The President’s Cup was contested by Unlimited hydroplanes between 1926 and 1977, with time out for World War II (1941-1945). President Calvin Coolidge presented the first trophy, a tradition that lasted through the administration of President Gerald Ford. Most of the President’s Cup races were contested on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. In many photos and newsreels of the race the Washington Monument is clearly visible on the horizon.
The President’s Cup enjoyed its greatest popularity in the 1950s, when the race became, with Seattle, Detroit and Madison, Indiana, one of the four traditional stops on the APBA Unlimited hydroplane tour. A highpoint in that decade was marked in 1957 when Hawaii Kai III U-8 with Jack Regas at the wheel became the first boat to average more than 100 miles per hour in winning the President’s Cup, with an average speed of 105.8 mph for the three-heat (45-mile) distance.
Originally owned by American-Canadian financier Edgar Kaiser, Hawaii Kai III was named for the Waikiki Beach hotel owned by his brother, industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. The bright pink 30-foot hydro was designed by Ted Jones and was originally powered by a V12 Allison engine. With Regas, a former welder for Kaiser Industries, at the wheel the boat raced mid-pack in the 1956 season until misfortune struck the Seattle-based team behind Slo-Mo-Shun IV, which was destroyed in an accident during the Gold Cup race on the Detroit River. Team owner Stan Sayres offered Kaiser the use of his spare Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and his championship-winning crew. Regas continued as driver and Hawaii Kai won a heat and finished third in the 1956 President’s Cup, but after a prop change on the same weekend won a second Unlimited contest for the Rogers Memorial Trophy. Kaiser retired from boat ownership and turned Hawaii Kai over to the Slo-Mo-Shun team for the 1957 season, which saw the boat win the President’s Cup, the Rogers Trophy and three more races to claim the 1957 high point title.
In November 1957 Hawaii Kai became the fastest propeller-driven boat in the world in APBA time trials on Lake Washington in Seattle, raising the mile straightaway record by nine miles an hour to 187.627, a mark which would stand until 1960, and the world kilometer record by ten miles per hour to 195.329, a mark which would stand until 1962.
After sitting out most of the 1958 season, Edgar Kaiser submitted a last-minute entry for Hawaii Kai for the August running of the Gold Cup on Lake Washington, and Regas and the “Pink Lady” came through. After winning six consecutive Unlimited Hydroplane events, the team disbanded at the pinnacle of the sport.