All Types of Speedboats Have Skimmed Around the Island

Posted: July 2, 2014

By: Bruce Haulman [Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber]

As Vashon prepares for another early-morning Fourth of July hydroplane race around the island, it is worth remembering that the hydroplanes are not the only light and fast boats that have skimmed around Vashon. In the 1960s the Boeing Company used the waters off Vashon Island to test the cutting-edge hydrofoils they were developing for both military and civilian use.

Vashon’s annual hydroplane race began in 1955, when Roger Stanley made the first hydroplane trip around the island in his Ted Jones-designed hydroplane with a 25-horsepower motor. Someone asked him how long it took, and the urge to race was born. The next year, several others made the trip in their hydros and they all compared notes on their experiences. In 1958, the first race took place on New Year’s Day when Roger Stanley and Warren Bibbins took their hydros around the island.  The next year they organized the Island Outboard Race for the Fourth of July, and the annual tradition began. That year, 29 outboard boats (not all hydros) participated in the race. The race has taken place every year since, except 1973 when King County canceled the race because of  complaints from some residents about the 6 a.m. noise. Last year, Evan Mattingly won for the second year in a row with a time of 37 minutes, 12 seconds.

Around the time Vashon’s race started, in the early 1960s, the Boeing Company began developing hydrofoil technology that took the company’s experience with wings and airflow and applied that expertise to water flowing over a wing-like foil, a hydrofoil. Boeing tested a 20-foot version of a hydrofoil boat, the Little Squirt, in 1962. In 1963 it began testing a 100-mile-per-hour version, the Fresh-1, on the waters around Vashon. The old measured mile, a route on the east side of Vashon that had pylons located east of town and one mile north near Dilworth, allowed ships to accurately measure their speed. This was the track run by Fresh-1 on July 18, 1963, when it recorded a speed of 97.6 miles per hour. On its second run, as the boat hit 80 mph, it lost stability and rolled over, with the crew escaping as water rushed into the cabin. No one was seriously hurt, but it ended the U.S. Navy’s attempt to build a 100-mph hydrofoil and focused attention on the 50-mph versions.

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