Tri-City Water Follies to hold drive-in airshow.
The Miss KYYX in 1977.
Not very big.
I went a couple years later, but not that year.
Jerry Bangs was driving the boat because Jim [McCormick] was still injured with the legs. Had run his 5-Litre back there on that local course and was a little bit familiar with it. We thought he understood what we were getting ourselves into. We had some issues, things would need to be changed and fixed and made better, so we spent a lot of time workin’ on the boat in Owensboro. Showed up back in Dayton a little bit late.
So, we didn’t get a lot of run time and Jerry didn’t get a lot of seat time before we had to go racing. I remember he said he didn’t really have very good start times, so he said, “There’s a full speed and I’ll just kinda wing it. I’ll make my starts on the outside and just see what it is and then follow the guys that I know are gonna make good starts and I’ll do better later in the day.”
I remember standing on the beach there watching Jerry and I remember he was lookin’ over his left shoulder to see where the guys were and I could see he’s getting closer and closer and closer to the beach and by the time he looked up and realized where he was, there was no savin’ it and ran the boat up on the beach.
Yeah. It was just really scrappy, kind of a wetland in there. There was no way to get a crane in there. There was no way to have a crane with a large enough reach to stay on dry land and pick it up. So, basically, it was people power. We got people, guys shoulder-to-shoulder, moved it four or five inches at a time until it got in the water deep enough to float it. Good thing it was so soft there was minimal damage. Propeller got dinged up a little bit. I think the rudder post got bent just a little bit. Other than that, everything was pretty well just fine.
We got it back, floated it, got it back to the beach and got the rudder changed and went through all the systems and refueled and everything and went out and ran the next heat. After that, I guess there was a tornado that came through, that touched down in Louisville, Kentucky, and then it touched down again in Madison. Caused a lot of damage and then went farther north. In fact, it even touched down in Detroit. Madison was scheduled to be the next race and we ended up going back the middle or end of October. I remember it was cold.
It was cold and we had such a difficult time getting the engines, especially the turbo-Allisons on alcohol, they didn’t want to start very easily. So, we ended up having to build a gasoline primer system thing to get ‘em started on gasoline and then
switch it over to alcohol so that it would continue to run. And I remember it being cold.
The passing of a Seattle institution: Pat O’Day.
Last remaining hydro race is canceled.
In ’74, Owensboro was earlier.
Yes. We ended up going to…
Was it Madison?
Madison was right. The tornado came through there. We got there in October…
…in Madison. The race in Dayton was actually before the Owensboro [sic] race. We went back to the shop to get things done and then came back to the race in Dayton.
And in ’74 there was Jacksonville, they had a race.
Yup. They got blown out. Got so windy. There were like 14 races I think that year, and we made several trips back and forth across the country. We were racing in Miami and then we came out west to Tri-Cities and Seattle, then went back for Dayton and Jacksonville, and then came all the way back for Phoenix and San Diego, and then had to go back for Madison…
And another try at Jacksonville. They rescheduled it.
Yeah, I think there were two races in Detroit that year.
It was in ’73 that there were two races in Detroit.
I don’t remember for sure. But I know we ended up going to Dayton, and Dayton was basically a sand and gravel pit. It was a huge, big pond.
use the number 95. Since the boat was privately funded, Pat thought it was a good idea, hence the name U-95. Pat was always a cheerleader for the team. No matter what happened, Pat was always positive about the boat and life in general.”
When Pamela Clapp dissolved the U-95 team at the end of the 1974 season, Pat continued his involvement with the
boat. In 1977, Pat O’Day’s KYYX Radio in Seattle sponsored Pete LaRock’s U-96 at the two Northwest races.
UNJ: You went to the Gold Cup race in 1974, when the Seattle race was held at Sand Point.
Walters: There was a lot of damage that year. The U-95 ended up blowing up engines and sank and Tommy D’Eath was driving the Miss U.S. and it caught on fire. They’d mentioned at the drivers’ meeting all week long that if there’s anybody on the boat, the fire people, the rescue people will not get on the boat. The boat was on
fire and they came over. Tommy wanted to help and so he was trying to just scoop water on, just do whatever he could do. Fire teams wouldn’t get on the boat and they were yellin’ for him to get off the boat. He wanted to help save it. And in the meantime, while everybody was arguing, it burned to the water line.
I think the Lincoln Thrift had the ability to be very fast, but it also had the ability to be unpredictable, you know, handling at times…
It seems the balance wasn’t quite right, or something.
All of the Unlimited races scheduled for 2020 were canceled by mid-June, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Grand Prix racing, the Hydroplane Racing League canceled its entire 2020 season last spring, but as of last month’s issue of the NewsJournal, one Grand Prix America event still remained a possibility: the HydroFair in Owensboro, Kentucky. Now, even that race has fallen. Continued, click here...
BY BILL OSBORNE
The world lost a one-of-a-kind on August 4, 2020, when Pat O’Day passed away at his home on San Juan Island. Pat was an
amazing promoter who loved rock ‘n’ roll and hydroplanes. His life story regarding the world of music and radio is a story
for another time and place.
UNJ INTERVIEW: PART TWO
John Walters: The career of a
talented technician and driver.
They were doing some things differently. They had the engine turned around the other way and they were trying to run the boat very loose and pretty free and relying on aerodynamic surfaces a lot to help control it. Sunday morning it was a little bit windy. I believe the Lincoln Thrift guys were fast qualifier that weekend, but they withdrew Sunday morning because the water was rough and Mickey [Remund] didn’t think it was safe to drive, so they withdrew.
Yeah. That was the race when Pay ‘n Pak and Budweiser had their fabulous duel.
Yeah, they had just an outstanding race there, one of the all-time classics. Good racing, a lot of damage, a lot of problems, but it was decision time for John and Arlene and we still hadn’t quite made that decision [to join the Red Man team] so we decided we’ll go back to the next race and make a decision then and see what we want to do. The next stop was Owensboro, Kentucky. They got the boat packed up in the shop and everything, kinda took a look around. We were kinda thinkin’ at that point in time that we were gonna move back there. Uh, Arlene, once again, I ended up abandoning her…
had just a tremendous amount of potential. In fact, I got to drive the boat a couple of laps in San Diego that year.
Oh, I didn’t know that.
Yeah, there was kind of a musical-chairs thing goin’ on there. Jim McCormick was driving the boat and Jerry Bangs was driving the boat, and I even got to go for a couple laps in it. Continued, click here...
I met him in 1967 at the first test session of the new Miss Bardahl. He and his broadcasting buddy Lan Roberts were frequent visitors at test sessions on Lake Washington. “Hydroplane racing is Seattle at its best,” O’Day said at one of those test sessions. “I’m not sure how or when it will happen, but I want to get involved in the sport one of these days.”
In 1967, Pat started doing color commentary for the Seattle Seafair race. His enthusiasm and love of the sport became apparent to all who listened to him
tell stories on Seafair Sunday. Some of his detractors
were critical when he made an error regarding the history of the sport. Those same people were quick to
forgive him because Pat was such a genuine fan of
Unlimited hydroplane racing.
Pat continued his role as a commentator until 2013
when KIRO-TV and Pat parted ways. “I’m going to miss the Seafair broadcast. I understand that KIRO made a business decision. I will always love hydroplanes and am willing to help the sport grow.”
Last month, in part one of our interview, John Walters told how he started racing in outboards. He later worked for Ron Jones Marine in Costa Mesa, California. In part two, he talks about going to Seattle before joining the Red Man crew in the middle of the 1974 season, driving various inboard classes, and building boats for Don Kelson Hydros, which was located only a few blocks from Bill Muncey’s Atlas Van Lines shop. The interview was conducted by Craig Fjarlie.
John Walters served on the crew of the Red Man during the latter half of the 1974 season.
Pat O’Day (left) poses with one of his friends, the author. Osborne says the picture means a lot to him because O’Day was all about the people who loved him. Osborne knew him for more than 50 years and says the two considered each other friends.
Although the organizers of the hydroplane race in the Tri-Cities had to cancel that event for this year, they were able to work in partnership with Tri-Cities leadership and health districts to plan a drive-in air show for the community on September 4 to 6.
“We are thrilled to provide a much-needed distraction for our community,” said Colin Hastings, president of Tri-City Water Follies. “This will be a once-in-a-lifetime air show in our region. This wouldn’t have happened without the support of our area leaders and the hard work of the Water Follies volunteers.”
The performer line-up includes the U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler, the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-35 Lightning II, as well as a few civilian aircraft. The show will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each of the three days and viewing will be available from Wade Park in Pasco and from Columbia Park in Kennewick.
Well, did you stay with Red Man for ’75, or did you go back to racing inboards?
I went back to racing inboards for a little while. The problem now was that at the end of the ’74 season, Jim McCormick had a sheet metal shop. He did heating and air conditioning. His father had actually started the business and when his father got older and was retiring, he divided the business up and Jim McCormick got the sheet metal side of it, the heating and air conditioning, and his brother, Roger, did the plumbing stuff. And so, several things happened there. One was that when we did
finally run in Madison, I thought that Red Man boat
“Bill Muncey was an amazing racer and an even better promoter of the sport,” O’Day said at Bill’s last Seafair race in 1981. Muncey recognized Pat’s enthusiasm and love of the sport. “He [Pat O’Day] does a great job of entertaining fans on TV. We [the sport of hydroplane racing] are fortunate to have him promoting our sport.”
One of his favorite interviews was Chip Hanauer. “The biggest thing about Pat was, he was always positive,” Chip says. “He was up for anything that was fun. His passion for Unlimited hydroplane racing was unmatched. He was Bill Barnum, a real promoter.
“The KYYX thing wasn’t about racing, it was about marketing. My all-time favorite Pat O’Day moment took place in Seattle. I was doing the KIRO broadcast with him. KIRO always went to commercial just before the final heat. We went to Pat after the break and out of the blue, he said, ‘The rudders are fracturing the sacred waters of Lake Washington!’
“That was classic Pat O’Day. I loved that line and told him that he needed to use it every time we worked together. He wasn’t acting like he loved hydroplane racing, he was passionate about the sport. We didn’t always agree about what was happening on the water, but he wanted the best for our sport. Pat O’Day epitomized that time in Seattle history. He was in an institution. For those of us who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he will be missed!”
In 1974, Pat became involved with the U-95 project. I was fortunate enough
to spend a lot of time with him at the Miami race that year. He loved the U-95.
“This is the future of Unlimited hydroplane racing,” he said at Miami. U-95 raced
without any commercial sponsorship. The only stickers on the boat were the U.S. Air Force and Pat’s KJR decal.
U-95 driver Leif Borgersen shed light on Pat’s involvement with the team. “Pat and Jim [Clapp] were very good friends,” he said. “When Jim decided to build the
boat, Pat had to be a part of the team. Back then, KJR was the number-one radio
station in Seattle. They called themselves Channel 95. Jim asked Pat if he could
After the 1974 season, Walters was tasked with the job of converting the Red Man to a conventional set-up with the cockpit behind the engine. The hull is shown here in 1975 racing as Owensboro’s Own.