Hydro Racing

Pay dispute could sink Seafair hydro races

SEATTLE -- A pay dispute between unlimited hydroplane owners and the Seattle Seafair organization threatens to scuttle races that have been a summer tradition in the city for 60 years.

Owners split 5-5 on Monday in a vote on the latest offer. The issue now goes before the board of H1, the organizing body of unlimited hydroplane racing, on Thursday.

If the board votes not to accept Seafair's offer, then the hydroplane race that has been a fixture of Seattle summers for 60 years could be in jeopardy.

"It's shaky right now, let's put it that way," said Ken Muscatel, owner and driver of the U-25, told The Seattle Times.

Owner-driver Nate Brown said the offer barely covers the cost of racing.

Seafair President Beth Knox said the offer was lower than in previous years. Seafair lost title sponsor General Motors last year because of the automaker's financial problems.

Seafair made an initial offer last month of $100,000 to the boat owners through H1 that was unanimously rejected; in the past, they received $170,000.

The money is basically an appearance fee used to pay boat expenses. There is no real prize money, with all of the boats receiving essentially the same amount of money (H1 also takes about a 25 percent cut for its expenses).

After the initial rejection, Seafair upped the offer to $130,000 in cash plus $80,000 in other compensation, such as tickets, Knox said.

Knox says she's confident an agreement will be reached with owners to have the hydros racing again on Lake Washington.

The H1 board consists of four boat owners and representatives of each of the four current race sites, including the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup held each July in the Tri-Cities.

If there is a tie, H1 chairman Sam Cole would cast the deciding vote.