NHL has the Stanley Cup. IndyCar has the Borg-Warner Trophy. America’s Cup has the Auld Mug. H1 Unlimited hydroplane racing has the Gold Cup –the oldest motor sports trophy, awarded since 1904. Hydroplane racing has another nearly 100 year-old trophy, the President’s Cup which will in in the Pacific Northwest for the first time since its inception in 1926. Both will be on display this Saturday during the 53rd annual Champion’s Gala at the Red Lion Hotel in Kennewick, Wash.
For the first time since 1977, the President’s Cup race was held last August on the Detroit River. The race winner, Andrew Tate and the U-9 “Les Schwab Tires” team will be presented the award during Saturday’s festivities.
Although the event has been sold out for several weeks fans and hydroplane history buffs will have an opportunity to view the trophy during the event’s social hour between 5:00-6:00 pm in the Clearwater room.
“The award has a deep history, and other than the Gold Cup, this is the most beautiful trophy I have seen,” said Charlie Grooms, acting chairman of H1 Unlimited. Grooms said you get close and examine the detail and think about its history, it will take your breath away.
In 1926, William A. Rogers convinced his fellow Maryland Corinthian Yacht Club members to host the President’s Cup race and persuaded President Calvin Coolidge to sponsor the trophy.
The President’s Cup was contested until World War II broke out and came back into prominence five years later in 1946. From 1946 to 1977 most of the President’s Cup races were contested on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., adjacent to Hains Point, except for a few pre-war races that were run in Annapolis, Maryland.
From 1978 to 2016 the race again was put on hiatus until last year when the President’s Cup was moved to the Detroit River.
The nation’s Chief Executive traditionally presents the trophy to the winner. The President that demonstrated the keenest interest in the race was undoubtedly Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose love for aquatics is well known.
President Roosevelt watched the 1938 race from the deck of the Presidential yacht “Potomac.” The President was so thrilled by the finish he sent for the drivers of the first and second-place boats (Theo Rossi of “Alagi” and George Seay of “Miss Manteo”) so that he could congratulate them in person for their good sportsmanship and excellent driving.
In 1959 Mira won the Presidentís Cup Regatta on the Potomac River. President Eisenhower awarded the trophy and Slovak was able to thank him in person. Mira Slovak won nine races in a 12-year career as an unlimited hydroplane driver, including the 1966 Gold Cup on the demanding Detroit River, but the race he wanted to win most was Washington, D.C.’s President’s Cup. Slovak wanted to win that race because the President of the United States presented the trophy to the winner. And he had something to say to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
At the height of the Cold War, Slovak was captain and chief pilot of the government-controlled Czechoslovakian Airlines. In 1953 he overpowered his co-pilot and made a below-radar dash during a regularly scheduled flight and landed in West Germany where he requested political asylum. Eventually he made it to the United States, but could not find work as a pilot because he needed a radio operator’s license, which were not issued to non-citizens. President Eisenhower signed an executive order that allowed Slovak to be issued a license.”
In addition to Roosevelt, other Presidents that have presented the trophy include Calvin Coolige, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Jerry Ford. H1 Unlimited is working with government officials to have the current President present the trophy to the U-9 “Les Schwab Tires” race team at the White House.