In the early part of August each year an odd kind of euphoria overwhelms the otherwise rational people of Seattle. They start shooting off fireworks. The males put on pirate costumes and wander around town kissing, and occasionally pinching, pretty females. They act out an elaborate capture of the mayor and the chief of police, who act out an equally elaborate surrender of the city.
Then, as the weekend approaches, the people turn and stream down to the shores of Lake Washington. They move by the hundreds of thousands and, as the picture at the top of these pages shows, some of them do not stop at the shore. Like lemmings, they keep swarming right out into the water. Unlike the lemmings, however, the Seattleites are not trying to destroy themselves, although some of them have come perilously close. They are, instead, getting as close as they can to the No. 1 outdoor passion of all Seattle, the bucking, roaring hydroplanes which on August 9 will race for the Gold Cup, the speedboat championship of the world.
Not long ago the Gold Cup was a bitter intercity battle between Detroit and Seattle. The week-long warmup pageant, with its pirate costumes and other zany antics, was named Seafair week, but in many minds it was really Hate Detroit week. For the past three years, however, the winning boat has consistently carried the ensign of the Seattle Yacht Club. Seafair week is now strictly for laughs, and the Gold Cup seems to be strictly for Seattle.
Nor is there much likelihood that Seattle will let the cup get away in this year's race. The 1958 champion, Hawaii Kai (right), designed by Seattle's own Ted Jones (see page 80), is back to defend her crown. The two top challengers are also Jones's babies—Maverick and a brand-new Miss Thriftway. Of these three, Thriftway is Jones's personal pet. He has drawn her bottom so that the center of lift is close to the center of gravity instead of up forward, as in the older designs. And the curve of her sponsons has been broken into a series of angled planes which Jones feels will eliminate the suction created by the passage of air under the conventional sponson. Finally, Jones has put aboard a tachometer which reads 200 rpm below true engine speed, to insure that her driver, two-time Gold Cup winner Bill Muncey, will push her as hard as she can go. Muncey was told nothing of this, but if he had been, it probably wouldn't have worried him. An utterly fearless type whose only fault is that he sometimes babies his engine, Muncey has made tentative plans to drive a second boat, Thriftway Too, in at least the first heat of the Gold Cup. If he can pull off such a stunt—and no one ever has done it—Muncey may find himself pitted against Muncey in the final heat. In this case Willard Rhodes, owner of the two Thriftways, would pick a second driver; and Seattle would sit back happily to watch the most joyous—to them—spectacle in sport: a Gold Cup final in which the two leading boats were designed in Seattle, built in Seattle and driven by a Seattle boy.