Posted at Isledegrande.com on Thursday, June 1, 2006 as part of the feature story, "100+ Years Of Boat Racing On The Niagara", and in conjunction with the "Thunder On The Niagara" hydroplane races taking place June 3-4, 2006
The following are excerpts taking from the Isledegrande.com web site for Grand Island, N. Y.
Many names are missing and you are invited to submit for consideration your name, boat name, years and successes to "firstname.lastname@example.org"
Seventeen-year-old boat racer Ron Ehde of Grand Island was making a name for himself in the boat racing circuit in 1950. The owner and driver of the Miss G.I., Ron won the NYS Class C Utility runabout championship trophy at Alexandria Bay, and was leading in high points for the region 2 trophy, and as of September 1950, had won a total of 12 trophies.
Boat Races off the Bedell House continued to take place off and on in the 1940s and 1950s. As late as 1959, the new Grand Island Boating Association held a Regatta off Bedell House property. Possibly the last of the annual inboard and outboard boat races, sponsored by the Island Boating Association, took place Sunday, August 12, 1962 off the Bedell House dock. Winners of first, second and third place were Islanders Terry Pinzel, Jim Hartman and Jerry Livingston respectively, in the BU (B Utility) event. Among other local racers were Dennis Yakam driving "The Menace" and Rollie Radder racing his "Red Fish."
The Buffalo Launch Club was the site of the Buffalo and Tonawanda Power Boat Association's marathon race around Grand Island which was open to nine classes in July 1963
Al Endres drove his runabout, "The Sliver" to victory in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Saturday, August 3, 1952 and came home with the world record. Al's speed was 80.7453 mph beating the previous record of 75.6 miles per hour.
Stock outboard and inboard races were sponsored by the Buffalo and Tonawanda Power Boat Association on Sunday, June 3, 1956 on the Niagara River off the Ted-Ra Club in LaSalle. Dan McNamee Jr. took second place honors in the 36 cubic inch class with his 25 hp Penn Yan, "Swift." Mike Ekiss gained 3rd in the same race with his 25 hp Whirl-Wind Deluxe. Dave Dusenbury took 3rd place with his 20 hp. homebuilt boat in the Class B Quickie.
Dave Dusenbury captured third place honors in the Class B Quickie on Sunday, June 10, 1956 at the first of three summer regattas staged at the Niagara County Boat Club. Dave also won a trophy for 3rd among 15 entries with his 20 hp. homebuilt boat in races sponsored by the Buffalo and Tonawanda Power Boat Association at the Ted-Ray Club, LaSalle.
It was in 1959 that exhibition straight away runs by Mama's Mink III, a new "radically designed 266-class speedster," were featured at a regatta off Holcombe Marina facilities at Creighton's Edgewater Park Hotel on East River Road. The race boat was built and owned by Isle resident Joe Less. Boat races off the Island shore continued to be most popular in 1960 with the third annual A.P.B.A. sanctioned International Inboard Regatta held in July of that year off of Edgewater. Top contender for the inboard races was Sam Long driving "I Goofed Too." The Regatta was sponsored by the Tonawanda Power Boat Association.
Grand Island's Johnny Gast suffered a broken leg in the July 3, 1960 Swiftwater Regatta off Isle View Park. "Papa's Bundle," the boat he was driving, flipped in the 2nd heat of the E Racing Runabout event. Noel Blair, also of Grand Island, gave up his chance of winning when he stopped to rescue John after his boat overturned.
The Buffalo and Tonawanda Power Boat Association held its 9th Annual Marathon race around Grand Island on July 17, 1960.
Among entrants in the Grand Island Boating Association sponsored race at Riverhaven Lodge (now site of Holiday Inn) on Sunday, August 7, 1960 were "SusyJ" owned/driven by Rollie Radder, "X-2" driven by Curt Brayer, and young Chuck Miller driving "Yow-We-Yoe." Also Naughty Lady piloted by owner Tim Moriarity, John Gast's Pappa's Bundle, and 1959 "E" racing runabout title holder Noel Blair in his "Miss Annerald."
In the second race of the July 1961 international regatta at the Buffalo Launch Club, a Canadian boat cut across the bow of the 48-cu.-inch hydro driven by Gary Roesch who was thrown from his 10 1/2 foot racer, "Lost Week End."
The Grand Island Boating Association's Second Annual Regatta at Riverhaven Lodge was held Tuesday afternoon, May 30, 1961. Local winners in the B Stock Outboards were Al Colley, 1st; Mike Sceusa, 2nd; and Mike Olrogge, 3rd. Mike Sceusa wrote the following this week, regarding his short racing career! "A few guys had boats like Don Fontana, Dale Wade, Cliff Reitz, Terry Pinzel etc. That was the only organized race I ever got into. I probably had the boat for about three years from about 1959 through '61 or '62. We sure had a lot of fun with those things, racing around the river."
Islanders racing in the Niagara Frontier Boat races Sunday, July 29, 1962 were 18-year-old John Gast Jr. whose 12', 145 class hydroplane, "Able Mabel" flipped and sank on the downstream turn off Isle View in Tonawanda. Others who either lived on the Island or eventually moved here were Gene Roesch (Lost Week End), Frank Reichlin (Miss Peggy), Torby Barker (Rewinder), Jim O'Connor (Miss Wa-Ha-Kie), Gordie Reed (Sea Biscuit and Stormalong), Jack Wohlfehrt (Miss Twin City), and Noel Blair (Cheetah II).
Jackie Wohlfehrt captured the featured 280 hydro event Sunday, August 9, 1964, in front of 15,000 spectators at Isle View. In the initial heat Jack and his Twin Cities trailed “Wha Hoppened II” driven by Howard Benns across the finish line in a 9-boat field. Frank Reichlin, oldest pilot in the speedfest, took runner-up in the 48-boat event.
Don Less accepted the Grand Prix trophy awarded posthumously to his father, Joe Less, during the Niagara Frontier Boat Racing Association's annual awards banquet in April 1979. Joe's "Mama's Mink," driven by Jerry Hawley, defeated Gordy Reed's "Miss Jenny" on Oct. 2, 1978 in one of the most exciting races ever staged in the Niagara River off Isle View Park.
Dan Grobe won the Class C title for the 27-mile run around the Island in the B&T Marathon July 27, 1980. Bob Dee and his son, Donnie took second place honors.
Islander Howie Benns, driving Marty Prast's "Fantasy," won the 5-liter National Championship in Dayton, Ohio in August 1980 making him holder of four national crowns, taken in three different boats in 12 years.
Danny Reese, driving his boat, "Dan's Delight," won the 280 championship in the September 1980 Frostbite Regatta, probably due to the fact that Mike Endres and Howie Benns "jumped the gun." Mike Stamler came in first in the 5-liter race driving Marty Prast's "Blind, Crippled and Crazy."
Mike Endres was the recipient of the Pop Schroeder Award as the Outstanding Driver of the Year (1981) at the B&T Power Boat Association's awards night on February 20, 1982. Mike won the Grand National Championship in his 7-liter Orange Crush in the summer of 1981.
"Blind, Crippled and Crazy" won the 5-litre class title in the North American Championships in New Brunswick in August 1984. Owned by Marty Prast, the boat also took the 5-litre heat a day later while finishing fifth in Grand Prix competition.
A record number of Grand Island residents and Western New Yorkers were honored in 2003 for high points in the Inboard Division at the American Power Boat Association Convention held in Detroit. East River Road resident Bob Catipovic and Don Warner (Cheektowaga) won the United States #1 high point in KRR Class. His boat, "Fission," was driven by Mike Allan of Louisiana. Greg Barker's "The Rewinder" driven by Mark Johnson of Arlington, New Jersey won the United States #1 in the 2.5 litre class. Ken Brodie Jr. of Grand Island was the #1 United States winner in the GNH class. Former Island resident, Ken Brodie Sr., of Dover, Delaware was the owner and driver of "Freedom" that took the national high point in the Grand Prix class.
Bob Catopovic won the K Class at the Inboard Summer Nationals held in Hampton, Virginia in August 2005 with his "Fission" driven by Mike Allen from Louisiana. Don Less' E-600 won the 5-litre class with Ken Brodie II at the helm. Greg Barker's "Rewinder" was 2nd in the 2.5-litre stock class.
Well known race boats that entered the local races included Miss Supertest, Miss Thriftway, Slo-Mo-Shun, Miss Bardahl, Wha Hoppen, Miss Richochet, My Sweetie, Skip-a-Long, Such Crust, The Sliver and so many more. Click the following for more information on Niagara River boat racing over the years:
"Hydroplane and Race Museum"
"UHRA Thunder Letter"
"American Power Boat Association"