Hydroplane Races

Jan 2, 2024 | Stories

Hydroplane races attracted many visitors to the Spokane Valley over the years.

The first races began on Memorial Day weekend in 1949 and were held at Liberty Lake, 19 miles east of Spokane. The Spokane Valley Kiwanis Club sponsored the event for the Spokane Powerboat Racing Association. An estimated crowd of 2,500 enjoyed the event. The following year, 75 boats raced at Shelly Lake in Veradale (also known as Sink Lake at that time). For that 1950 Memorial Day race, the Spokane Athletic Round Table put up $900 in prize money.

In 1951, Pete Limacher leased the 25-acre Shelley Lake for the summer for a series of outboard events, including the Memorial Day race which he sponsored. The Spokane Athletic Round Table attracted 90 boats with prize money of $1,000.

Drivers of the boats had been trying out the course in recent weeks and reported that the water was just as tricky as the previous year. The lake had only 20 acres of water for use on the four-pylon course, and the boats were close to shore on 3 of the 4 turns, making for exciting viewing.

Among the speedboat drivers who would be “burning up the water” at Shelly Lake was Laurence Richert of Spokane, former National Speedboat Champion. The race would mark the return to competition by Richert after a layoff of 13 years.

“For the last couple of years, I’ve been waiting to try my luck on Shelley Lake. That water was the test of the best drivers,” Richert said.

In May 1954, 4,000 people spent their Memorial Day Weekend watching the boat races on Shelley Lake. More than 100 outboard motorboats raced, including 7 drivers who had established world records. Burt Ross, Seattle’s world record holder, won the Hydroplane event at 69.739 miles per hour.