Eventually we outgrew the parking lot at Chelan Airways and moved across the lake to straddle the line between Campbell’s Resort and Don Morse City Park. Campbell’s has been a great partner and a huge part of the event ever since.
About the same time we crossed the lake, we realized that we needed to step up and become a fully sanctioned (and insured) APBA event. With
an APBA sanction came officials, rescue divers, security, and a lot more expenses. Luckily for the museum, Jon Courtright, who had been a friend of mine since we had worked together on Bill Wurster’s Oh Boy, Oberto back in 1980, was serving on our board of directors.
Jon and his talented wife, Chris, had spent 10 years developing a very successful event on Lake Sammamish called Tastin’ n Racin’ that included
car shows and food booths and all sorts of great activities. Jon and Chris and I talked, they explained some of their ideas, and I told them about a few of our own. Continued, click here...
The event on Lake Chelan began in 1992 with test runs by the U-102 Coor’s Dry.
UNJ: Well, Dave Heerensperger made a decision to get a turbine boat.
How did the whole process come together? How did he come up with crewmembers without stealing them all from Muncey?
You know, Bill Muncey was always an ambassador for the sport and always looking to make improvements in the sport, and that meant securing its future, as well. Bill, of course, purchased all of the equipment from Dave Heerensperger. After a couple of years, Dave decided that it might be a fun thing to come back and do it again. There were a couple of meetings at lunch. There were a couple of other meetings where Jim [Lucero] and Dave Heerensperger got together and talked about things.
Dave Heerensperger had a great amount of respect and loyalty to the crew chief that had made his Pay ‘n Pak teams work and made ‘em famous, really. So, Dave wanted to go racing again, but Dave didn’t want to go racing again starting
from scratch. He wanted to come in and be competitive right off the get-go. Wanted, you know, help to ensure and guarantee that as much as possible and, of course, he wanted Jim Lucero to be his boat designer and crew chief.
Jim had talked with me about that a bunch of times. He’d also talked with Bill Muncey about it a bunch of times. Jim was pretty confident that we could go start another team, enhance the sport, make things better and at the same time still have enough time, at least on an advisory capacity, to keep the Bill Muncey Industries effort respectable, as well.
Bill was in favor of it. Again, anything to help the sport and whatever it took to make things work there. Jim came to me one afternoon and we went to lunch and talked about things and he kinda explained to me what was goin’ on. He paid me
the ultimate compliment and said that I’ve got an amazing opportunity here to go racing with Pay ‘n Pak and Dave Heerensperger again. I won’t do it unless you come with me.
And again, that was one of the most amazing compliments anybody had given me in my racing career. So when I agreed
to do that there was, build the boat, do the installation of the hardware and the rigging and all that sort of thing, and at that point in time there was never really a thought in my mind that I was gonna drive this boat. You know, you always hoped that things like that could happen and I was hoping that the stepping stones and the things that I was laying in place, it was going to lead to an eventual ride in an Unlimited hydroplane, but I honestly didn’t expect that it was gonna
be, you know, that day and at that time.
Chelan’s first go around with Unlim-
ited racing was called the Apple Cup and
started in 1957 when a number of Seattle-based teams, disappointed by what they
felt was the unfriendly treatment they had
received during the 1956 Gold Cup in Detroit, went looking for new locations to hold races on the West Coast. They settled on Chelan.
On May 5, 1957, nine boats battled it out on Lake Chelan for the first annual
Apple Cup. The race was a tremendous
success with tens of thousands of fans
driving over from Seattle to see Bill Stead
drive William Waggoner’s Maverick to
In part one of our interview with John Walters, he talked about his early involvement with boat racing,
starting in outboard classes. He later moved to inboard boats and worked for Ron Jones in Costa Mesa, California, where he proved his mechanical aptitude and woodworking skills. Walters discussed his work on the crew of Red Man and Miss Vernors and his employment with boat builder Don Kelson in the second part of this series. He also moved over to Bill
UNJ INTERVIEW: PART THREE
John Walters drives the turbine
Pay ‘n Pak.
The plan worked at the two races the club was able to run in mid-July. Sadly, however, the state’s response to COVID-19 tightened as new cases continued to spike across the state. As a result, ERCU elected to suspend racing through August in order to be sure its members are safe, and in hopes that the virus could be contained to a point that we can resume racing in September.
First race of 2020
finally in the books!
This has been a year of disappointment on many levels.
Not only was the entire H1 Unlimited Racing Series canceled
because of the COVID-19 pandemic—along with restrictions
on such things as going to a restaurant, attending a movie theater,
or watching other sporting events -- the annual gathering of classic hydroplanes
in Chelan, Washington, also became a victim. So, while we
can’t report on what happened at Mahogany & Merlot this fall,
we can instead reflect on how the event has evolved
over the years, thanks to contributions from two people
who have been intimately involved in its development.
The 1959 Miss Thriftway was one of the boats that the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum took to Chelan in the early days of the event to reward hard-working volunteers.
SPECIAL REPORT FROM ERCU
Even in May, the Electric Radio-Controlled Unlimited (ERCU) board of directors was resisting the urge to quickly cancel events because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead worked on a Safe Start plan to rebuild a shattered schedule. Based on the state of Washington’s phased approach to reopening business and modifying physical distance requirements, ERCU
targeted June 27 at Longview or July 11 at Lacey, depending on whether those counties had yet reached Phase 3.
Other clubs recognized the work that ERCU had put in and reached out for a copy of the ERCU plan so they could adapt for their own uses. “In boat racing, whether it’s the Unlimiteds or the RCs, we help one another,” said ERCU board chair Nelson Holmberg. “So, when we were asked if we would share our plan, we didn’t even hesitate to send it off.”
Among the points in the two-page ERCU plan included sequestering the pits to ERCU members only, making up races that were missed in May and June by rescheduling them to best fit them all in, offering free entry fees to each member’s
first race of the year as a loyalty reward for the patience they had during the shutdown, and, of course, practicing physical
distancing, masking, and hand sanitation.
“We had a couple of opportunities to potentially race on private property, or in a public park without restrooms or
hand-washing opportunities,” Holmberg said. “But that didn’t make sense. We ultimately decided that it was not possible to
run a race without proper facilities.”
BY DAVID WILLIAMS
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HYDROPLANE AND RACEBOAT MUSEUM
The picturesque town of Chelan Washington, in the apple and wine region of Eastern Washington, has had two love affairs with Unlimited racing. The first was brief and passionate but only lasted four years. The second one is still going strong after 27 years.
Race Team News by Lon Erickson
Muncey Industries and was working on the Atlas Van Lines crew with Jim Lucero. In part three we’ll learn what happened in 1980 when Dave Heerensperger decided to build a turbine-powered Pay ‘n Pak and hired Jim Lucero to head that project.
The interview was conducted by Craig Fjarlie.
When we were finally able to get back to the beach at Lacey, Washington, and have the first ERCU race of the season, the day could not have been better. So much fun. No controversy. No bad accidents. No jumped starts. A lot of great racing.
It’s exactly what we all waited for. And when all of the roostertails settled, it was Nelson Holmberg who took home the Diamond Cup trophies for the vintage and modern classes and Gerry Bordon who added his name (again) to the record book with the first-ever classic division win in the history of ERCU.
claim the trophy. The following year, Chelan native, Norm Evans electrified his hometown when he drove the brand new Miss Bardahl to victory.
In 1959, Chuck Hickling won in the Miss Pay ‘n Save. By 1960 costs were growing and revenues were shrinking; the handwriting was on the wall. When Bill Muncey and the Miss Thriftway left the racecourse after winning the 1960 Apple Cup, it would be more then 30 years before the next time an Unlimited would run on Lake Chelan in a sanctioned APBA event.
The event that we have come to know and love as Mahogany & Merlot, was born when Mitch and Mark Evans invited Ron Jones, Jr., to bring his U-102 Coors Dry turbine hydro to Chelan in late October 1992. Mitch had driven the boat at its debut race in Seattle earlier that summer and in San Diego the next month, a rookie driver named Dave Villwock drove the Coors Dry to victory in his first race. Following that race, the boat was shipped to Hawaii for the Outrigger Hydrofest.
Because his boat had been in two back-to-back saltwater races and had spent a few weeks on board a steamship, Jones was concerned that leftover salt water in the hull could cause damage, so the decision was made to run the boat on the clear, fresh water of Lake Chelan.
It was a relaxed, casual test session with the boat making several runs. The highlight of the weekend was when Mitch Evans took 83-year-old Ted Jones, the “father” of the modern three-point prop riders, out for his first (and only) ride in a turbine Unlimited. A few minutes later, Mitch took Ted’s great-grandson Ron Jones III out for a ride, too.
The friendly low-key nature of the event appealed to us and when Mitch invited the museum to bring over a few of its boats in 1993 to help out with the expenses, we jumped at the chance. That first year, we brought over the Hawaii Kai replica, the Slo-mo-shun V, and the 1959 Miss Thriftway. We pitted from the parking lot of Chelan Airways, which was very close to the original 1957 Apple Cup pits.
ERCU sets the standard
for COVID response to RC racing
in the Pacific Northwest
So naturally I accepted the offer. We started looking for buildings and shops and gathering equipment and everything while still working with Bill Muncey and guaranteeing that, you know, his boat was gonna get done and that his effort was gonna be good. We got all moved into the shop and everything. The turbines started showing up and we ordered the honeycomb and started laying out the boat and getting ready to build this thing.
I was still continuing to race boats. I was driving boats for Mike Jones, the Ragged Edge 280 and different rides as they presented themselves. As the boat was getting closer to being finished, we used to run on Green Lake in May…
.…and usually we’d get to go to Green Lake and I’d get to drive on Green Lake before we’d leave for Miami or whatever the first race was. That particular weekend I think I was driving boats in seven different classes. Dave Heerensperger, of course, came to the race, you know, to watch the races and all. Continued, click here...
RC hydros do something the
big boats can’t ... they race.
All three of the boats that we brought had
participated in the one or more of the original Apple Cups, although not necessarily under names they were wearing in 1993. We used the event as a crew day, rewarding hard-working volunteers with a chance to go for a ride in a real Unlimited. The emotional highpoint of the weekend came when long-time museum board member and restoration master Roger Newton got a chance to run a lap in the Slo-mo-shun V.
For the next several years the event was put together in Chelan by the Evans brothers, along with John Walcker, owner of the Caravel Resort.
We maintained the low-key, casual style of the event, trading rides with the fire department for an ambulance and EMTs and taking the crane operator’s adult son out in a boat instead of paying cash for the crane.
Turbine boats still showed up from time to time. Mitch brought out the Appian Jeronimo one year, another time Ken Muscatel came by with his U-25. The event didn’t happen every year; we skipped it in 2000 when the museum was knee deep in filming the Madison movie, but we came back in 2001 with the audio team from the production company to record a lot of the boat and crane
sound effects that were used in the final version of the film.
MY $0.02 WORTH
Editorial Comment by Andy Muntz