Hydros have a ball on the Fourth

Garry Rice roars across the finish line to win the Paul Stoddard Memorial hydroplane run July 4. It was Rice’s second win and third finish in 10 tries. - Rik Forschmiedt photo
Garry Rice roars across the finish line to win the Paul Stoddard Memorial hydroplane run July 4. It was Rice’s second win and third finish in 10 tries.
— image credit: Rik Forschmiedt photo

An Island tradition of more than 50 years was kept alive Saturday when three vintage outboard hydroplanes left Jensen Point at 5:26 a.m.

Garry Rice rounded Vashon and Maury islands and returned to Jensen Point in 44 minutes, seven seconds, followed 15 seconds later by Carl Olsen.

Kitt Selig, trying to make it four wins in a row, didn’t make it to the start line after his throttle cable broke. He got a tow back to shore, fixed the cable and was back in the water seven minutes after the others started, but then the throttle linkage broke and Selig was done for the day.

“It was the best water I’ve ever seen,” said Rice of the water conditions Saturday.

In 10 tries, including two runs while he was a student at Vashon High School before going off to fly jet fighters for the U.S Navy and then the Air Force, Rice has made it all the way around three times, including a win in 2005.

This year’s run — it’s not an “official” race — was designated the Paul Stoddard Memorial in honor of the former driver and longtime record keeper and timer who died last winter.

Stoddard’s daughter, Jenny Bredice, manned the official Mickey Mouse clock and a working stop watch.

“It’s the last year for Mickey,” said Bredice, then confessed that the clock didn’t run anyway.

Rice carried the American flag from Stoddard’s funeral in his boat and placed a Mickey Mouse sticker on the hull in Stoddard’s honor.

Rice said he thought he was well ahead of Olsen coming down the west passage and was taking it easy trying to conserve his engine when Olsen roared past and he had to open it up all the way to regain the lead.

Olsen, who runs stock underwater exhaust on his engine, countered by saying that Rice’s engine is so loud he wanted to stay either well back or way ahead of Rice.

While both Selig and Olsen vowed to return next July 4, Rice said he was ready to pass his boat on to a younger driver.

“That’s it, I’m done, I’m retired. That’s what my wife said,” declared the commercial airline pilot.

All three drivers said they would like to see some younger drivers get involved to keep the tradition alive.

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