4th of July Hydro Run Vashon Heritage
Some think the hydros noise is an annoying racket, instead I hear the sweet sound of my Vashon heritage-Brian Brenno
With minimal complaints from the community the run has carried on without sponsorship, permits, and insurance since 1955, when Roger Stanley took his small hydro on a run around the island. In 2012 the county sheriff threatened to stop the race unless a permit from the county was obtained by the racers, with no action taken by the racers the run has continued as of 2019 without permits or insurance. Unlike the Sammamish Slough marathon sponsored by the Seattle Outboard Association for 58 years, which ended after a spectator was struck and injured by a hydro that lost control and sued the Association who then could not afford to continue the race with the liability, insurance, and permit issues, as Roger Stanley put it:
Just a few of us who want to have a good time by running around the
Island, that’s just the way it started. We weren’t organized in the least, it
was just a fun thing a few of us wanted to do and there was nothing offi-
cial about it. It was never sanctioned by any boating association. The
people who competed on the sanctioned circuit always did it in fresh
water, there may have been some salt water races but most that I’ve ever
talke to, they didn’t like running in salt water because its corrosive.
Sanctioned? When it was sanctioned it was sanctioned by us, he said
laughing, others tried to make us legitimate, we were just having a good
time, it was others that wanted us to organize.
The 4th of July Hydro Run has deep roots in Vashon Island heritage, co-originator, Warren Bibbins, grandfather Frank Bibbins, raced his steamboat Vashon, against the steamboat Burton circa 1905. Run originator Roger Stanley’s father Burt Stanley built his own racing speedboat in the late 1920s. Burt Stanley’s neighbors Paul and Joy Billingsley had racing speed boats, Paul did some racing on the local circuit in his boat Duck Soup in the 1930s.
Roger Compton was the first racer to join Roger Stanley and Warren Bibbins in the early years of the run. Compton’s mother was Joy Billingsley-Compton, who also did a few races with her brother Paul on the local circuit in the 1930s.
Paul Stoddard whose family had deep roots on Maury Island joined Stanley, Bibbins and Compton in the 1960s. Other Island speed boat enthusiasts started to join the Run when the start/finish moved to Jensen Point in 1972.
Warren Bibbins connected young neighbor Chris Van Buskirk to a heritage of water sports and hydros on Quartermaster Harbor, Van Buskirk got his first hydro as a young teen in the early 1970s. In 1976 Van Buskirk joined the run in his needle nose speed boat. Van Buskirk would go on to win two runs. Stanley and Bibbins also shared the tradition and helped young neighbor, Drew Carr join the run, Carr won in 1987.
After Van Buskirk and Carr, Bibbins and Compton mentored and helped other young racers become part of the tradition, many of them like Rob Andrews, Ricky Oliver and Dave Long where neighbors of Bibbins, another, Bill Lutton got involved through his cousin, Dave Long.
Ron Hills, also from a longtime Island family, became part of the tradition with the help of his friend Chris Van Buskirk and Bibbins in the mid 1980s, first running Little Bootlegger, a hydro he got from Bibbins.
In the mid 1990s Van Buskirk partnered with his brother Earl to buy an inboard Ted Jones designed tunnel boat. The Van Buskirk’s boat, with Chris’ wife Kelly driving, won the 2000 Run, the first woman to win.
Larry Fuller, a descendant of one of Vashon’s early homesteading families, joined the Run in the 1980s, later Fuller and a group of Islanders would build an exact replica of the Unlimited Hydroplane Miss Thriftway. Fuller passed the hydro tradition to his son-in-law Karl Olsen.
Chris Van Buskirk was working driving for Vashon Sand & Gravel with two guys who also liked to wrench on things and go fast, Todd Gateman and Erik Wolf both joined the tradition in the 1980s.
Jim Sherman whose family is considered the first permanent settlers on Vashon had family connections with Bibbins and Stanley, was a friend of Van Buskirk and Drew Carr, liked to wrench on things and go fast, all leading him to join the tradition in the 1990s.
Todd Larson whose Island boating heritage came from his family’s Larson Marine which built Skippercraft boats in Burton in the 1950s and 60s.
Todd Gateman, Erik Wolf and Chris Van Buskirk all drove truck together for Vashon Sand and Gravel and Ron Hills was driving cement trucks off Island back in the 1980s and it was through Van Buskirk that they all got involved with the Run.
Longtime racers Garry Rice and Kit Selig started in 1989. Rice was an Island boy who raced as a teen, then after a stint in the Navy flying fighter jets he returned to the run in 2002. Selig’s father was a hydro racer on the local circuit, the family lived in Gig Harbor and had a summer home at Tahlequah.
Karl Olsen, another homegrown Island kid got involved around 2008, his father-in-law Larry Fuller had been involved for many years. Ty Christophersen got involved around 2010, Christophersen lived on Quartermaster Harbor next door to Bibbins and Stanley. Christophersen grew up with the tradition happening in his neighborhood.
The Mattingly brothers got involved as racers first Ryan in 2004 and 2005, then Evan ran his first time in 2006. The brothers were Island kids who grew up with the tradition.
Chris Van Buskirk was the first to have a second generation racer, he passed his love of the hydro tradition, wrenching on things, and going fast to his son Mitch, who started doing the Run in the same tunnel boat Larry Fuller and Todd Larsen had owned and won in. In 2012 Van Buskirk got a Dennellie Hydro racing it in the 2012 Run. In 2013, Mitch took over as driver, continuing 36 years of family involvement in the Run.
In 2018 Ron Hills son Evan made his first Run driving Karl Olsen’s hydro. In 2019 he did the Run in his new hydro. Evan Hills can trace his hydro heritage back to his father and his father’s hydro mentor, Warren Bibbins.
Ben Nelson comes from a longtime Vashon family, his dad and Chris Van Buskirk were the same age and friends, Ben grew up with the hydro tradition. Tony Bianchi is another Island kid, who grew up on Quartermaster Harbor with the 4th of July tradition. Mitch, Evan, Ben and Tony are the newest generation of Islanders who are continuing a long Island heritage of boat racing and over 60 year tradition of hydroplanes circling Vashon on the 4th of July.