2004 Budweiser Madison Regatta

World Championship
coming to Madison

Budweiser to end hydro
involvement after 2004

By Don Ward

MADISON, Ind. (March 2004) – This summer, the Budweiser Madison Regatta in Madison, Ind., will serve as the host site of the World Championship unlimited hydroplane race, announced officials of the governing body, Hydro-Prop, at its annual meeting in late February in Seattle.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis-based Anheuser Busch announced it would end its involvement in the sport at the conclusion of the upcoming 2004 season. Budweiser had sponsored the sport's most successful unlimited hydroplane team in history, was the title sponsor of the Hydro-Prop racing series, and provided varying levels of sponsorship at several race sites, including title sponsor in Madison last year and this year.
The decision comes nearly a year after the death of Budweiser unlimited hydroplane team owner Bernie Little, whose close relationship to August Busch kept the "Big Red Machine" on the water for some 41 years. Little's son, Joe Little, who took over for his father last year, made the announcement.
A successful beer distributor in Florida, the elder Little, who died in April 2003, had dominated the racing circuit since entering the sport in 1963. His team has won an unprecedented 23 national championships and 136 races. Driver Dave Villwock will drive again for the Bud team in its final season.
For hydroplane racing fans in Madison, emotions were mixed in the wake of the two announcements. Little had kept the world's longest continuous unlimited hydroplane races going in the southern Indiana town in lean years when there was no other sponsor to foot the bill. Belterra Casino Resort in nearby Florence, Ind., had served as the title sponsor two years ago but reduced its commitment to $25,000 last year as a "supporting sponsor." Belterra has notified Madison Regatta committee members it will not participate as a sponsor at all this year.
"There was some budget cutting across the board at the last committee meeting, so it already has taken an effect on our plans for this year," said Madison Regatta committee member Fred Farley. "Call me an optimist, but I have faith in the leadership of the committee to find another sponsor to replace Budweiser. The people involved with the committee today operate it as a business, not a hobby, like it was in the early days. They'll find a way."
Madison Regatta committee members are busy preparing for this year's Governor's Cup race July 2-4 in Madison and the World Championship event, even as concern builds over finding a title sponsor to keep the race going in 2005.
"There will be big shoes to fill next year, but we feel this is an opportunity for us to grow with a new title sponsor into those shoes with their early announcement," said Mike Adams, this year's Regatta president. We are looking at this as an opportunity for the Regatta to partner with a local company or national company with regional or local ties that can realize a great marketing and community partnership right here in the Tri-State area."
In 2002, Cruisin' Auto Sales of Madison stepped in to serve as a "presenting sponsor" when Belterra reduced its commitment after having served as title sponsor in 2001.
Madison Mayor Al Huntington put a positive spin on the news of the Budweiser decision by focusing on the World Championship, saying, "The staging of the World Championship for unlimited hydroplane racing at this year's Madison Regatta will add an exciting dimension to a traditionally action-packed weekend of boat racing."
It will be the first time the event has been held in Madison since 1972, when Bill Muncey won aboard the boat Atlas Van Lines. Madison was offered the race after Evansville turned it down, officials said. It is the first time the Union of International Motor Boating has sanctioned a world championship race since 1984, when it was run in Houston.
The UIM World Championship could draw foreign participants to Madison. Either way, it is sure to rev up the excitement for this year’s Budweiser Madison Regatta, scheduled for July 2-4. The weekend is expected to draw several vintage and 7-liter boats for races in other classes.
“The city of Madison has consistently hosted an unlimited hydroplane race every year since 1950. The Madison Regatta is always one of the highlights of the racing season. The 2004 UIM World Championship race will continue that tradition,” Gary Garbrecht, Hydro-Prop chairman, said in a statement.
Hydro-Prop and the American Powerboat Association, the unlimited hydroplanes’ sanctioning body, will be promoting the event overseas in hopes of attracting attention and possible foreign drivers, officials said.
UIM is based in the Principality of Monaco.
Past UIM-sanctioned races were held in Lake Tahoe, Nev., in 1965; Detroit in 1967 and 1969; Seattle 1968, 1973 and 1980; Madison in 1972; Tri-Cities, Wash., in 1974; Acapulco, Mexico in 1981; Houston in 1982, 1983 and 1984. Muncey died in a crash during the final heat of the 1981 race in Mexico.

• To contact the Madison Regatta committee about sponsorship information or about tickets for this year's event, call (812) 265-5000.

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