More Power to You
With a feeling of loss more personal than can be felt by many sports writers, I record the death of Lt. Col. Warner Gardner at Detroit on Sept. 9. Warner died of injuries sustained the previous day when lie drove the Gold Cup contender Miss Eagle Electric into an airborne flip while fighting for first place in the final heat.
My association with many of the unlimited hydro drivers dates back to the days when I occasionally refereed their races and, even earlier when I drove against a few of them. Gardner was one of the more recent converts to the business of driving unlimiteds. During part of his 25 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot and flight officer he had driven limited hydros as a hobby. More recently he devoted full time to unlimiteds following his retirement from military life.
I came to admire Warner most when, as an employee of Jim Herrington, he simultaneously acted as crew chief, driver, mechanic and truck driver for Mariner Too and Miss Lapeer. There are few men who could qualify for any one of these assignments.
Miss Eagle Electric had won the 1968 unlimited hydro races at Guntersville, Ala., Pasco, Wash., and Washington, D.C. Going into the climactic Gold Cup Race at Detroit, she trailed top-scoring Miss Bardahl by 400 points (5,900 to 6,300). Gardner had announced that the Detroit was "his" river where he "might take over first place."
I was not present when Warner took his fatal flip (my financial and physical budget covers only one Gold Cup race per year and I had been present when the originally scheduled 1968 race was blown out). Fortunately I missed the accident; watching four unlimited friends die in 1966 was more than a lifetime of horror.
Let's hope that this latest fatality is not going to provoke idiotic movements against boat racing. I'm sure that not one of those who have died in racing accidents would have felt that the sport should be curtailed. Let's do all we can to improve its safety, of course. But, in the name of American courage, let's not have it ruined by "dogooders."
(Reprinted from Yachting, November, 1968, p.34)
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© Leslie Field, 2001