COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho. -- Hydroplane boat racing returns to Lake Coeur d’Alene after a 45 year hiatus. A committee has been trying to bring the races back for years, but a city ordinance in the 1990’s banned all boat racing.
Those who watched the Diamond Cup the last time Coeur d’Alene hosted the event, in 1968, will notice the boats have changed quite a bit since then. Back then, the racing was more dangerous than it is today. Twelve-cylinder airplane engines from World War II powered the boats and drivers sat behind those engines in open cockpits.
Today, drivers are strapped into F-16 canopies that protect them if the boats flip. Hydros are faster, too. The boats used to top out at 170-175 miles per hour but now reach close to 200 miles per hour.
Historian Stephen Shepperd remembers watching hydroplane racing in Washington D.C. in 1952, when Shepperd was four years old. For him, the return of the Diamond Cup to Coeur d’Alene is reason to celebrate.
"It means a good deal, I think, to the community,” said Shepperd. “It gives that - the community another event that will draw people here and let people know what a beautiful area that we have. It also, for 'hydro-nuts' like myself, it makes it possible for us to stay right here and home and watch some of the best boat racing in the world."
Shepperd recently penned a history of the sport, from 1913 when hydro racing first started all the way through the return of the boat races to Coeur d’Alene. The book is called “Hydromania: A history of the Diamond Cup.” The book was scheduled to go on sale at the Museum of North Idaho in October. A portion of the proceeds will go back to the museum, which is publishing the book.
Diamond Cup activities were set to begin Friday morning with the first tests. The event was scheduled to last all weekend.