Henry G. Knab said shortly after winning the President's Cup with his seven-liter Big Bwana yesterday that he might take his $1,000 first prize money and buy a new gearbox for his boat.

The driver was quick to note that had it not been for the magic his 47-year-old mechanic, Bob Bernardon, performed after Saturday's races. Big Bwana wouldn't have been able to compete for the prestigious trophy in the 47th running of the President's Cup Regatta at Hains Point.

"We blew the gear box," said Knab, 42, of the final moments of the first seven-liter heat Saturday. "The mechanic worked all night making new bearings . . . by hand, which is impossible. He's the best."

The drama in the pits proved to be the greatest excitement for the two day event, which drew small crowds and few competitors.

With the unlimited hydroplanes not present to race for the cup for the first time since 1969 and only the third time in the history of the event, only 1,500 spectators, according to U.S. Park Police estimates, watched yesterday's racing. The two-day estimate was 2,500. There were only 17 races the two days with only 14 boats competing.

In past years, crowds were estimated as high as 30,000 the second day have watched several times as many entrants battling in the different divisions.


"This is the worst I've ever seen it run," said Seymour Brandman of Norwalk, Conn., who added that he had been attending the president's Cup for "18 or 19 years. It really doesn't have the wallop this year. There's too much time between races and not enough boats to make it interesting. The races don't interest us without the unlimiteds like they did before. The unlimiteds really make the race."

The race for the cup was more a battle of survival than a test of speed. Mist America III, driven by Marty Niles of Winter Haven, Fla., lost its cavitation plate and dented its propeller in winning both seven-liter, division two heats Saturday and could not be fully repaired for yesterday's races.

Bo's Ghost, piloted by Tom Baker of Queenstown, Md., blew either a rod or its crankshaft at the end of his second victory in the seven-liter section yesterday and, although Baker took the $400 first prize in that class for the top two-day point accumulation, he could only watch the race for the big gold trophy.

In the end it was Big Bwana, the only boat on which the Division II stock engine could be replaced with a Division I modified racing motor, which breezed home to the President's Cup with an average of 77.882 miles per hour for the five-lap, 8 1/3-mile race. Niles said he had not brought a Division I engine for Mist out in time his boat would be allowed in big race. So he could only sit and wait for a mishap to Big Bwana.

Rubber Ducky II, with James E. Coan of Springfield at the controls, completed a sweep of the four 280-cubic-inch races with two victories yesterday over Quick Trick, driven by Robert E. Geekie of Massapequa, N.Y. Coan took home the $400 first prize for most points accumulated in two days in each division, as did Rick Berthold of Fox River Grove, Ill., who maneuvered Indimidation to a sweep of the super sport division.

Veri-Cheri, driven by David Green law of Yardley, Pa., finished second to UFO, with Thomas M. Donley of Annapolis at the wheel in yesterday's first heat, but Saturday's two-time winner captured yesterday's second heat easily and was the decisive victor in that section.

Second-place finishers for the two days received $100; third place was worth $50.

All speeds yesterday were considerably slower than Saturday's because of choppy water on the Potomac.