View Full Version : Development of the skid-fin

03-12-2016, 09:53 AM
Hydros: This was all before my time, which is why I'm asking about it here, but I'm curious about the timing (the years) of skid-fins being moving farther and farther to the left. So far as I can tell, up to the late-'40s, skid fins (which looked like Keller's runabout fins used in later decades) were mounted under the centerline of the boat. By the early Fifties, it looks like the fast guys were offsetting them maybe 8" to the left. Was it in the late Fifties that you old guys started screwing a fin that you had saber-sawed out of sheet aluminum to the inside edge of the left sponson? And when did you start hooking the fin to the back of the left sponson with a bracket? Can any names be attached to these innovations?

My questions are prompted by my just having looked at part of a YouTube copy of the Fifties movie "Bernardine" (ref. Ron Hill's thread on this) in which Russ Hill and a bunch of other A Stock Hydros are racing. What struck me was how much more smoothly and quickly hydros could take the corners in later decades, with their fins mounted way out to the left. My own first raceboat was a Hal Kelly "Jupiter," and not knowing any better, I followed these obsolete plans to the extent of sawing out a big sheet-aluminum fin and screwing it to the inside of the sponson. Besides being slow, that was a rotten-turning boat, which threw me out in both heats of my first race!!

Runabouts: Here fins have gone both ways. In the mid-Sixties, nearly all runabouts mounted their Keller fins somewhat left-of-centerline. But Terry Feroe, a real fast Reg. 10 BU Sid-Craft driver (had the kilo record for while) said to put the fin on centerline. Many years later, somebody hung a big slab of sheet aluminum on a bracket on the extreme left side of his runabout (maybe Ric Montoya, maybe Selvidge). Big and ugly, but apparently effective, since a lot of guys tried them (with older runabout racers complaining that they now couldn't see anything in the turns for the wall of water thrown up by these side fins!). But some years later yet, oh maybe late-Nineties, I talked to old Bob Montoya at a one-time club boat test-day with informal races, and he said that the centerline-mounted bottom fin had made something of a comeback in runabouts because they seemed to work well on tight-radius turns. I remarked to Bob that Terry Feroe had told me that some thirty years earlier.

What do you ancient mariners have to say?

(EDIT) (Sorry the first version of this was such a mess; usually I catch it when my computer or Win 10.1 sabotages my efforts).

03-14-2016, 01:56 PM

For hydros anyway, I remember talking to Jimmy Benson who got 2nd in ASH at the 1959 Nationals in Seattle at Green Lake. This was the first race that he used a Left Sponson Fin. That is a Fin mounted on the back of the Left Sponson. Probably some of the "Back East Boys" were using one earlier...... I think that's where he got the idea. I started in 1962, and for sure Keller was making a sponson fin and bracket.

And, for runabouts, probably about the same time frame where the fins were moving to the left.

And, now, I think the Left Side Runabout Fins, were starting to be used in the 80's...... But I'm not positive.

I think the rule is that the Fin cannot protrude past the edge of the boat............ Both Runabout and Hydro.

Dean.............................................. .....

Ron Hill
03-15-2016, 07:35 PM
They call the town WUSS STER, we called it War Chester....Anyway, the weather was great for the kilo trials. We had kept a head of rain storms from California. My California friends were pissed off that they were running for World Records, using stop watches. In California, we used J. Otto Crocker electronic timing. They'd say a boat is coming NOW, and then it would go by and they'd start the stop watches. After Worchester, all record had to be electronically timed.

Anyway, about Saturday the storm that had chased us across America hit Worchester. So, everyone turned their boats over. I said, "Holy sheep****, those hydros don't have a bottom fin they have 1 inch aluminum angle for air traps and a sponson fin. I had seen some of the hydros "FLYING" and turning on a dime.

In California, I used a home made spray shield, but for the Nationals my dad was afraid they'd toss me for the shield, and we could not find a KG-4 bottom cowling, so my dad just said, "Stay out of the spray." I was "BLOWING" by Keith Stippich for the lead, when he "rolled up" his Stippich Runabout and wet me down. He killed my engine. I got it re fired and ended up about 7th.

There were 16 boats in a heat in those days. I remember that Craig DeWald had broken my 48.352 half mile record, by going 49 plus MPH, and I remember passing him in the first turn when he turned over his Raveau Runabout.

I digress, I finished like second the second heat and ended up like third. But they DQ's two or three guys and all it did was move Dean Chenowith into the win, not me, as I was still third. One of those deals, when you are 13, you wonder how did the two guys ahead of me get DQ's and I'm still third.

My dad flew out the next morning, still raining like hell, we didn't stay to see the hydros run. I was always glad, as Chet McClum lost his life in C Hydro (From Dick O'Dea: Remember Worcester, Massachuchetts? I spent some time in Norfolk VA with Bill McClum while in the Navy stationed at Little Creek, VA. Bill lost his life in the CSH race at Worcester.
I believe we ran the stock nationals at Miami in 1958. I won the first heat in DSH,
Then they stopped racing because of darkness. Next day they decided to throw that heat out and start over. Believe it was the last year for 16 boats in the final.)

We got back to California, I told my brother I was taking the fin off his Big Bee and adding 1 inch aluminum air traps and adding a sponson fin. Lee Morehouse had made some very cool stainless steel fins by welding two pieces of 1/16 stainless together, he thought thin would be faster. It was, til we made a turn and the fin folded over. My dad thought by cutting the fin in half and screwing it to the side of the sponson that it might hold, as there was only about 2 inches of fin below the bottom of the sponson.

So, my brother said, "There's a race at Hanford, tomorrow, let's put air traps on my C Hydro." So, we pulled his bottom fin off and added 1 inch aluminum angle air traps... But we couldn't figure out what do do for a fin. My dad said, "Let's cut the Big Bee's fin and screw it to the back of the sponson.

So, the next morning we head out for Hanford, not knowing where Hanford was, it was 250 miles for LA. So, we show up and Hanford which is a sprint car track with a lake in the middle and we're late. My brother asks Henry Wagner if he could make one lap as he wasn't sure about his new set up.

Henry reluctantly OK, ONE LAP. We, I don't think my brother had ever seen 65 MPH in hydro before this, but he went out and gained 12 MPH. He roared down the straight a way, and made the corner like he was on rails, throwing water like no C Hydro ever had before. My brother came in and said, he saw 77 MPH on his Keller.

At the driver's meeting, Henry told everyone to drive carefully, adding, JUNIOR HILL, you drive like that in the race I'll beach you for 30 days.

Well, my brother won straight heat, with ease. He didn't piss Henry off. We went home thinking we were pretty damn smart.

My dad built me a new "A" Alky engine and the first race of the year for Alkies was at Long Beach. Bobby Parrish had basically quit Stock Racing to run Alkies. In the first heat of A Hydro, Bobby got the jump on me at the start, but by the second turn I had him beat, as I turned the Big Bee, with the sponson fin and aluminum air traps, Bobby had a Swift with a bottom fin. It is history, but Bobby ran over the top on my brother's Big Bee and we had a hell of wreck. I think this was Bobby's last race.

As we repaired the Big Bee we lightened it up and I didn't run it again until August and the Western Divisionals. I won A Runabout at the regions so I was qualified and I won the A Hydro qualifier with the fastest time of the weekend. My dad had made up his mind I was racing C in 1958, but I wanted to go to the Nationals. I won A Runabout and ws out front in A Hydro when the ring groove pin came out of the piston and scored the block. I finished last.

After the 1959 Seattle Nationals, my dad order a new 1960 Sid Craft hydro for my brother. The Sid came with a fin bracket on the back of the sponson that allowed you to adjust your fin.

I'm not saying we were the first to have a sponson fin on the back of a sponson, but I will say we were the first on the west coast.

ADD: By 1958 John Alden and Teddy Johnson had modified Champion Hot Rods on Bay Craft hydros. These hydros had a sponson fin.

John Schubert T*A*R*T
03-16-2016, 05:14 AM
Actually Ron, McClung was killed in DSH at the turn by the bridge. Bob Mehnert, my close friend & team mate traveling on our trailer was in that race & saw it happen. Bob finished 4th overall in a Sid & "Wild" Bill Hollaway from Ohio or Micjigan won with a Sid.

Bob made the aluminum air traps for his "D", my "B" my brother's "A" & Charlie Pipers "A & B". I believe we were the first with the aluminum air traps. We didn't use fins of any kind as Sid told us the weren't needed. Turning with the wood traps was a challenge as with the first Sid hydro, my 1956, during the qualifying the previous year at Cambridge, MD out front I hooked in the turn in one of the famous holes & got thrown from the boat. The aluminum traps that Bob Mehnert made I still believe were the first & what you saw at Worcester.