After a bad weather year in 2018 in which their main event, Madison Vintage Thunder, was cancelled, the 5-to-the-5 vintage hydroplane racing club in Madison, Ind., is back this year with even bigger plans – not to stage another exhibition race weekend but to also conduct a fundraising campaign to someday build a hydroplane racing museum. What’s more, the group has been in talks and plans to raise enough money to purchase the original hull of the 1971 Gold Cup winning Miss Madison Unlimited race boat to display as the highlight of a future museum.
Both may seem like lofty goals for such a new organization, but these hydroplane race boat fanatics are committed to establishing the museum to pay tribute to part of Madison, Ind.,’s long and fabled history in the sport.
Photo courtesy of Randy Mueller
The original Miss Madison hull that won the historic 1971 Gold Cup is in Seattle, where owner Randy Mueller plans to eventually restore it to running condition.
“After working on our strategic plan, we have decided at this point to take the gas off the plan to purchase the boat and focus on the museum and running the annual event,” said Cary Strouse, 49, the group’s secretary. “At this point, we think that’s the bigger draw for us and the city. We need to locate and acquire a building where we can restore some boats. We appreciate the opportunity we were given to purchase the old 1971 boat, and maybe we will have the opportunity sometime down the road. But for now, we are focusing on the museum.”
The group consists of about 30 members, many of which either own or enjoy working on vintage hydroplane race boats from yesteryear. Others are simply enthusiasts who want to be a part of something special. They also have a 10-member board of directors, headed by Rob Holt as president. Holt also serves as the Region 6 representative to the American Power Boat Association, based in Detroit. The exhibition race weekends are sanctioned by the APBA. They held their first event in September 2016.
In addition to Holt and Strouse, other 5-to-the-5 organizers include vice president Dave Johnson, treasurer Michael Fine, Paul Dills, Trey Holt, Paige Taff and Nick Lobdell.
The group started a Go Fund Me page late last year to help generate $250,000, with $150,00 of it to purchase the Miss Madison hull from Randy Mueller, a race boat collector in Gig Harbor, Wash., near Seattle. The rest of the money would be used to transport the boat back to Madison, store it under cover and restore it to race condition.
“The hope is that we would buy the boat, refurbish it and use it as the centerpiece of the museum,’ said Michael Fine, a 5-to-the-5 board member. “We wanted to not only display the boat but be able to run it on the river.”
Mueller wrote last year in a Facebook post that it was his intent to restore the boat at the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum in Seattle beginning in 2019. “A formal restoration on the boat has never been started, but I have accomplished a few small projects during the time I have owned her. Plus, for the past 10 years, it was paramount to maintain the condition of the boat by keeping her out of the weather in a covered storage facility.”
Mueller went on to encourage the 5-to-the-5 group to initiate fundraising, but he advocated that it establish a museum first, and then concentrate on purchasing the boat. If a purchase does not occur, he plans to go ahead with his plans to restore it himself. If that happens, he wrote that “once the Miss Madison is restored, it can split display time between our Hydroplane & Race Boat Museum here in Seattle and Madison, once you have a proper facility available. This can work for both towns.”
Contacted in February, Mueller said he had not heard from the 5-to-the-5 group since their initial communication six months ago. He said the initial purchase agreement was scheduled to expire at the end of February.
Fine, meanwhile, said the 5-to-the-5 group is now working on a business plan and strategic plan to present to potential donors and to use in bids for grants.
The group believes a race boat museum would add to the many tourism attractions in Madison and a one-of-a-kind place for visitors to learn about the sport’s history in Madison.
“We think many people would come to Madison to see it,” Fine continued. “I think it is achievable but it depends on the fundraising effort. We have a long list of people to approach for donations, but we want to broaden our outlook beyond Madison.”
Several people who are active in the vintage hydroplane community have verbally provided their support and willingness to contribute. Some have even pledged to display their restored race boats at the museum on an occasional basis. The 5-to-the5 group is a 501c3 nonprofit entity under the auspices of Historic Hoosier Hills Rural Community & Development. So donations to the group are tax deductible.
“We want to become the ‘go-to place’ in the hydroplane community – a place for building and racing hydroplanes,” Fine said. “We also want to educate school kids on a variety of things relating to the mechanics and design of the boats. We hope to work with kids not only in Madison but around the area.”
The group has been working with a business consultant from Greensburg, Ind. and last year received a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County to help stage its 2018 exhibition race weekend.
This year, the 5-to-the-5 club has been invited by the Madison Regatta Committee to feature their vintage hydros on the Ohio River during the 2019 Regatta weekend. Up to 12 or more hydros are expected to participate, according to Johnson.
“We are very excited about our relationship with the Regatta Committee and their new leadership team,” Strouse said. “We are going to volunteer to help them out with their event, and they said they would help us out with our event.”
The group is planning its third Madison Vintage Thunder event in four years, set for Sept. 21-22 in Madison. The event features 30-50 vintage hydroplanes on display and running on the Ohio River. Admission is free but donations are accepted. For more information, visit www.5tothe5.com.
• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.
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