Long before the first Diamond Cup Regatta in 1958, the waters of early 20th century Coeur d’Alene came to life with competitive challenge racing.
The novel idea of using Lake Coeur d’Alene for sport instead of just for logging and transport came alive at the January 16th, 1913 Chamber of Commerce meeting. The Coeur d’Alene Regatta was then born, beginning July 3, 1913 a three-day water sport Fourth of July celebration began. Competitions were the central theme, with canoe racing, log rolling, swimming and diving, with inboard and outboard boat racing.
Finding an exact location on the lake proved to be problematic, but the South side of Tubbs Hill was quickly purchased to use as the official site. The rocky hillside offered spectators a grand view of the lake and the surrounding mountains, it could be accessed by a short boat ride or a gravel trail that winds around the base of the hill. The Fort Sherman Dock Company facilitated building a grandstand with the agreement that they would receive a fifty-fifty split of the revenue from use of the structure each year. Excitement from the local community members had great fundraising results for the project, along with thousands donated from local merchants and transportation companies. The first few years proved to be very lucrative events for the city.
Over the three days of that first regatta, boats with between 8 and 40 horsepower engines competed. The events drew such a large crowd that the position of competitive boat racing became an official staple in all future regattas. The first inboard race was seven laps around a one-mile course. Dr. W.W. Scott of Coeur d’Alene’s launch Kryptok and W.H. Carver of Rockford’s launch Ogema were driven in the race by their twelve-year old sons W.W. Scott Jr and Gale Carver. Eight horsepower engines powered the boats and Carver won easily by two and a half minutes, finishing the course in thirty-five minutes and thirty seconds.
The unlimited hydroplane racing began in 1958 with faster, more powerful and more wild activity. All the boats competing were piston-powered, usually V-12 Allison or Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. A slew of accidents and injuries marred the 1959 Diamond Cup, with multiple drivers hospitalized, boats destroyed and one driver comatose for several weeks. Starting in 1965 the race activities were cut down to only one day of the celebration, and this relieved the problematic parties and wild behavior. But the damage had been done. Due to the repeated unruly behavior by the spectators, hydroplane races were banned by voter initiative just ten years after they started.
The first Regatta went off without any issues, orderliness prevailed and the city police reported no “strong arm” behavior or even attempts at pickpocketing. Quite commendable for a crowd of nearly 20,000 visitors across the three days. Hydroplane racing returned to Coeur d’Alene in 2013, reigniting the passion for challenge racing that was sparked a century before.