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Fred Farley Remembered

Unlimited Hydroplane Historian Fred Farley passed away at 3am on April 15 at the Thornton Terrace Health Campus in Hanover, Indiana where he was recovering from open heart surgery that he had had on March 17th at Kentuckiana Medical Center in Clarksville, Indiana. He is survived by his wife Carol and his brother Lawrence.

Fred was born in Seattle Washington in 1944 and found his life’s call at the age of seven when he watched the 1951 Gold Cup on TV with his family. Fred instantly fell in love with the beautiful and dynamic sport of Hydroplane Racing. Fred’s favorite boat was the 1951 Gold Cup winner: Slo-mo-shun V.

Fred, like many Seattle children in the 1950s began clipping stories from the newspapers, collecting photos, race programs and buttons. He went to every race that he could, but found it difficult to get pit passes. In 1965 he discovered that reporters could always get passes, so Fred asked Boat Racing and Industry News in Harbor City, California if he could send them stories about the races he attended. They said yes, so Fred, armed with his new press credentials was able to secure pit passes to every race he went to. Fred enjoyed the writing and soon began to write for other publications. In 1966 Fred penned most of the text for the Seattle Seafair Program.

In 1973 the Unlimited Racing Commission’s Executive Secretary Phil Cole asked Fred to take on the role of Official Unlimited Historian, a title that Fred held with tremendous pride until his death.

In 1994 Fred achieved a lifelong dream when the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum arranged for Fred to go for a ride in the restored Slo-mo-shun V with Ken Muscatel on Lake Chelan.

In 1999 Fred and his wife Carol moved from Seattle to Milton Kentucky to be close to his favorite place in the world: Madison, Indiana.

During Fed’s distinguished career he wrote and published over 700 articles and five books on Unlimited Hydroplane Racing. He also attended and incredible number of boat races included an unprecedented 51 consecutive Seattle Seafair races.

Fred loved the sport, but he also loved the people in the sport. He stood on the official tower to watch every lap of ever race and carefully wrote the speeds down in a small spiral bound note pad he kept in his pocket. After every test or qualifying session, Fred would head to the pits, find each driver and show then his hand written lap times for each lap.

Fred took his job as Official Unlimited Historian very seriously and if he was asked a questions about the sports history, he would stand up straight, clasp his hands behind his back, clear his throat and bend slightly at the waist like a 19th century school boy about to recite poetry in front of the class, and then deliver a precise and thought out answer.

Unlimited Hydroplane Racing is a unique and colorful sport and Fred, as its official historian was a unique and colorful man. He was greatly loved and he will be tremendously missed.

By David Williams - Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum

Photos courtesy of Craig Barney -

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