Duby Did It!
An Interview With The Record Holder
Since man invented the wheel, the airplane, the boat, he has tried to travel faster and faster and faster. Roy Duby's record that won't be broken, is another episode.
It's been 30 years this month since Duby roared through the traps at 200.419 mph. To commemorate the anniversary, Dave Taylor provided this interview. At the Madison Regatta ha 1987, they discussed Roy's racing career and his historic straightaway record aboard George Simon's Miss U.S. 1.
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Taylor: Welcome back to Madison.
Duby: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be back here another year. We really enjoy coming down here to watch the races each year.
You married a local girl. Tell us about her.
Yes, her name is Opal. Opal Buchanan was her maiden name, and she was born in Manville, a village out about 10 miles from town or so.
Is this the only race you get to from year to year?
Well, mostly, but I try to take in two, maybe three races a season.
How did you get started in boat racing?
I sort of graduated out of race cars. The racing at that time was sort of in a lull. Danny Foster out of Detroit was driving the Such Crust, and they were going to have another boat. He thought I might be interested in getting into boat racing. That's about 1950.
Before that you raced cars. What type of car racing were you involved in?
Mostly midgets and sprint cars.
Did you ever race cars against Bill Cantrell, who lives now in Madison? Bill raced cars and ran at the Indianapolis 500.
No. Our circuit was mostly up in Michigan, and I never did get into the central Midwest.
You've driven for a number of teams.
I started with Jack Shafer's Such Crust out of Detroit. I drove the Gales. I drove a race for Guy Lombardo in the Tempo VII.
That's the boat that won this race in 1955?
Yes, I was crew chief that year with Danny Foster driving.
What other teams did you drive for?
From the Gale team I went to the Miss U.S. team.
With the Miss U.S. team, you alternated as driver and crew chief, and you developed some systems for,the Rolls-Royce Merlin.
I improvised a fuel-injection system burning exotic fuels, which gave a lot more horsepower than you normally would get with gasoline. The system was used for many years in Indianapolis racing and midget racing.
You and Bill Cantrell came to Madison in the fall of 1961 before establishing the world record in Guntersville in 1962. 1 think he brought the Gale. The two of you had intentions of setting your boats up for a try at the world record. Right?
That is right. At that time, they had a tentative mile course with markers at the bridge and at the foot of Mill Street. The mile started right at the bridge. It ended at the foot of Mill Street. They had an old silo or coaldocking facility down there. We could use that for an observation mark.
In testing we found that the river had these turns, especially the right-hand turn on the reverse run. The boat didn't want to turn to the right because of the offset rudder. And we figured that it wasn't exactly the right place to run the speeds that we had to.
How far upriver did you have to start to build speed around the 200 mph figure?
Well, I believe I went back about five miles.
Upriver from Madison?
That is right, yes.
For a mile record, you'd have to run an average of two runs-one way, then the other going the reverse direction.
That is right. You have to make two consecutive runs. One with the wind, the other against the wind; or with and against the current whatever the situation happens to be.
I was a youngster, getting in the way with several of my friends while you and Cantrell were here. I remember what happened vividly. Bill pulled out early, but you stayed for another week or so still doing some testing. It was so cold that there was ice on the bow of the boat and frost on the supercharger.
It was two days before Thanksgiving. They had an early fall snow that year, and it was quite cold. In fact, the last morning we ran we had to sweep snow off the deck. I guess it was in the low 20s when we ran.
Later, after you set the record, you came back to Madison, and the city gave you a welcome-back reception. Mayor Lytle gave you the key to the city, and you gave a talk. You said that your speedometer was not working correctly and that maybe you had attained an unofficial 200 miles an hour right here in Madison.
Well, the highest speed on the speedometer was 195, and there wasn't an increase even when the engine ran several hundred rpm higher. We thought maybe the speedometer was at fault. In Guntersville, I found that you had to have so much reverse rudder to counteract the torque in the boat that the water pickup, which is on the rudder blade, would be on an angle. The water would bypass the tube, and after about 150 you didn't get much of a good reading; We overcame that by bending the tube on a reverse angle. So, with the rpm we had been running, we were doing in excess of 220 miles an hour.
Isn't that something? Two hundred twenty miles per hour on the Ohio River!
I believe I was running about 220 going under that bridge that last morning I ran.
What kind of experience is that when you're barreling down the river that fast?
I tell you, you don't have much visibility. You're sitting so low on the water in the boat. There's sort of a haze over the river. When you're running that fast, your eyes aren't trained to compensate for that kind of vibration and movement.
In April of 1962, you went to Lake Guntersville, Alabama. Tell us about that experience.
Well, at first we were going to go through a trap like the limited boats when they run in narrow rivers. We were going to run close to shore and use an electronic timing device. But we'd have to run into a funnel in the narrow area. I almost ran over a series of docks coming through there. So our owner, George Simon, decided that we'd have to do something different.
The day that you set the record, April 17, was the last day of the UIM sanction. It started to rain on your second rum
Yes, I had made a run upstream and got 206-something in the kilo, 204 or 205 in the mile. I went way up to the lake, turned and came back through the mile and kilo They told me that the mile didn't take. Spectators had stepped on the timing wiring. But they had me in the kilo at 217.8 mph.
So you had to make an extra run?
They said, "We owe you that rerun, but if you start it, that would cancel your kilo." I could have accepted the kilo run. The UIM would recognize either distance as the world's record. Well, I was shootin' for the mile, because Bill Muncey held that record. Jack Regas held the kilo record. So I had to start over.
It started raining, I think, or there was fog moving in when you made the last run. Your visibility was down to almost nothing.
Well, yes, it started to rain, and I had a little sleet there, too. I had to go up 15 miles to the head of the lake, and by the time I turned around and came back there was a big haze setting in like a fog.
I'm running along the river bank at about 150 trying to find directions, and I saw some white boat 'wales. I said to myself, "If I remember correctly that's not too far from the start of the mile, so damn if I'm going to do this I'd better get going." So I just stuck my foot in it, and away we went. I think I ran about three miles not knowing where in the heck I was.
Running 200 miles per hour, and you can't see where you're going! After that record run, you continued in boat racing for several years.
I think the last time I drove in competition was for Bernie Little at the Gold Cup in Detroit. His driver, Bill Brow, had been killed in Tampa that year.
We're happy that you came back to Madison, and we're excited that your record has stood for so many years. There's got to be a sense of satisfaction.
Well, it feels like a legend now, it's so darned long ago, you know. It's a good feeling in a way, but I'd like to see some body else go out and do it. There should be some boats right here in this regatta that would be capable of doing it.
(Reprinted with permission from the Unlimited NewsJournal April 1992)
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