Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lessons From Legends of Hydroplane Racing

Those of you that know me well, know that I am a HUGE fan of Unlimited Hydroplane racing. Growing up in the Seattle area, the first Sunday in August on Lake Washington was THE place to be; filled with the thunderous roars of these 30' boats powered by WWII fighter plane engines (now they are powered by helicopter turbines and sound like glorified hairdryers). At an airshow in Bremerton, WA when I was 4 or 5 years old, I was truly introduced to the hydros by a man displaying his boat and signing autographs that is now the winningest all-time driver in history.

The man was Bill Muncey; vivacious, good natured, and a master self-promoter. In his career spanning more than 30 years at the wheel, Muncey won a total of 62 races, 8 Gold Cups (the hydro racing equivalent of the Superbowl), 7 National Championships, and 4 World Championships. He has been inducted into the National Marine Manufacturers Association Hall of Fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Hydroplane and Race Boat Museum Hall of Champions just to name a few. Unfortunately, it was only 2 years after I met Muncey that his boat blew over and was killed in a race in Acapulco.

Naturally, his replacement filled his void, both in my mind as a fan (anyone who took over for "my guy" was worthy of my fandom) and on the race course. Chip Hanauer took over in the cockpit of the Muncey racing team. Hanauer went on to become the most successful driver since Muncey winning 61 races, 11 Gold Cups, and 7 National Championships. Hanauer, too, has been inducted into the very same halls of fame as Muncey. Chip is not only a great racer, but a really great down-to-earth guy who doesn't carry himself in the conceited manner of current professional athletes and racers.

"Others (drivers) are colorful. I'm not so interesting to watch but when that checkered flag goes down, I try to see that I'm there."

"People tell me it's a mistake to expect to win every race. I tell them if you accept responsibility to put on a good performance, dedicate yourself and prepare mentally, why, there's no reason you can't win every time out. I don't come here to lose."

"There's nothing pleasant about racing an unlimited (hydroplane). The pleasure comes after you win."

"I don't believe in luck. If you're adequately prepared, you don't need luck."

"In the days before the race, I wander around the pits. I make it a point to find out how each driver is feeling, whether he's happy or confident or worried or scared or mad—and I file these ideas away for the race. See, I don't like to do anything casually."

"I define, as accurately as possible, everything I'm expected to do - an can do - and then go out and do it."

"If you're going to do something, I think you've got to do your very best. Otherwise everybody's let down, including yourself. I'm a poor loser. When I lose I'm terribly unhappy, because I feel somehow I've failed. I haven't done what everyone had a right to expect of me."

"I know there are people in other sports with my degree of success who are making 10 times the dough, but I have to question whether they're 10 times as happy."

"When you're in that boat, you're just part of a chain of elements which decide in the end whether you win, lose, flip, blow up or just go dead in the water. I'm no more important to it than a carburetor or a quill shaft."

"There's a feeling of satisfaction in winning doing what you love and making a living at the same time. I've gotten more than I ever have hoped for."

"There is only one success and that is to live your life in your own way and spend your days in a way that is of your own choosing."

"Having expectations about the end result is one of the surest ways of impeding your performance and sucking the joy out of the experience. Expect nothing, but give everything you have. You will most likely be pleased with what results."

"I approached every race, as the most important race I will ever be in. It's a simply truth. The races which came before, had already been won or lost. The races to come in the future, may never be. I needed to win only one race in my entire life. The one I was currently involved."

"Change is inevitable. You will simply wither as a person and as an athlete, if you don't embrace change and try to anticipate what that change might, "look" like before it arrives. The first person to identify and adapt to the inevitable change, has a huge advantage!"

"My philosophy on racing hydroplanes was that it was my life's work. As my life's work, how I conducted myself in it's pursuit helps define who I am as a person. What we choose as our life's work is not nearly as important as how we conduct ourselves in it's execution."

"Winning championships is the result of being associated with talented, dedicated people, working hard, hour by hour, motivating teammates to be their best and allowing yourself to be motivated by them. Then there's three additional aspects, communication, communication and more communication. Hard to beat any team. in any sport, that has refined the art of communication!"

** A very special thank you to Chip Hanauer for contributing to this blog post! Chip, you're the best and I hope that our paths will cross again in the near future. **

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