Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum

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This morning, after working with the crew to reattach a chunk of the Blue Blaster, my shoulders are a bit sore in that special way that only comes from a good, honest, evenings worth of hydroplane crew work. It feels good, a familiar old feeling from a few years back, when I was an ‘A Team’ participant on the 1982 Atlas Van Lines Restoration.

I should offer a disclaimer right here and now: the ‘A-Team’ concept is wholly my concoction, my notion of how things are. It is not a point of view that is necessarily shared by anyone other than myself, and most certainly is not an idea that is endorsed by the Museum.

Having said this, I’d bet that most everyone who participates on a work crew, for any boat and for any length of time, knows exactly who the A-Team crew is on that boat. Last night, for example, I watched as most of the Oberto hydroplane ‘A-Team’ filtered in for a work night addressing oil tank issues. though I don’t know all of their names yet, I know that they are the A Team for that boat because I have seen them crawl all over her for a long time now. There is a bond there, familiar greetings, inside jokes. While we were working on the Blaster, a Miss Bardahl A Team seemed to be reforming out on the main Museum floor, preparing to address some needed repairs to her bow.

It isn’t hard to become an A Team guy (or gal). All you have to do is show up once, do some work, have some fun, work safely, and then ask the crew chief when it is happening again. Lather, rinse, repeat. A Teams are flexible, too: If you were A Team with a boat once, you are probably, in my estimation, A Team with that boat forever, even if you retire from active participation. Conversely, new people are added as A Team crew members all the time simply by coming down to the Museum to lend a hand on a boat, repeatedly.

This whole ‘A Team’ thing may sound like a long road to a very small house to some, but I think it is a pretty big deal myself. For me, the A Teams are the very soul of this museum. As a Board member, it is gratifying to see them showing up on a cold, rainy Thursday evening in November when there is much Hysol to mix and little glory in being on a hydroplane crew. As a fellow crew member, I enjoy admiring them in the Tri Cities hot pits, fueling up for another run in 109 degree heat, knowing that all of their shoulders are sore, just like mine.

On the Blue Blaster project, Don Mock has assembled another great A Team in the form of Gail, Phil, John, (and several others who I do not quite recognize yet). With the restoration well underway now, this A Team is still growing.

They are doing a magnificent job with the Blaster restoration and this, in itself, is a great thing to watch. This hull was really very seriously damaged in the blowover and collision in Mexico but it is coming back together stronger, straighter and better than new. Restoring the hull to museum quality standards has been a very well considered effort. The restoration crew has been careful to retain as much of the original material as possible while making repairs that will stand up to the stresses of exhibition running, if so directed by the museum Board. Last night, the very last evidence of tragedy was replaced in the form of the a new sponson frame, frame 7, on the port side. It replaces the crumpled and distorted original piece.

With my crazy work schedule lately, I have only been able to work with these guys a few times so far, but each time up, it has been a blast. They are a good group and it has been a privilege to join in. I am strictly B Team on this crew, and I am enjoying it immensely. But if my schedule ever frees up a bit, my status could be upgraded. I have the crew shirt already....

Those who knew Roger Newton as I did know that he was all A Team, wherever he picked up a tool. Being a low key, behind the scenes guy, we know that the sport and history of hydroplaning will never fully recognize and appreciate the many contributions of one Roger Newton, so we named the restoration shop at the Museum for him. His smiling visage oversees all of our work.

Well, Don Mock is cut from the same cloth (or from a similar bolt) as Roger. He has been an A Team crewman on any number of museum hulls, a museum Board member forever, and the crew chief on two full restorations; the 1982 Atlas and now, the 1977 Atlas Van Vines. I believe that Don knows as much- no, more- than anyone alive about these two hulls- and that list would include Chip Hanuer, Jim Harvey, Fran Mucey and Jim Lucero. Don’t even get him started on the original Miss Thriftway, an all time Don Mock favorite. His knowledge is beyond encyclopedic, his love for these boats is beyond measure, his enthusiasm inspires A Team effort wherever and whenever he picks up a tool. A ‘behind the scenes’ guy who prefers it that way, Don will, no doubt, cringe at this accurate comparison to the ‘Czar’.

When this hull eventually runs beside her sister ship, the 1982 Atlas, (and you know it will) there will not be a dry eye in the house. On that day- and I promise you this-you will see Don Mock serving as crew chief on two museum hydroplanes- a superhuman feat! (I can just picture this)n Few will notice, fewer still will fully appreciate, that Don’s stature on the beach is as great as any being celebrated out on the race course. Like all of the truly great ones, he will probably cringe at this comparison too.

But it is, in my sore shouldered opinion, the ‘A Team’ truth.

Marc Connely

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Comment by Phil Lampman on November 19, 2010 at 2:44pm
Great post, Marc. I share your comments about Don. He's a great leader. He must be: why else would I make the 50-mile round trip at least 3 days each week, sometimes when there's only 20 minutes worth of work to do on the 'Blaster? I'm glad to be a part of the team.

As I've said before; I enjoy your writing. Let us have more when your schedule allows.


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