Unlimited hydroplanes - the other "other" racing | FerrariChat

Unlimited hydroplanes - the other "other" racing

Discussion in 'Other Racing' started by Gatorrari, May 8, 2024.

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  1. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    Feb 27, 2004
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    If you haven't seen unlimited hydroplane racing, you're missing a good show, especially at Lake Guntersville in Alabama, site of the year's first race. The race has been held annually since 2018 (excluding 2020) and has produced some of the closest racing I've ever seen. (And I've been going to unlimited races since 1979.)

    This year's race is June 29-30, and the admission is quite cheap compared to other major motorsports events. And with other classes of boats racing in between the unlimited heats, you get a full day of racing. More info at:
    https://www.facebook.com/GuntersvilleLakeHydrofest/.

    (This years other races will be in Madison (IN), Kennewick (WA), Seattle and San Diego. (Detroti dropped out but is planning on returning in 2025.) More info at:
    https://www.h1unlimited.com/)
     
  2. GuyIncognito

    GuyIncognito Nine Time F1 World Champ
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    I was thinking about these boats the other day. loved watching it on ESPN. Miss Budweiser ftw :)

    honestly had no idea they were still a thing
     
  3. william

    william Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Unlimited hydroplanes and off-shore racing are good alternatives to motor racing for thrill seekers.
    Add to that air racing, like the National Air Races at Reno.
     
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  4. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    Unfortunately, the Reno Air Races were run for the last time in 2023 due to encroaching development near Stead Airport. As of now I know of no replacement that has been found.
     
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  5. william

    william Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Yes, I heard; Great pity.
    They should find some space in other parts of Nevada which is like a desert.
     
  6. tritone

    tritone F1 Veteran
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    "encroaching development", and the plane going into the bleachers didn't help with insurance........:cool:
     
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  7. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    Good news for air racing fans!

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  8. USMCS6

    USMCS6 F1 Rookie
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    I was hoping for Pueblo CO, but Roswell should be fun.
     
  9. kylec

    kylec F1 Rookie
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    There’s just no hotels and no commercial flights. Terrible location.
     
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  10. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    Unlimited hydroplane season opens next weekend on Lake Guntersville! I'll be there.
     
  11. william

    william Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Purely for the air racing lovers then !!
     
  12. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    Not so. Trivago shows 29 lodgings in town, 7 of which get Excellent ratings. And American Eagle has three round trips a day on Canadair RJs to/from DFW. It may not be Reno, but it certainly isn't "None".
     
  13. kylec

    kylec F1 Rookie
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    Ok, so 234 people can fly in commercially per day.
     
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  14. jcurry

    jcurry Two Time F1 World Champ
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    How much slower will the planes be by flying at 945ft MSL versus 4400 ft MSL (ground elevations of Roswell and Reno)? Casper and Pueblo locations both similar elevation to Reno. Oh well.
     
  15. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    The racing at Guntersville was great until weather intervened on Sunday afternoon, but at least, unlike last year, they did get the final heat in. The first heat on Saturday was a humdinger; these two boats went side by side for three full laps; the red boat won by about half a boat length.

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  16. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    The start of heat 3 on Sunday morning made for a great photo, though the boat that would win the heat was already out of frame to the right! These guys will be racing this weekend on the Ohio River in Madison, Indiana.

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  17. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    What hydroplanes looked like in the '50s and '60s: round noses, wooden construction (what looks like mahogany really is!), Allison or Merlin V-12 sitting in front of the driver, no seat belts. Very dangerous, just like racing on land was during the same era. (In one race in 1966, three top drivers were killed in two separate accidents.)

    These are boats restored (or even rebuilt from scratch) by the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum in Seattle (or their members). This was taken at a now-annual event called Mahogany & Merlot on Lake Chelan in central Washington. https://www.mahoganyandmerlot.com/

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  18. BartonWorkman

    BartonWorkman F1 Veteran
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    Very cool stuff, thanks for posting!

    In Florida during the 80's there were boat races happening all over the place nearly every weekend,
    everything from the Unlimited Hydros here in Miami to Grand Prix tunnel hulls, to (what we call "Mosquito
    boats") and we definitely got our racing fix in those days.

    We were from Lakeland and had friends that worked for Bernie Little so they'd get us VIP passes into
    the event here at the Miami Marine Stadium. Back then, Miss Budweiser ruled the water and Bernie
    would often times bring two boats to Miami, the turbine and an older piston powered boat. It was great
    stuff, we even got on TV a couple of times (haha).

    I'd love to see the Unlimiteds again, you can't imagine how something so big and heavy can go so fast,
    it is really a spectacular show. There is talk here of revitalizing the old Miami Marine Stadium but it seems
    to be a political football as just as there's enough interest and money behind it, something else goes wrong
    and they go back to Square-1 again. Last I heard, the Estefan's were getting involved and throwing some
    support to revitalizing the stadium to make it into a concert venue.

    There some rumors about an all-electric boat series event happening here but haven't seen anything
    much in the way of details yet. Think it's scheduled to happen next year.

    If you want to see some really high performance boats, the Grand Prix tunnel hulls are amazing. They're
    light weight with powerful outboards and turn on a dime on a cushion of air. Pity we don't get to see this stuff
    the way we used to in the 80s, those were the days.

    BHW
     
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  19. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    In 1979 my New York-based company sent me on a field assignment in Seattle that lasted 18 months. This is where I discovered, and became fascinated by, hydroplane racing. After that assignment ended, they sent me down to their plant in Stuart, Florida for most of 1981.

    I attended the Champion Spark Plug Regatta at Miami Marine Stadium, which was the opener of the 1981 unlimited season. Bernie Little's Miss Budweiser, powered by a Rolls Griffon engine, was the boat to beat, and it won that race as well. His main rival, Bill Muncey in the "Blue Blaster" Atlas Van Lines, failed to finish. The surprise was the boat that finished second, the new Pay 'N Pak turbine boat, in its first race, despite battling the salt water all day. That was the first boat to use the Lycoming T55 engine, which eventually became the standard powerplant used today. Compared to Seattle, the boats passed much closer and the sound reverberated off the concrete roof. Various limited classes of boats filled the time between the unlimited heats. I too hope the Miami Marine Stadium is saved and renovated, even if it never hosts another boat race.

    While in Stuart, I also attended a large limited hydroplane affair called the Sailfish Regatta, which featured about all the classes of racing except the unlimiteds. It was fun to watch the wide variety of boats.
     
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  20. Whisky

    Whisky Two Time F1 World Champ
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    How in the hell could that work, batteries would weigh several tons?
     
  21. tritone

    tritone F1 Veteran
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    Already a thing........

    https://www.e1series.com/

    "You read it here first......."
     
  22. BartonWorkman

    BartonWorkman F1 Veteran
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    #22 BartonWorkman, Jul 8, 2024
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2024
    Interesting, thanks for this.

    The only thing I'd heard about the Miami event was through a friend and when I inquired further
    he didn't have any information to share.

    Well, something to see at least.

    When you see what the pilots go through racing especially on rough water, its the literal physical
    equivalent of being beat up for 20 minutes. It's still pretty insane why anyone would want to strap
    themselves into one of these things but I'm sure there are plenty of takers.

    We lost the former Miss Bud driver Jim Kropfeld not all that long ago and former Miss Miller
    American and Miss Bud driver Chip Hanauer was gravely injured. I ran into Chip Hanauer on
    pit lane at Sebring (of all places) in 1999 while waiting for night practice to start. He was at
    Sebring doing some PR work for Michelin at the time. I asked him how he was doing and his
    voice was still very strained when he explained his various injuries which were very serious.

    When the Schnitzer team rolled the LMR V12s onto pit lane, the drivers began practicing driver
    exchanges. While exiting the car, Tom Kristensen stood on the sidepod and jumped down but as
    he did, he knocked his helmet against the overhead lighting, landing against he car. Chip Hanauer swung into action, ran over to Tom, got him on his feet and stayed with him until the team physio
    appeared. Tom was okay, just bent a finger which they iced down and isolated with tape but I
    won't forget how quickly Hanauer came to the rescue given that he was still undoubtedly hurting
    as well.

    BHW
     
  23. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    I conducted pit tours at the only attempt the unlimiteds made to race in Philadelphia in 1986 (which was ultimately ruled "no contest" because of high wind on Sunday, though the boats did go out to run exhibition heats at a reduced speed for the benefit of the large crowd that had showed up on both sides of the Delaware River). On Friday night they held a luau for all the volunteers on a pier on the Philly side of the river, and I got to meet Hanauer, Kropfeld and Steve Reynolds. When I told Steve he was my favorite driver, he invited me to have lunch with him and his wife in his boat pit the next day, which I did. It was only hot dogs and canteloupe, but that didn't matter. Somewhere I have a photo of me and Steve standing next to his boat, but I need to find it.

    Steve was driving the Miss 7-Eleven for Steve Woomer, and Jim Lucero had just joined the team as crew chief. During testing on Friday, Steve took the boat out on the course with it covered with wool tufts. Lucero was in a cherry-picker crane overhead watching the boat with binoculars to see the air flow over the hull at speed. It shows what a dedicated designer and crew chief Lucero was. (He had originally designed that boat for the Pay 'N Pak team, where it was their backup hull in 1982. By 1986 it had been fitted with a canopy, as all the boats soon would be.)

    Years later, after Hanauer had retired as a driver and was doing color commentary for the TV coverage, I saw him just sitting by himself behind the pits in Madison (where I was also doing pit tours) and we had a nice chat. Lately, Chip enjoys driving his 1982 Atlas Van Lines boat in exhibitions at the Northwest hydroplane races. He also drives Muncey's 1977 "Blue Blaster", which is appropriate because he was Muncey's hand-picked successor for the Atlas team.
     
  24. BartonWorkman

    BartonWorkman F1 Veteran
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    Yes, remember Steve Reynolds, we used to call him "Hollywood" and the Miss 7-11 and another
    one, think it was called Miss Executive-1 (something like that). Nice guy.

    The craziest boat we saw run with the Unlimiteds here was a tunnel hull design that had 8 in-board
    engines in it. It was done up in Miss Arcadian orange and was really beautiful but they seemed
    to be having trouble transmitting their power to the prop.

    We were watching the team getting the boat ready to go in the paddock as they lowered it into
    the water. We were at the rear of the boat getting pictures and video when one of the crew came
    up to us and said we better clear out before they fired up the engines. Just as we got out of the
    way, the engines started and sent a huge spray of water in the exact spot we had just been standing
    which would have ruined all of our camera equipment.

    The boat itself while very trick oscillated a lot at speed and was having trouble over the rough water.
    Not sure if it was ever raced again but it sure looked cool.

    BHW
     
  25. Gatorrari

    Gatorrari F1 World Champ
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    I remember seeing photos of the Acadian but never saw it in person. Another crazy idea was the four-point boat that Circus Circus attempted to run in 1980. It was based on a successful R/C design that obviously did not translate successfully to a full-size boat. I remember seeing it coming down the front straight in Seattle when it suddenly made a hard turn to the left, fortunately without flipping over, for no apparent reason. Ultimately it led to Circus Circus leaving the sport for awhile before coming back with a conventional boat that won the championship in 1990. That boat's driver was Chip Hanauer, and its crew chief was Dave Villwock, who then decided to take up driving, quite successfully as it has turned out. And he's still doing it at age 70!
     

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