Imagine that you have a 16-year-old son who just got his driver’s license. One snowy night when the roads are covered with ice, your son asks to borrow your car because he wants to hang out with his friends and play video games.
He thinks this is a great idea even though he has never driven in the snow before. “Nothing will go wrong,” he promises. But you think otherwise and you tell him, “No.” When he complains, you tell him that based on your experience and as the guy who pays the auto insurance premiums, you believe that’s a risk not worth taking just yet.
I can’t help but think of that kind of situation now that we are in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic. We are living through an event that is historic in its proportions. It's something that scientists will study for years to come and that authors will be writing books about a century from now.
Some have tried to minimize what’s happening by saying this virus is nothing more than the flu. Yes, many thousands of people die from the flu each year, but remember, they die despite the fact that a vaccine for flu is widely available. Imagine how
many deaths there would be if there wasn’t a flu vaccine?
Well, that’s what we’ve got: a deadly virus, for which there is no vaccine, that is even more contagious than the flu.
As I write this, COVID-19 has become the leading cause of death in the United States. The number of people who have died during the nine weeks of this pandemic has exceeded the number who died in combat during the entire 10 years of the Vietnam
War. Continued, click here...
Well, the last five years I traveled. Repair jobs, from Montana to Utah and Oregon and that.
The last five years. I worked for one outfit for 32 years. Puget Sound Fabricators.
When did you see your first boat race?
I saw the first boat race on Green Lake in 1929.
You’ve been around boat racing for a long time. You were just a child then, nine years old.
Did you ever watch the Slough races?
No, I never went up there, ‘cause it was too…well, I lived in Green Lake [neighborhood] so it was ideal to go to the races when they came to Green Lake.
You could probably walk to that.
It was only four or five blocks away from the lake.
OK. So, you saw the first the very first Unlimited race, the 1951 Gold Cup on Lake Washington?
Yeah, and I saw the Seafair race the next week.
What do you remember from those first races? What are your biggest memories?
Well, the tragedy of the Quicksilver. That was a bad thing.
I had seen him on Green Lake, years and years earlier, back in ’29 and ’30. So, I remembered him from then.
That was Orth Mathiot?
Yeah. And so, that was one of the worst things. You know, the first year, to have a tragedy like that in the first year.
Right, yeah. Now, did you always go to the race or did you watch it on television later?
Years later. But we always went down to the lake. We’d go down there early in the morning, real early, and camp out.
Now, did you work on Miss Bardahl way back?
Yeah, I spent a couple of evenings down there when we were putting the deck on.
Yeah, the ’58.
OK. How did you get to do that? Did you just volunteer?
Well, I was at the boat show. This was ’56 boat show. And all of
a sudden, my father-in-law yelled out, “Hey, Norm.” This was at the
old Armory. And it was Norm Evans. That’s how I met him. My
father-in-law introduced me to him.
Did he know Norm from before?
Well, Norm was raised in Brewster, and my father-in-law and my
wife, they lived in Brewster. My wife was going to high school when
Norm was in grade school. And then his folks moved to Chelan. He
went to high school in Chelan. But that’s how I met Norm. So, when
he got on the Bardahl, then he came out to dinner to our house
in Burien, and then I’d go down to the shop and we’d work a couple
of evenings down there, when he could take me down there. That’s
when I got to meet Ron Jones, and Bev, and them.
So, you basically helped put the deck on.
Did they show you what to do, or…
Well, just hand…everybody that worked had to hand…they’d tell you what to do and do what you’re told.
Just like when I went to work for Chuck Hickling. They said, “Hell, you won’t last two weeks,” because he was so strict. But the idea is, I’ve always been working with bosses and what they tell you to do, you do it. I mean, in the trade, you don’t really antagonize, go against what the bosses want. Continued, click here...
Leslie D. Rosenberg, the owner of the Valu-Mart, Weisfield’s, and Olympia Beer hydroplane during the mid-1970s, passed away on April 5. He was 79 years old.
Rosenberg grew up on Lake Washington, graduated from Franklin High School in
Seattle, and attended the University of Washington, where he played football and studied business. He served in the Air National Guard before joining his family business. His stepfather, Herman Blumenthal, was the president of Weisfield’s Jewelers, one of the largest retail jewelry chains with 87 stores in nine states. A chain of discount stores named Valu-Mart was a division of Weisfield’s.
Madison Regatta officials announced that this year’s APBA Gold Cup, originally scheduled for July 3 to 5 in Madison, Indiana, has been postponed to July 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement released by the regatta, the organizers said they had considered other potential dates later this summer but decided that the best course of action would be to postpone the event to next year.
Three other races still remain on the H1 Unlimited Racing Series calendar. An event in the Tri-Cities is scheduled for July 24 to 26, the Seattle race is July 31 to August 2, and the race in San Diego is scheduled for September 18 to 20. A race that had been scheduled for the end of June in Guntersville, Alabama, was canceled in late March.
Matt True, the president of the Madison Regatta, said the
decision to postpone the Gold Cup was not done lightly. “Event
organizers are all being faced with the same questions and unknowns as we are,” he said. “Being on the ISFA [Indiana State
Festival Association] has allowed me to expand my knowledge of
Bob Burd, in 1999, with Jim Harvey's Freddie's Club.
A look back at the sport’s history.
Former hydro owner Les Rosenberg passes away.
Organized boat racing is among the oldest forms of motor-sport competition in America, this year celebrating 117 years
since the American Power Boat Association was established. Each year at this time, as the warm days of spring arrive and as race teams are typically busy getting ready for another season, we like to take a moment to look back and take stock of
where this sport had been 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago.
25 YEARS AGO
The 1995 Season
The Miss Budweiser team was clearly the class of the field when competition for the 1995 title got underway in Phoenix, Arizona, late in April. Bernie Little was already the most successful boat owner the sport had ever seen, by a wide margin. As the boats gathered on the shore of Firebird Lake, he had already earned 10 of the past 12 national championships, including the
previous year’s title. So, most fans didn’t question who was likely to come out ahead in the end.
Steve Woomer, the owner of the U-10 Smokin’ Joe’s, had a different expectation, however. Like Little, he also
had a sponsor that supported his team very well. He had a fast boat, an expert crew, and a talented driver in Mark Tate. Yes, Chip Hanauer, the Budweiser driver, had won four of the past six national titles, but Tate won the other two and was going into the 1995 campaign as the defending champion.
Things were already looking to be the expected runaway for the Budweiser as the boats came to the shore of Smithville Lake in Kansas City, Missouri. But sometimes things don’t happen as planned. During his first preliminary heat, Hanauer’s boat took a big hop as it rounded a turn side by side with the Smokin’ Joe’s and came down so hard on its right side that the hull was damaged. Yet, he still managed to finish second.
The Kansas City event was the first to
NewsJournal: What subjects did you enjoy in school?
There’s a picture here, it looks like you’re on a tractor.
This picture is 1936, up in Arlington. I was workin’ on a dairy farm. We lost a horse, so we turned around and made a tractor out of the car. [laughs] Then in my teens I sailed to Alaska, on Alaska steamship boats, as a galley guy, washing dishes and this ‘n that. Then when the war came along, I got into the shipyards as a boilermaker. I spent 40-some years as a boilermaker.
When you were doing boilermaker work, what all did you do there?
Rosenberg was instrumental in convincing Valu-Mart to sponsor a series of three Unlimited-class hydroplanes from 1971 to 1973, then asked Ron Jones to build him a boat for the 1974 season: the U-74 Valu-Mart. He hired Billy Schumacher to be his driver. Continued, click here...
The sport’s all-time most successful owner, Bernie Little, aboard his Miss Budweiser in 1995.
Hydroplanes at the century mark.
feature a new race format that would be used for the remainder of the season. Instead of starting the races to a clock, the boats would get underway with the wave of a flag. Drivers could choose their starting lane in the first heat in the order of their qualifying speed; the inverse order of their finish in the first heat then determined the order of choosing lanes for the second. The order of lane choice for the third and final heats was set by accumulated points.
The format essentially meant that Hanauer and the Budweiser would start the second preliminary heat on the outside. He
finished second again, this time behind the U-99 driven by Mark Evans, and he rounded out the preliminary heats with a victory in Heat 3B. As for the final, Hanauer surprised everybody when he elected to start the race in the third lane. Steve David, driving the U-2 T-Plus, chose the inside, which he used to his full advantage. He grabbed the lead coming out of the first turn and stayed there to the end. Tate finished second and Hanauer was third. Continued, click here...
other events around the state, and what we are facing. Making this announcement to postpone the 70th anniversary of the regatta raises feelings of disappointment and frustration, but it’s all about safety first.”
The regatta statement said that the Board of Directors met on April 15 to discuss the future of the race and, with only two
and a half months before their event, they felt pressure from race teams, vendors, and fans to make a decision. With the recent
cancellation of the Guntersville race and in considering executive orders from the State of Indiana and guidance from the Centers
for Disease Control, they decided it would be best to postpone this year’s race.
Jimmy Shane, the driver of the Miss HomeStreet, which is owned and operated by the Madison-based Madison Racing Team, said he was saddened to hear about the event’s cancellation. “In these uncertain times, it is disappointing to hear the news, but
very understandable with our current environment,” he said. “There are larger issues at stake around us and the safety of our loved ones is the most important.”
True said the event organizers will now put their energy into planning for the 2021 event in Madison.
As for the other races on the H1 schedule, the organizers of the Tri-City Water Follies issued a statement after the Madison
announcement that they continue to hope for racing in 2020, but also are being honest and reasonable considering all the factors. Although there is no word about the Spring Training event that was scheduled for June 6, the organizers in the Tri-Cities
are continuing to ask boat racing fans to save the date for late July on the Columbia River.
In Seattle, in addition to the annual hydroplane race, Seafair organizes many events in the city throughout the summer and says it has been in ongoing communication with its sponsors, local government officials, vendors, and volunteers about this summer. A final decision regarding the Fourth of July fireworks show is set to be made on May 5 and a decision about the balance of Seafair activities is set for June 5.
There is no news yet from the group that organizes the San Diego Bayfair event.
Although an H1 race was not scheduled for Detroit this summer, the organizers of the Detroit Hydrofest were disappointed to
hear that the Hydroplane Racing League (HRL) has canceled its 2020 season. A race among Grand Prix boats from the HRL was
planned to be the featured attraction at their August event. Mark Weber of Detroit Hydrofest said he looks forward to the return of the HRL to the Detroit River in 2021.
“In the meantime, we will wait and see what the next month or so brings,” Weber said. “Until then, keep saving the date as it just may be a really fun time. I’m ready. How about you?”
Jan Shaw, the director of operations for H1 Unlimited, said she remains optimistic that the 2020 season will happen and that
everyone stays healthy and safe. “Our hope is by June this issue will allow for everyone to once again enjoy the roostertails rather than social distancing, but sometimes serious events and issues create a new normal,” she said. “Hope to see you all at the races.”
Shaw explained that H1 is letting each race site make the decision to hold or cancel its event along with their state guidelines. “We are in constant contact with each one and helping where we can,” she said. “Each site has their own sponsors and are responding for their own ticket sales. These community events will be very important to us all when our states and nation reopen.”
Like the other most accomplished competitors in the sport’s history, Little never took his success for granted. He was always aware of the others nipping at his heals. So, heading into the season, his team had completely rebuilt their most victorious boat, a craft (known as T-3) that was built in 1989 and had already won 15 races, including four in 1994. They also had the boat’s sister (T-4), a boat built before the 1994 season that looked almost identical to the T-3 but had yet to be entered into a race.
The 1995 season’s first event at Phoenix was one of the strangest the sport had yet seen. Staged on a tiny mile-and-a-half
racecourse on human-made Firebird Lake, only two boats could be accommodated at the same time, and therefore the field was limited to only eight. Given the course’s hairpin turns, there also was a clear advantage to the boat on the outside. And, with a race format that allowed the faster qualifier to choose his lane, the situation was such that the Miss Budweiser started each match race on the outside and went on to win the trophy easily.
Next came the Gold Cup in Detroit, and again it was a Budweiser show. Hanauer piloted the “new” T-3 to victory in each of its four preliminary heats and, when the engine on the Smokin’ Joe’s stalled before the start of the final, he was left largely unchallenged in the final. It was Hanauer’s 10th Gold Cup victory.
The Gold Cup is canceled.
MY $0.02 WORTH
Editorial comment by Andy Muntz
Bob Burd was born on April 6, 1920, in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. “It’s a long time ago,” he says. His life almost ended a few years after his birth. At age four, he went through the windshield of a Model T Ford. “I was lucky, lucky. It happened right in front of a doctor’s home. That’s what saved me. Otherwise, I probably would have bled to death.” When he was an adolescent, he spent time working on a farm near Arlington, north of Seattle. In his late teens, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and worked on Orcas Island. He saw boat races on Green Lake and was immediately enthralled by the sport. In the following interview, conducted on February 13, 2020, Craig Fjarlie talks with Burd about a lifetime of boat racing memories. His daughter, Carolyn Graham, listened in on the conversation and helped facilitate the discussion.