Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum

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1956 U-8 Hawaii Kai III

Reprinted from Skid Fin Magazine, 2003, Volume 1 Number 2.

The Hawaii Kai III was built in 1956 for industrialist Edgar Kaiser. Edgar and his father Henry gained worldwide acclaim during World War II for building over 700 "Liberty Ships" to meet the Allies’ need for inexpensive cargo ships. Many historians credit Kaiser’s ships for keeping England from succumbing to the Nazi blockade in the early 1940s.

Boat racing in the 1950s was a rich man’s sport with men like Horace Dodge, Bill Boeing Jr. and Samuel DuPont spending their summers racing. Both Henry and Edgar Kaiser fit right in. Henry owned the U-20 Hot Metal, the U-21 Aluminum, U-12 Scooter and U-10 Scooter Too. Edgar owned the U-9 Hawaii Kai and the U-8 Hawaii Kai III (the Hawaii Kai II was never built). Although the Kaisers were avid racers, they were never considered national contenders until late in the 1956 season. Edgar’s good friend Stan Sayers raced the mighty Slo-mo-shuns. When the Slo-mo IV was destroyed while attempting to qualify for the 1956 Gold Cup, the Slo-mo-shun team found themselves without a boat. Kaiser "loaned" them the Kai. Three weeks later at the Rodgers Memorial race in Washington D.C., the Slo-mo-shun crew gave Kaiser his first victory in the Hawaii Kai!

Later that year the Kai won the Sahara Cup in Las Vegas. 1957 turned out to be a banner year for the pretty pink boat. She won five races, the National Championship and set the World’s Water Speed Record. Kaiser retired the Kai at the end of the ’57 season. Before the 1958 Gold Cup one of the Seattle newspapers ran a race "preview" and noted that the Kai would not be running. Eleven-year-old Patty Hunter read the article and began to send letters to Kaiser asking him to run the boat again. Kaiser finally gave in on Aug. 1, 1958, just nine days before the race. In storybook fashion, the Kai won the Gold Cup and the hearts of thousands of hydroplane fans.

After the Gold Cup, Kaiser retired the Kai and later sold her to Joe Mascari, who raced her for two more years. In 1963 she was leased to George Simon and raced as the Miss U.S. V. In 1965 Kaiser bought the boat again and restored her to her original Kai paint scheme. When Kaiser died the crew gathered one last time at the Kaiser estate on Orcas Island. They decorated a number of small boats with tiki torches, Polynesian masks and grass skirts. They towed the Kai out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and gave her a traditional Polynesian funeral, burning the boat to the water line and sinking her.

In 1991 Ken Muscatel and a crew of volunteers from the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum restored the Breathless Too to look like the Hawaii Kai III. The Breathless Too was built in 1957 from the same plans as the Hawaii Kai. For the last twelve years she has delighted fans across the country with her "Kai" impersonation, but look quick, because the "Quasi Kai" won’t last forever and eventually she will be returned to her Breathless Too colors.

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