Miss Stars and Stripes II Crashes in Speed Run [1963]

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
Miss Stars & Stripes II, at rest
Miss Stars and Stripes II at speed
Miss Stars and Stripes II, 1963 after crashing
Miss Stars and Stripes II, 1963 after crashing
Miss Stars and Stripes II, 1963 after crashing
Miss Stars and Stripes II, 1963 after crashing
Miss Stars and Stripes II, 1963 after crashing
Miss Stars and Stripes II, 1963 after crashing
Miss Stars and Stripes II, 1963 after crashing
Tree, after being struck by Miss Stars and Stripes II, 1963

Alpena, Mich., May 17 [1963] (AP) — Robert B. Evans, the owner of Miss Stars and Stripes II, said today he would go ahead with his try for a world speed record on water if the builder-driver of the boat, Les Staudacher, was willing. Staudacher was injured seriously in a crackup of the hydroplane yesterday.

Staudacher's wife, Lois, said she felt the crash would encourage him to give up driving fast boats.

"I hope he gives it up," Mrs. Staudacher said at the Alpena Hospital, where the 51-year-old hydroplane driver was recovering.

Staudacher was injured when the rudder assembly on Miss Stars and Stripes came loose and the craft piled up on the wooded shore of near-by Hubbard Lake. The Kawkawlin (Mich.) driver suffered two broken legs, a broken hip, a broken left arm, a dislocated right shoulder and a broken hand bone. Doctors reported his condition was slightly improved today.

Evans said the boat was repairable. The accident came on a test run. Staudacher told his crew chief, Donald Morin, that the $100,000 hydroplane had surpassed the world speed record of 260.35 miles an hour set by Donald Campbell of England.

Morin said Staudacher told him he had the 5,800-pound craft up to 280 m.p.h., 20 miles over the record, just before the crash. Staudacher managed to jump clear of the craft and was found by his crew in knee-deep water about 100 feet from shore.

(Associated Press, May 17, 1963)

*  *  *

In 1959 when Robert Beverly Evans, President of the Nash Motor Company and a big Detroit industrialist, presented his world water speed record trophy to Donald Campbell, he warned that he intended to win it back for America as soon as possible. Bob Evans had been in speedboat racing since 1934, when with his father and brother, they had planned to wrest the Harmsworth Trophy from Gar Wood with a hydrofoil boat.

In 1960, his first attempt at Campbell's record was with Miss Stars and Stripes I, a prop-driven craft. From subsequent experience with thirty test models and by working in close cooperation with Lester Staudacher, Evans came up with the design of Miss Stars and Stripes II, which Alcoa decided to back with more than two tons of aluminium and engineering expertise.

It was encouragingly ironic that while Staudacher was putting the brand new craft through her initial tests at speeds of over 230mph on Saginaw Bay, a 30ft Gold Cupper which he had built almost ten years before, had just set a new WSR for prop-driven boats at 200.419 mph.

Miss U.S. I, a veteran regatta campaigner, owned by George Simon and the US Equipment Company of Detroit, had been taken to Lake Guntersville, Alabama, in early March 1962. Powered by a Rolls-Royce-Packard Merlin, engine mechanic Roy Duby had begun to work up the red, white and blue hydro past the 195 record which Hawaii Kai III had set up over five years before. By the 17th he was ready for his assault on the 200 mph barrier which so many prop-driven craft had failed to withstand.

On the first upstream run, Miss US I (U-2), made a speed of 204 mph. On the back-up run downsteam, Duby believed he hit 215 mph, but this peak was never recorded as the electric timing scanner broke down. Forced to make a third run with a slightly faltering engine he was only able to reach a disappointing 196.33. His average of 200.419 mph still stands today [1976] as the record for propeller-driven boats.

Exactly one year and one month after this, the fifty-year-old Staudacher was testing Miss Stars and Stripes II on 9-mile Lake Hubbard and had made two runs at around 180-200 mph when he decided to make a final flat-out run. At an estimated 280 mph the rudder assembly came loose, the boat veered off to the right and headed straight for the Michigan woods. Sitting in the forward cockpit, when Staudacher tried to climb out the wind pressure was so great that it kept pushing him back down again.

When he saw the land coming towards him, he made the supreme effort and rolled out of the boat. Miss Stars and Stripes II ran onto the shore, shearing off a tree and ploughing through dense underbrush. Staudacher was found knee-deep in water about 100ft from the shore. He was unconscious and had broken practically every bone in his body. To this day, [1976] he is partially crippled.

(Reprinted from The World Water Speed Record by Leo Villa and Kevin Desmond [B.T. Batsford Ltd., London 1976])

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