The Thunder is Back

Vintage hydros to add
the roar of yesteryear

10 boats are scheduled
to run on the Ohio River between races

By Fred Farley
Special to RoundAbout

(July 2012) – The thunder is returning to the Lucas Oil Madison Regatta after an absence of several years. A fleet of 10 vintage hydroplanes will join their H1 Unlimited counterparts on the Ohio River this July 6-8. This will be the first time since 2004 that vintage boats were on the water at the Regatta.
The vintage boats are restorations (or duplications) of racing craft that formerly competed on the American Power Boat Association’s Limited inboard circuit. The vintage hydros are scheduled to appear and do exhibition “fly-bys” between heats of the Unlimiteds throughout the weekend.

River Rat

File photo by Don Ward

Billy Cousins’ “River Rat”
cruises the Ohio River during the
last vintage exhibition at the
Madison Regatta in 2004.

Two of the vintage boats are locally owned. These are the F-128 Miss Jean, owned and driven by Dave Johnson of Madison, and the H-69 River Rat, owned and driven by Bill Cousins of Trimble County, Ky.
Here’s a brief look at the vintage crafts coming to Madison:
n Miss Jean is Johnson’s second restoration in the last decade. His first attempt was an old-timer from the 1950s named Miss Close Shave II. The Miss Jean, named after Dave’s wife, never had a racing career. The hull was, frankly, not in the best of shape and unable to achieve a planing attitude when Johnson acquired it. A lot of work was required to transform this “ugly duckling” into the smooth-riding aquatic beauty that she is today.
Johnson had an eager crew of talented helpers. These included his brother, Joe, Oh Boy! Oberto crew chief Mike Hanson and longtime friend Jim Kelley. Joe Johnson serves as the Vintage Boat Chairman for the Madison Regatta.
• The River Rat is something of a legend in Midwest inboard racing. It was designed, built, owned and driven by one man, who also does his own engine work and manufactures his own propellers. Cousins is truly a “one-man band” variety of boat racer.

Joe and Dave Johnson

Photo by Don Ward

From left, brothers Joe and
Dave Johnson of Madison, Ind.,
restored this vintage hydroplane
“Miss Jean,” which they named
after Dave’s wife.

Built in the early 1970s, River Rat was ahead of its time. It would be difficult to find a pickle-fork bow that deep on any boat of that era. There is no mistaking the River Rat when Cousins fires up that supercharged Chrysler hemi. The boat is fast – and loud!
At least four of the boats scheduled to appear at this year’s Madison Regatta bear a striking resemblance to each other: GP-200 Lauterbach Special, GP-317 The Irishman, GP-1001 Miss Dinomytes and H-202 Heavy Duty. That’s because they were all designed and built by the late Henry Lauterbach of Portsmouth, Va. A master craftsman, no one ever complained about the quality of workmanship on a Lauterbach hull. In the 1970s and 1980s, when many race teams changed over to the cabover (or forward-cockpit) design, Lauterbach stayed with the old-style rear cockpit/forward engine configuration – and still managed to win quite a few races.

Vintage Hydroplanes
to appear in Madison

(Hull No., Boat, Owner, Driver, Hometown)
• H-69 River Rat, Billy Cousins, Pendleton, Ky.
• GP-200 Lauterbach Special, Dave Richardson, Wellesley Island, N.Y.
• GP-317 Irishman, Bill Fisk, Williamson, N.Y.
• H-202 Heavy Duty, Gary Vore, Centerville, Ohio
• J-12 Chesapeake Lady, Gordon Jayne, Mentor, Ohio
• GP-1001 Dinomytes, Roger LaPierre, Governeur, N.Y.
• H-266 Miss Supersonic, John & Scott Kirschner, Sparrow Point, Md.
• F-128 Miss Jean, Dave Johnson, Madison, Ind.
• F-77 Barracuda, Tim Settle, Brookeville, Ohio
• F-222 Opechee, Hal LeDuc, Commerce, Mich.

• The Lauterbach Special has special meaning for fans of the Madison Regatta. In 1977, Madison played host to its one and only race for the Grand Prix Class of inboard hydroplanes, and Lauterbach Special was the winner with the late Terry Turner driving. Some of the most prominent names in APBA racing have taken a turn behind the wheel of this particular craft at one time or another. In addition to Turner, these include Chip Hanauer, Tom D’Eath, and Larry Lauterbach, the son of the builder.
• F-222 Opechee is a 1965 Rich Hallett product, originally owned and raced by Rob Kaufman in the old 266 (now the 6-Litre) Class. Retired from competition in the early 1970s, it has since been restored by Hal LeDuc of Commerce, Mich. The boat is named after a lake in New Hampshire with special memories. Opechee is an indian name meaning “Beautiful Bird in Flight.”
• The oldest boat to participate in the Vintage event is the F-77 Barracuda, currently owned by Tim Settles. This craft was built shortly after the end of World War II by Fred Wickens, a prominent West Coast boat builder. Very few of the hydroplanes of the 1940s remain in existence today. Even fewer are still in running condition. Barracuda is one of these. A successful 225 and 266 Cubic Inch Class campaigner in its day, BARRACUDA was invited to “step up” and run with the Unlimiteds a couple of times in the 1940s to help fill out the field.
The Vintage & Historic Division of the American Power Boat Association was formed in 1994 for the purpose of preserving the rich heritage of APBA. Racing legend Tom D’Eath was the first division chairman. Old racers came out of retirement to lend a hand and restoration of old racing hulls became popular. With just a handful of members, this dedicated group of determined individuals started with just an idea. Now, almost 20 years later, the Vintage & Historic Division is one of the most rapidly growing categories in all of APBA and a tribute to the sport’s classic past.

• For more information about vintage race boats, visit: www.VintageHydroplanes.com.

• Fred Farley is a Milton, Ky., resident and serves as the H1 Unlimited historian. Email him at fredf@hotmail.com.

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