Monday, October 10, 2011

Where are they now? The Former Miss Madison hulls

There are boats that once raced on the Unlimited Hydroplane tour strewn quite literally across the country.  They are in museums, garages, barns, and sometimes they're simply left outside to wither in the elements.  With no other use but racing, an Unlimited Hydroplane's life after racing can be a mysterious endeavor that is often as interesting as anything it did on the water.  I might explore this in a broader sense in a future post, but for this post I will explore what has happened to the Miss Madison hulls once their racing days were over  What has happened to the eight former Miss Madisons is as varied and colorful as the history of the team.  Some are lost, some are still racing, and some sit in museums.  This post is not intended as a "complete history" of Miss Madison hulls but will instead focus on what has happened after (and in some cases before) it raced for the City of Madison.

Miss Madison I (1958-79) As has now become part of hydroplane lore, the Miss Madison team was formed out of industrialist Samuel DuPont donating his boat to the City of Madison.  The Nitrogen boat actually debuted at the 1958 Madison Regatta, claiming second.  Despite not winning a race, the Nitrogen was a consistent boat over the next two years, collecting seven podium finishes while finishing fourth and second in the High Point standings.  For whatever reason, DuPont decided to get out of the hydroplane business after finishing second in 1960 and donated his primary hull to the City of Madison.

The first Miss Madison primary hull also had the shortest tenure of any hull in that role.  After only two years the City of Madison purchased DuPont's other hull, but still started the 1963 season with the older hull.  That came to an abrupt in Detroit when the boat crashed and sank to the bottom of the Detroit River.

As for what happened to the first Miss Madison, a number of stories have floated around but the most common one I've heard goes something like this:  After the Detroit race the Miss Madison was exhumed and taking back to Madison.  It was repaired and often made appearances as a display hull at various Madison events throughout the 1960's and early 1970's.  When not being displayed the boat was kept in the old Chautauqua barn on the grounds of the Madison State Hospital.  This barn was destroyed  by the tornado that struck Madison on April 3, 1974 and destroyed the boat with it.  I have yet to find anyone who claims to have pieces of the old Miss Madison, so I presume that the boat was a total loss, with any remaining pieces of the boat lost in the carnage of the storm.  If you're reading this and have any more information on this please let me know.

Miss Madison II (1960-79(2)) The second Miss Madison was also the second boat from Samuel DuPont's stable.  It had a successful debut season, winning the Silver Cup in Detroit and finishing third in the High Points that year.  This would also be its last season racing for DuPont though, as he retired as an owner at the end of the year.  After being beached for two years, the boat was sold to the City of Madison and made its debut as the Miss Madison at the 1963 Madison Regatta.

This is, of course, the boat that won the storybook 1971 Gold Cup Race and as a result has had one of the most noteworthy post-racing careers of any Unlimited Hydroplane.  The boat was used as a display hull at numerous events years after its retirement from competition in 1971.  The boat was a regular in the Madison Regatta parade for many years thereafter and was always a hit.  Often the boat could be found parked outside the Miss Madison boat garage along with the current Miss Madison hull (which ever hull that might be).  By the late 1990's, however, it was clear that major restoration would be needed to preserve this historic hull.  It was then that the decision was made to hand the hull over to the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Seattle. The boat is now in the possession of Randy Mueller, who does a lot of restoration work for the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum.  The boat was in pretty bad shape after being exposed to the elements for a number of years, but restoration seems to be going well.  Here is a link showing work under way:

 As a side note, it should me mentioned that the boat which appears in the movie "Madison" as the Miss Madison is not the same hull that raced and won the Gold Cup but is instead the 1961-33 hull that raced as Lumberville and Savair's Mist.  This boat was painted as the Miss Madison for the racing scenes, although the real Miss Madison II has a brief cameo in the movie (the scenes where the boat's sponson is blown off).

Miss Madison III (1972-06) For the first time in its history, the Miss Madison team purchased a new boat in 1972.  The boat was built by Lee Schoenith's Gale Enterprises team and was intended as a replica of the Atlas Van Lines hull that was built a year before and won the High Point title in 1972.  The boat quickly became outdated with the debut of the Pay N' Pak's pickle forked hull wit ha horizontal stabilizer.  This boat would be the last Unlimited Hydroplane constructed with the old shovel nosed design.

After the boat was retired from competition in 1977, the boat sat idle for a few year.  After Bill Muncey's untimely death in Acapulco in 1981 the boat was repainted as Muncey's Atlas Van Lines hull and was part of a national tour honoring his life.  Somehow the boat wound up with a private collector in Alabama.  In early 2010 an advertisement showed up on E-Bay for this boat,  which was still painted as an Atlas Van Lines hull and appeared to be in pretty bad shape as it was laying against a barn.  I'm not sure if anyone actually purchased the hull or what happened after the E-Bay auction expired.  If you have any information please let me know.

Miss Madison IV (1973-25) In a twist of irony, the Miss Madison team retired its previous hull by purchasing the hull that had deemed their old hull obsolete.  At the time the Miss Madison bought it, the "winged wonder" hydro was the winningest hull in Unlimited history, winning 21 races and four straight championships from 1973 to 1976 for the Pay'N Pak and Atlas Van Lines teams.  By the time Miss Madison bought it, however, it had been made obsolete by another hull: the cabover Atlas Van Lines boat that this hull replaced.  The boat would race for ten years for the Miss Madison team, winning one race and becoming the last conventional hull to race on the Unlimited Hydroplane tour.

After retirement, the hull sat idle for a few years.  Then in the early 1990's it was sold to Dave Bartush, who owns a number of historic hydroplanes (as well as the U-13 Spirit of Detroit team) and keeps them in storage in Detroit.  From what I understand, the boat is still painted in the Miss Madison colors so it hasn't been restored to it's original Pay'N Pak paint scheme.

Miss Madison Alternate I (1983-06) The forgotten of the Miss Madison hulls.  After the team's primary hull sustained damage at the 1983 Champion Spark Plug Regatta in Miami, the team was forced to lease a hull in order to fulfill sponsorship requirements.  The boat, although it made its debut in 1983, was a step hydroplane that had actually been built many years before.  Vastly outdated, the boat failed to qualify for the Stroh's Thunderfest in Romulus, New York.  After that race the Miss Madison's primary hull was repaired and ready for the next race.

The boat actually raced later on that year as the "Something Else," failing to qualify for the San Diego and Houston races.  The boat was eventually donated to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York where it sits today.  I have yet to see a picture of this boat or have any information on when the boat was actually built.  If you have either of these things please share.

Miss Madison V (1988-06) For the second time in its history, the Miss Madison team bought a new hull for the 1988 season.  The boat was built by Ron Jones Marine and, although still piston powered, employed much of the design work that was used for previous Ron Jones creations such as the Miss Budweiser T-2.  It should be of note that this boat is the last piston powered Unlimited Hydroplane to be built for a team other than Ed Cooper's team.  The boat underwent numerous modifications (including a conversion to turbine power in 1991) through the years but was retired by the team in 2006.  For more on this boat read my previous post "Welcome back Miss Madison V" in the archives.

After the team switched to their new (and current hull), the boat spent most of its time doing display work around Madison and at various boat shows around the area.  For whatever reason, a number of times the boat could be found sitting in the parking lot of the old Cardinal Stadium in Louisville and was visible from I-65.  Prior to the 2011 season the boat was sold to the Webster Racing team and once again the old hull is back on the tour.  This marks the first time that a former primary Miss Madison hull serves as the primary hull for another team.

Miss Madison Alternate II (1988-03) Due to damage sustained in the famous Double Blowover accident in San Diego, the Miss Madison team was forced to look for an alternate boat in order to fulfill sponsorship requirements for the season finale.  Therefore they leased Ed Cooper's U-3 hull, which had also made its debut that season.  The boat, with primary U-3 driver Mitch Evans at the wheel, turned in a solid fifth place finish in Las Vegas.

The boat raced for a number of years for Ed Cooper's team, winning the Tri-Cities race in 1989.  As the 1990's moved along this boat become noteworthy (as well as a fan favorite) for being the last boat in the Unlimited fleet to use the old piston powered aircraft engines.  The boat was retired at the end of the 1996 season with a new (although still piston powered) hydroplane.  According to Jim Sharkey's "Hydros Who's Who" the boat was sold to a vintage racer in Kansas, although not much information was offered beyond that.  Once again if you have any more information to share please let me know.

Miss Madison Alternate III (1992-102) After the Miss Madison was involved in a horrific accident in the 2011 Madison Regatta, the team was forced to lease the primary U-9 hull in order to make an appearance at the next week's Detroit Gold Cup race.  For a complete history of this hull, look for the article "U-9 to be the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto in Detroit, Jon Zimmerman the driver" in the archives.  After Detroit, the primary Miss Madison hull was ready for Tri-Cities.  The U-9 raced again in Tri-Cities and Seattle, once again with Jon Zimmerman behind the wheel.

As can be seen, the Miss Madison hulls had a varied career not only on the water but after their racing days were over.  It is left to be seen what will happen to the current Miss Madison retires, whenever that might be. Former Unlimited Hydroplanes are scattered throughout the country, so keep your eyes open, you might just see some Hydroplane history if you're paying attention.

My thanks to Jim Sharkey's "Hydros Who's Who" for its information it provided for this post.  Also, thanks to Lon Erickson for his information on the current state of the second Miss Madison hull.