With the Detroit River Regatta Association (DRRA) announcing Friday (February 15) that it will cease operations effective Saturday, February 28, H1 Unlimited Chairman Steve David is already working on a plan to keep unlimited hydroplane racing on the Detroit River.
“The DRRA has been the host organization for the Detroit APBA Gold Cup unlimited hydroplane since 2003 and we need to thank the DRRA for their support for the past 11 years,” said H1 Unlimited Chairman Steve David. “It is important to recognize Bill Rands, Tom Bertolini, Mark Weber and all the volunteers who worked and sacrificed so much to keep the boats racing on the Detroit River.
“Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan outlined ‘revitalization initiatives’ for the city during his State of the City address, and we too are putting our ‘revitalization initiatives’ together for the boat races in Detroit,” added David. “DYC’s (Detroit Yacht Club) immediate past Commodore Fred Carr will co-lead a new organization that will work to bring the unlimited hydroplanes to Detroit in 2015. We owe it to our fans and the Motor City to do what we can to keep this great Detroit tradition going.”
The nearly century-old boat racing tradition for Detroit started in 1915. Johnny Milot and Jack Beebe piloted the community-owned Miss Detroit (designed by the legendary boat designer Christopher Columbus Smith of ChrisCraft fame) to a Gold Cup victory on Manhasset Bay in upstate New York. By virtue of this victory, the City of Detroit earned the right to defend the trophy on its home water in 1916.
Since ’16, the City of Detroit hosted a boat race until the onset of World War II. From 1941 until 1945, the boats did not race in the Motor City.
In the years following WW II, Detroit reigned supreme as the hub of big-time power boat racing in North America. Between 1946 and 1961, the Motor City traditionally hosted two Unlimited events per year. The Detroit Yacht Club sponsored the Silver Cup, and the Windmill Pointe Yacht Club offered the Detroit Memorial Regatta. Both the DYC and the WPYC dropped out of the sport when prize money became mandatory at all Unlimited races, starting in 1962.
With the sport facing extinction in Detroit, the Spirit of Detroit Association was hurriedly formed in the summer of 1962. Jack Adams (General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings), Joe Schoenith, Jack Love, and other community leaders formed the organization and within the space of two months, SODA hosted the Spirit Of Detroit Trophy on the Detroit River.
SODA was the host unlimited organization until 2003 (changing its name to Spirit of Detroit Thunderfest in the mid 90’s) when internal financial issues took down Thunderfest and placed the event in jeopardy once again.
Boat racing legend Tom D’Eath and his wife Judy returned to Michigan from Florida to spearhead the creation of the Detroit River Regatta Association in 2003. The race didn’t take place until August of ’03, but the race remained a part of the city’s sports tradition.
“We are going to need another effort like we witnessed in 2003, but I am confident we can keep Detroit as a race site for our series,” said David. “Detroit has a tradition of hosting boat races going back to 1916, and this city is important to the sport.
“The boat owners, drivers and everyone involved in H1 will work with local business and community leaders to keep hydroplane racing alive in the Motor City for the thousands of fans who have made this race a Detroit tradition.”