We're racing through history!
By Fred Farley - Unlimited Hydroplane Historian
What is the story behind the classic round-nosed Ed Karelsen hulls? How many of them were there and under which names did they compete?
The round-nosed Karelsen hulls pretty much defined the state-of-the-art in Unlimited hydroplane hull design in the late-1960s and early-1970s. They were generally wider and flatter than their contemporaries and resembled in outward appearance the Dan Arena hulls of the late-1940s and early-1950s.
The first round-nosed Karelsen Unlimited was the 1963 MISS EXIDE. Ted Jones designed that one but disavowed the project when he learned that Ed was going to put it together with a staple-gun. The 1963 MISS EXIDE literally fell apart when it crashed in its second race--the 1963 Diamond Cup at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
(Not to worry. Karelsen vindicated himself with the three excellent hulls of his design that followed: the MISS BARDAHL, the MISS BUDWEISER, and the NOTRE DAME.)
The second round-nosed Karelsen was the 1967 MISS BARDAHL which was National High Point Champion in 1967 and 1968. Ole Bardahl then retired as a full-time participant but did send the boat to Seattle and San Diego in 1969. MISS BARDAHL was then sold to Bernie Little who ran it briefly in early-1970 as MISS BUDWEISER II. Little leased the boat in mid-1970 to George Simon who ran it in three races as MISS U.S. Tony Mulherin entered the ownership picture in 1971 and renamed it HALLMARK HOMES. This was the hull that crashed to the bottom of the Ohio River at Madison, Indiana, in 1971 and never raced again.
A line-for-line hull duplicate was thrown together in three weeks by Don Kelson and competed a few times in late-1971 as the second HALLMARK HOMES. This was the hull that appeared as MISS VAN'S P-X for one race in 1972 and was leased to Jim McCormick for the 1973 season. McCormick raced it as the RED MAN (U-8) as a teammate to the RED MAN II (U-81), a Ron Jones hull.
The third round-nosed Karelsen was the 1968 MISS BUDWEISER, which raced between 1968 and 1972 and was a three-time National High Point Champion in 1969, 1970, and 1971. Inactive in 1973, the Walther family acquired it and raced it twice in 1974 as COUNTRY BOY. Sold to Jerry Kalen, it campaigned in 1975 as the original MISS VERNORS.
Of all the round-nosed Karelsen Unlimiteds, the MISS BUDWEISER is the only one still in existence. It is currently in the possession of the Hydroplane And Raceboat Museum in Kent, Washington.
The fourth round-nosed Karelsen was the 1969 NOTRE DAME, which raced between 1969 and 1971. This hull was arguably the fastest Unlimited ever built up until that time. It turned a test lap of 116 MPH at San Diego in 1969. This translated to 121 MPH on a standard 3-mile course, a mark that stood unchallenged until 1971.
Incredibly, this fast smooth-riding boat never won a race. Erratic driving proved NOTRE DAME's undoing at the 1969 Tri-Cities and 1970 San Diego races, which pilot Leif Borgersen had no excuse for not winning. (Leif jumped the gun at the Tri-Cities and spun out in a crucial heat at San Diego.) NOTRE DAME's last race was the 1971 Seattle Seafair Regatta where it crashed and disintegrated during the Final Heat with Billy Sterett, Jr., driving.
The fifth and final round-nosed Karelsen was the 1970 PARCO'S O-RING MISS, which was a problem boat from Day-One. The PARCO tended to ride very erratically. Owner Laird Pierce went all out trying to make a contender out of it. He acquired the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine inventory of the recently-retired MISS BARDAHL team and hired MISS BARDAHL's driver (Billy Schumacher) and the MISS BARDAHL mechanical crew (headed by Jerry Zuvich). But nothing worked. Pierce then retired from racing and sold the PARCO to Jim McCormick. McCormick campaigned it in 1971 and 1972 as the MISS TIMEX (U-8) but achieved mediocre results and retired it in mid-season 1972. The U-8's claim to fame was a TV commercial, filmed at Dallas in 1971, for the Timex Corporation.
Ed Karelsen did not build another Unlimited hydroplane for many years. Some of his later efforts included the Fred Leland OH BOY! OBERTO of 1982 and the John Prevost MISS MERCRUISER of 1986. But none of these matched the success of "The Big Three": the 1967 MISS BARDAHL, the 1968 MISS BUDWEISER, and the 1969 NOTRE DAME.