Kent's Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum plans model exhibit
By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
February 11, 2010 · Updated 12:05 PM
Don Mock nearly flipped when he saw his first radio-controlled hydroplanes more than 20 years ago.
"I was about 35 and I saw them racing in the Tri-Cities and I called Roger Newton and he set me up," Mock said during an interview Thursday at the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent.
Mock was referring to the late Ron Newton, who founded the local R/C Unlimiteds racing club in 1974. Newton, a former Renton firefighter, died from complications after heart sugery in 2008.
Model hydro racers haven't forgotten him - he is the namesake of a major event about to start at the Kent hydro museum.
The Roger Newton Model Radio-Controlled Hydroplane show runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 13 at the museum, located at 5917 S. 196th St.
Racers will display more than 60 scale models of unlimited hydroplanes during the second-annual show, which will include gas- and electric-powered boats.
People interested in taking up racing radio-controlled hydroplanes or those who simply want to see models of boats can feast their eyes on the lovingly crafted models.
"The boats at the show are all replicas of the big boats," said Mock, of West Seattle, a museum board member and volunteer. "It's a chance for people to see what the boats looked like - boats that are long gone and now are kindling."
Mock has built model boats since he was a kid and raced them for more than 20 years before he dropped out of racing a couple of years ago because the hobby took up too much of his time. He also helps restore old hydroplanes.
The radio-controlled model hydroplane show in Kent started last year to replace an event that used to be held in Puyallup.
Organizers named the show after Newton
Blueprints that Newton drew to build model hydroplanes are displayed on the walls of the museum.
Like many of the model hydroplane racers, Mock grew up watching the Seafair professional hydroplane races at Lake Washington and soon became a fan of the sport.
"I built my first model at age 8," Mock said. "In the heyday of the hydroplanes, there were no Seahawks or Mariners around."
The radio-controlled hydroplanes are about 4 feet long by 2 feet wide and weigh about 15 pounds. The boats can reach speeds of 60 to 70 mph.
"They are real noisy," Mock said. "We have to clear a lake to use them. You can't just go throw them in Green Lake."
The R/C Unlimiteds club has more than a dozen races scheduled this year from April through October. The club has nearly 100 members who race at lakes in Marysville, Ellensburg and other locations, including the season finale Gold Cup at Lake Chelan.
"We race six in a heat and you duel for a trophy that usually is bigger than the boat," Mock said.
The cost of the model hydroplanes can run from $1,200 to $2,500, Mock said. Anyone new to the hobby can often find a used boat to buy. The boats are made out of wood and fiberglass.
The scale models include such details as the red helmet that driver Chip Hanauer wore while driving the 1982 Atlas Van Lines, a model built by Mock.
"You get as many of the details as you can but still make it go fast," Mock said. "You have a fake driver, but that does not make it go faster."
No duplicate boats are allowed in the club. Members pay $10 to pick out the name of the scale-model boat they want and then must build the boat and get it on the water within two years to keep that boat's name.
A quick look at the R/C Unlimiteds club Web site at www.rcunlimiteds.org reveals hydroplanes from as far back as the 1951 Slo-Mo-Shun V, built by Newton.
Besides the R/C Unlimiteds, other racing clubs that broke off from the original group include Unlimiteds Northwest (www.unlimitedsnw.org) and Electric Radio Controlled Unlimiteds (www.e-rcu.org/clubinfo.html).
The show on Feb. 13 includes a live auction of hydroplane memorabilia at 12:30 p.m.
The featured exhibit at the museum is a replica of the 1957 Miss Wahoo.
For more information, call the museum at 206-764-9453 or go to www.thunderboats.org.
If you go
What: Model Radio-Controlled Hydroplane show
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 13
Where: Hydroplane Museum, 5917 S. 196th St., Kent
Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and youngerContact Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter Steve Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-872-6600, ext. 5052.