Innovative and ground-breaking Unlimited hydroplane owner Dave Heerensperger died on Sunday after complications from a medical procedure. He was 82.

Heerensperger was one of the giants in the sport in the 1970s. His Miss Eagle Electric and Pay ’n Pak teams won 25 races and three national championships from 1968 through 1982 and his innovation changed the direction of the sport.

Heerensperger, an owner of a successful electrical/plumbing supply company in the Seattle and Spokane areas, got involved in the sport initially as a sponsor starting with the Miss Spokane team in 1963. He saw that the local group needed a sponsor and his $5,000 investment netted a third-place finish at Lake Tahoe and a fourth at Seattle.

It was later as an owner that his career would be defined. Always willing to push the limits, Heerensperger welcomed innovations and his teams became the test beds for many of the technical advancements that we see today.

Heerensperger’s 1973 Pay ’n Pak proved to be arguably the most iconic boat in the sport’s history. Designed by Ron Jones Sr., the hull was the first built from aluminum honeycomb rather than plywood and featured a rear horizontal wing, giving it the name “Winged Wonder.”

With drivers George Henley and Mickey Remund at the wheel, the Winged Wonder won 16 races and three-straight National Championships from 1973-75 and inspired a slew of copycats. Driver/owner Bill Muncey purchased the boat after the 1975 season and promptly won five more races and the national crown, giving the Winged Wonder four-straight titles. It then served 10 years as the fourth Miss Madison.

After selling out to Muncey, Heerensperger spent four years away from the sport but he was always on the lookout for the next big idea. In 1980, he was ready for a return.

Heerensperger’s last boat was powered by a gas turbine, an idea that many in the sport had dismissed. It took two years for Heerensperger, crew chief Jim Lucero and the crew to iron out the details but in 1982 John Walters steered the turbine Pak to victory at Romulus, New York for the first-ever win for a non-internal combustion engine in the sport’s history.

The turbine engine quickly changed the sport. Since 1984, every national championship has been won by a turbine-powered boat and since 1991, every race except for three has been won by a turbine.

Heerensperger left the sport for good after the 1982 season, feeling he had accomplished everything he could in boat racing. He turned his attention to thoroughbred racing and competed as an owner in the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Millennium Wind, which ran 11th after having earlier won that year’s Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

After retiring as CEO of Pay ’n Pak in 1989, Heerensperger founded Eagle Hardware and Garden which he eventually sold to Lowe’s.

Funeral arrangements are pending.