San Diego Bayfair has a long and rich tradition in Mission Bay Park. The first race was staged in 1964 thanks to the foresight of the great Unlimited hydroplane racer Bill Muncey. Muncey was the driving force behind Bayfair and getting the racecourse built to host the event.
A Master Plan for Mission Bay was approved by the City of San Diego in 1958 and set in motion the creation of the racecourse between East Vacation Island and Fiesta Island. (Neither island existed until a massive dredging project formed them.) The shorelines were curved to accommodate a 2.5-mile oval course and beaches were sloped to dissipate waves from motorboats and hydroplanes.
The parking lot and launch ramp on East Vacation Island was designed as a pit area for hydroplanes. The light posts were set in a line to facilitate easy access for the hydroplanes, trucks and equipment.
To ensure boat racing on Mission Bay, San Diego Municipal Code allows “to hold a boat race in the course of which unmuffled engines may be used by the contestants… for a period of time not exceeding ten (10) days in all.” The Municipal Code also includes, “In addition to the aforementioned 10 day permit, the Director may issue a permit for unlimited hydroplane racing, provided such permit shall be for a period of time not exceeding four (4) additional days in any calendar year.”
The 2.5-mile racecourse, which was named after the late Bill Muncey, is the longest and fastest racecourse on the H1 Unlimited hydroplane circuit. Driver Dave Villwock set the World Lap Speed Record of 173.384 mph in 1999 at Bayfair. Villwock has won a record nine Bill Muncey Cups, including his first ever Unlimited hydroplane race victory on the waters of Mission Bay. For a complete list of past winners, click here.
Over the years, more than 5 million people have enjoyed the races on Mission Bay. Bayfair has grown from just a hydroplane race in 1964 to an event that featured drag boats, international competitors, live music and aerial demonstrations. Boat-racing tours including Formula One tunnel boats, Grand Prix West, P1 USA, Pacific Offshore Powerboat Racing Association and various semi-professional classes have competed at Bayfair.
Bayfair is a nonprofit 501(c)4 event organized and run entirely by volunteers. An eight-member Board of Governors directs and oversees more than 700 volunteers to stage the three-day festival, which takes places each September. More than 500 RV owners, friends and family get the rare opportunity to stay in Mission Bay Park for the festival weekend. The event is featured on national television and in local and national print publications.
Bayfair was responsible for generating 13,600 room nights and in excess of $1.7 million in hotel revenue, according to a survey performed by VisionQuest.
In the past, San Diego Bayfair has been a strong supporter of military veteran programs and other charitable community causes.
Photos courtesy of The Collection of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum