After San Diego cancels annual hydroplane race, concerns raised for Seattle’s Seafair

SEATTLE — After nearly six decades of hosting hydroplane races, San Diego abruptly canceled its annual Mission Bay event due to a lack of funds and support. It’s a loss for the H-1 circuit, but racing enthusiasts and experts assure us the exit is not a bad omen for Seattle’s beloved Seafair pastime.

David Williams is the Executive Director of the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum in Kent. Surrounded by the wooden giants of Gold Cups past, Williams reflected on the San Diego unexpected departure and its potential impact on Seattle’s long-standing hydroplane tradition.

“The race plays a very different role in Seattle than it does in San Diego,” said Williams. “It’s a much more integral part of the community here than it was in San Diego.”

San Diego Bayfair cited steep increases in production costs due to inflation and unexpected sponsorship losses as the reasons behind the event’s cancellation.

“Times change. Sponsorships change. People’s habits change, so the race in San Diego is having a tough time adjusting,” Williams said.

During a SeaFair kickoff event, Wednesday in South Lake Union, H1 Chairman, Tim Austin reassured race fans.

“We’ve talked to the people in San Diego, and they fully anticipate being back on board next year,” said Austin. “As far as we know, everything’s good.”

Austin revealed that this year’s event on Lake Washington will feature twice the number of boats compared to last year. Seattle is also the host city for the 2023, Gold Cup. The prestigious Superbowl of hydroplanes has not been held in the Emerald City for 38 years.

“The first Gold Cup was held in Seattle in 1951, marking the birth of SeaFair,” said Williams. “Without the Gold Cup in ‘51, we wouldn’t have this great celebration that celebrates all things good and all things summer in Seattle.”

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