The members of this panel each have a long history within the sport. What got you interested in sport and how did you get involved?
Craig Fjarlie (Unlimited News Journal Writer & H1 Unlimited Volunteer)
My interest in Unlimited hydroplanes goes back to childhood. I grew up in the era of black & white TV. In those years, stations had more discretion to occasionally broadcast events of local interest and pre-empt network programs. I credit KING-TV sportscaster Bill O’Mara for helping captivate my interest in the early years. His excitement and enthusiasm for Unlimited racing set the tone for summer sports.
Later, as I grew older, I began traveling to more races and found ways to gain access to the pits. There, I became acquainted with owners, drivers, officials, and public relations people. I began writing about hydroplanes for weekly newspapers, then for magazines, programs, and specialty publications. In 1984, I began racing outboards, which enabled me to become friends with participants who were coming up through the ranks. Doing my own racing also gave me insight into how races are conducted, and all of the items required to ensure a successful event. Those factors worked together to ensure I would have a life-long interest in hydroplane racing.
Brad Luce (H1 Unlimited PA Announcer)
Like so many in the Seattle area during the 1950’s, I grew up with hydroplane racing. It became a much-anticipated annual tradition and the highlight of every summer. My grandmother would take me to the lake shore for the races, while my parents would tie up to the log boom with boating friends. And while I attended races at a very young age, my first vivid racing memory was the 1958 Gold Cup in Seattle when Bill Muncey hit and sank the Coast Guard Patrol Boat. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. It seems almost surreal now. I was 6 years old.
My direct involvement in the sport began in 1998 when I was asked to join the radio broadcast of the Columbia Cup on KONA Radio in the Tri-Cities. It was a lot of fun and everything just grew from there.
Jeff Morrow (Former Sports Editor of the Tri-City Herald)
I saw my first unlimited race at the age of 13 in 1974 in the Tri-Cities. I was mesmerized by the noise and speed.
During my college years, it was traditional for college students to come home for the summer and gather together on the Pasco side of the Columbia River — and it always served as a mini-reunion. Didn’t matter if you weren’t from the same high school. Everyone knew each other.
But once I joined the Tri-City Herald in 1985, I covered my first race in 1987, and I’ve been to every Tri-City race since (except one). I saw the behind-the-scenes stuff in the pits, and I was hooked. I learned over the years that the boat racing community is a friendly one. Everyone helps each other out. The owners, drivers and crew members have always been accessible to the media and fans.
Many of these people have become my friends — even though sometimes we only see each other once a year. I’ll probably keep going to the races as long as I can move.
Andy Muntz (Unlimited News Journal Editor & H1 Unlimited Board Member)
I got interested in the sport simply by virtue of the fact that I grew up in the Seattle area during the 1950s and early ‘60s. We didn’t have Mariners baseball, or Seahawks football, or Sonics basketball when I was a kid. We had hydroplane racing. It was by far the biggest sport in our lives. Our sports heroes weren’t quarterbacks and centerfielders. They were people such as Bill Muncey, Mira Slovak, Jack Regas, and Ron Musson. We towed little wooden hydroplanes behind our bicycles and, whenever one of the boats made an appearance at a nearby shopping center or at the boat show, we pestered our parents to take us there so we could ogle over the thing and imagine what it must be like to be in its cockpit.
I actually grew up in Tacoma, so going to the races in person was more difficult for me than for those who lived in Seattle. But, I marveled from a distance. I became quite adept at drawing pictures of hydroplanes (sent one to J.P Patches and saw it on TV pinned to the wall of his shack down by the city dump for several weeks), there are home movies of my brother and me as toddlers pretending to be hydroplane drivers, and I still remember the Sunday afternoon in 1958 when, at nearly six years old, I watched on TV as Bill Muncey crashed into the Coast Guard patrol boat and Jack Regas won the Gold Cup.
As for getting involved, I did so as a writer. I decided the sport needed some sort of handbook, so I wrote a book in 1973 titled “Roostertails Unlimited” while attending college. I had it published with the help of the editor of a local newspaper where I worked during the summers, and then went from bookstore to bookstore trying to get it put on their shelves. (I had a friend tell me recently he saw a copy with an unbelievable asking price of $75!) I then got more heavily involved when I worked as the Director of Public Relations for Seafair and became the editor of Boatracing Magazine.
David Newton (Publisher of Roostertail Talk Podcast)
H1 Unlimited racing has been a part of my family since hydroplane racing came to Seattle. My father and mother both grew up in Seattle near the pits and always cheered for their favorite boats; the Slo-mo-shuns and the Hawaii Kai III. They always told me stories of when they heard the roar of the hydros riding their bikes to the waterfront to watch in awe.
Fast forward a few years and my father was involved in hydroplane racing in many aspects. In the 1970s he drew plans to build scale remote controlled hydroplanes helping scale RC racing take off in the area and the nation. He then took to crewing for teams in the 1980s through the 2000s working for the Oberto, Winston Eagle, Pete’s Wicked Ale and Computers and Applications. In 2000 he become Crew Chief for Ken Muscatel’s Miss Free-I, getting the propeller water speed record at over 205MPH. He also volunteered at the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum helping restore many of the boats there including the Slo-mo-shun V, Miss Budweiser, and Miss Burien among others.
Needless to say, hydros are in my DNA. Growing up in a hydroplane household I was always doing something related to the hydros. I spent many summer days and evenings in the workshop. When I was old enough, I helped crew on boat teams and volunteered at the museum with my father. We also spent non-H1 weekends racing our scale RC hydroplanes. When my father passed away in 2008, I took over his plan business and continued racing scale hydroplanes. I remained a fan, but I had lost my crew chief, my father. I wanted to crew again and do something within H1, but I didn’t know what. The connection between my father and I and hydroplanes was so strong I didn’t know how to move forward without him.
Four years ago, I wished there was a platform I could go to for Hydroplanes and H1 updates. I took the love and knowledge of Hydroplanes my father instilled in me, and I created the first podcast dedicated to the sport of H1 Unlimited Hydroplanes called Roostertail Talk. I wanted to create a podcast that would connect the fans with the personalities of the sport, their stories along with the history and current aspects of H1 Unlimited. I have created over 100 episodes talking with drivers, owners, crew members, fans, event organizers of the past and present. It is my goal to dedicate the podcast to the sport I love. You can listen to episodes on your favorite podcast player or through my website: www.roostertailtalk.com. I will continue to add more content past the end of the season and throughout the year.
As long as the hydros race in the summer I will continue my passion for the sport and be involved where I can.