than Hall of Famers Jack Regas, Bill Stead and Mira Slovak with nine. Clearly he belongs with these great drivers.

Seafair has now weathered various storms to survive 60 years. In the 1960's a golf tournament was put forward as a replacement for the hydros and in the 1970's it was an Indy Car race. In the middle 70's Seafair was in a tenuous financial situation before they were allowed to charge admission at the Seward Park site south of the floating bridge. This year they lost their race sponsor after many years and it again looked like there might not be an event.

But then Duke Moscrip stepped forward with $40,000 of his own money and Albert Lee III of Albert Lee Appliances became the title sponsor. Moscrip owns several Chowder House restaurants around the Seattle area.

Through thick and thin the Spirit of Seattle has arisen once again to preserve the hydro race. It arose for the first time in 1956 when a record purse of $25,000 was offered to entice Detroit boats to Seattle after losing the Gold Cup.

Albert Lee Cup at Seafair
August 7-8 Seattle, WA
2-mile oval on Lake Washington
  Boat Driver Points
U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto Steve David 1505
U-96 Spirit of Qatar Dave Villwock 1369
U-21 Miss Albert Lee Brian Perkins 929
U-5 Formulaboats.com Jeff Bernard 881
U-7 Graham Trucking J Michael Kelly 1077
U-37 Miss Peters & May Jon Zimmerman 548
U-100 Lay’s Kettle Cooked Greg Hopp 695
U-17 Miss Red Dot Kip Brown 575
U-57 Washington Truck Dispatch Mark Evans 551
U-13 Jillian’s Spirit of Detroit Cal Phipps 477
U-22 Matrix System Mike Webster 421
U-25 Car Pros Ken Muscatel 394


[Reprinted from Thunderboat, October 2010]