The Fate of Stars & Stripes (Part 2) ( [1963]
By Robert B. Evans

Guy Lombardo, Les Staudacher and the Tempo Alcoa [1960]
Les Staudacher and the Jet Boats  [1960]
Miss Stars and Stripes II Crashes in Speed Run [1963]
The Fate of Stars & Stripes Part 1
The Fate of Stars & Stripes Part 2
{The Fate of Stars & Stripes Part 3 [Not yet available]}
Miss Stars and Stripes IV : The Mystery Boat

In countless conversations at his bedside and over the phone, Les and I have felt each other out, always subtly, as to the future. The phone conversations have been as helpful as the direct and personal meetings.

In Les' room in the Alpena General Hospital, where he is coming along fine, he has an amplifier attached to his phone. The nurse turns it up or down. He doesn't have to move a finger - in fact, he can not and will not be able to until his broken bones mend some more. In my office in the First National Bank Building I have the same phone arrangement. So all our conversations have been as if we were in the same room.

Now that the shock of his close call is wearing off a bit, Les has shown a desire to talk about the way Miss Stars and Stripes was performing before it lost its rudder on Hubbard Lake in mid-May.

Les is talking and you and I are listening:

"Really, Bob, it was wonderful. You know how we talked and theorized after testing 30 models on the Kawkawlin (river). Remember how we felt that the boat would do 300 miles an hour, even 400, maybe 500? How sure we were that we had the most perfect design, the safest construction?

"Well, Bob we were right. No question. I had finished two runs through the trap and had her up to 200. I was on my third run.

"As I started this one I said to myself: This should be it. Everything's A-OK. It is a beautiful day. The lake's surface was never better. I'm going to step on it this time.

"I'm going to accelerate all the way up to and through the trap. I'll keep an eye on the air and water speedometers. If I see her at 260 and then 270 I'll know we're in business and we can send for the official timer.'

"Bob, I did just that. No one ever had as fine a ride in a boat. It was thrilling and I was confident. I glanced at the air and water speedometer. It showed a bit above 260. I don't think I pressed my foot a bit but when I glanced again the speedometer read 280.

"I was so happy - and I knew you would be."

"Then I felt something like a thud, a jolt, a tug. I thought we had hit something but I didn't know what damage had been done. Suddenly I knew I had no rudder. Instantly I realized the wheel meant nothing. I wasn't steering. The bow whipped to the right and we shot for shore. Obviously, her width and her stabilizers kept her from spiraling or cork-screwing. We were upright but doom was right ahead."

"My dream, our dream, was over."

That is the way Les has talked but when I ask him for his thought about building a new boat, there is a gleam in his eye.

For me it is all right for Les as a builder to have that gleam but I don't want him to have it as a driver. He is too valuable to everybody, to his fine and loyal wife, Lois, his three children and to me because he is president of the Staudacher Marine Industries which I own. Further, he is 51 years old.

Les has nothing more to prove, not ability, not courage, not anything. He is the greatest race-boat builder of all time and he has test-driven every boat he has built.

That test-driving is what bothers me a little but we'll have to work that out. I know if I have Les build another Miss Stars and Stripes he will want to test-drive it. I'd rather he wouldn't.

Les and I have much in common and I know our common goal is to break the world record. He wants that achievement as much, I think, as I.

On his part, he has built the fastest prop-driven boats in the world.

But Les hasn't built the world's fastest boat and he knows it. That boat still is Campbell's Bluebird.

On my part, I, too, am driven both by a feeling of national pride and by one of frustration in that my country doesn't have the world record and I have not yet been able to get it for her.

In and around 1932 I had the feeling and the ambition to set the world record myself. I spent a lot of money trying with a hydrafoil design I still think was a good idea. Unofficially, I came close but I didn't break the record. I only wrecked the boat and escaped too much physical damage perhaps as luckily as Les.

I am now two years older than Les and insurance problems make it impossible for me to drive. That now is true of him. As president of the company, his premiums have increased and he has become too much of a risk.

So if we did built another boat who would drive it?

Les and I have talked that over, too. We even discussed it before his accident. I wanted him to have an understudy. I wanted him to have someone with his driving ability and nerve so he could watch the boat being driven by someone else. I wanted him to study its behavior at different speeds from the shore or from another boat.

We almost had come to an agreement when the accident happened. We'll have to take up the subject again.

(Next Month: What we'll do, who will do it and where we'll do it will be discussed in the third and final article).

[Reprinted from The World of Boat Racing, August, 1963, pp.7-8, 44]

[Note: I do not have the next part of this series. If any of you have this next section please let me know. --LF]


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