Gold Cup Racing Format Over The Years
By Fred Farley - Unlimited Hydroplane Historian

From the beginning, the APBA Gold Cup has always been a multi-heat format. The lone exception was in 1941. MY SIN was the only participant that year. Owner/driver Guy Simmons ran one 30-mile heat unopposed and was declared the winner by forfeit.

The early Gold Cups had more in common with today's Offshore racing than with the modern Unlimited hydroplanes.

The first race (in 1904) consisted of three heats of 32 nautical miles each, run on separate days. Each heat consisted of 16 miles up and down the Hudson River in New York.

By the 1920s, the Gold Cup had settled into the 90-mile format that was to characterize its existence for the next four decades. Competition consisted of three heats of 30 statute miles each. Each heat usually consisted of 10 laps around a 3-mile closed course, although 2.5-mile and 5-mile courses were occasionally used.

The most radical format change occurred in 1963. Instead of three heats of 30 miles, each boat ran four heats of 15 miles. 60-mile Gold Cups were the rule from 1963 to 1980 with the single exception of 1968 when, inexplicably, the race was reduced to three heats of 15 miles each.

The 1981 and 1982 Gold Cups were 45 miles in length.

In 1983, the Gold Cup was run on a 2-mile course (at Evansville, Indiana) for the first time. The race consisted of three heats of 12 miles each.

The 60-mile format was back for 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, and 1990.

The 1988 Gold Cup on Evansville's 2-mile tri-oval consisted of four heats of 12 miles each.

The current format of 52.5 miles on a 2.5-mile course was introduced in 1991 at Detroit. The race is run over a two-day period with two heats on Saturday and three heats on Sunday. The Saturday heats are 7.5 miles; the Sunday heats are 12.5 miles.

Traditionally, the Gold Cup has been a distance race. When the 90-mile format was used, most non-Gold Cup races were 45 miles in length.

The Gold Cup is still the longest race of the year at 52.5 miles, while the other races are 28 miles or 35 miles.

Over the years, various scoring systems have been employed to determine the winner. For most of its history, the winner was based on total accumulated points. The Final Heat winner-take-all format was first tried in 1974 (at Seattle) and became standardized in 1976 (at Detroit).

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