1956 Harmsworth Trophy Race
U.S. Retains Harmsworth Trophy
William Waggoner's Shanty continued her all-winning career by capturing the British International (Harmsworth) Trophy on the Detroit River on Aug. 25, 27 and 28. Lt. Col. Russ Schleeh drove her to victory in two of the three races, thus successfully opposing the Canadian challenge of Bill Braden at the wheel of Gordon and James Thompson's Miss Supertest.
Supertest set a record never equalled by the many challengers who have visited this country in the 36 years we have continuously held the B.I.T.—she finished every race in the contest.
If records could be granted for determination and raw courage, Bill Braden would have broken them all for his handling of Miss Supertest. The Rolls Royce-powered Canadian boat is big (31 ft. in length, with a weight of more than three tons). She is the most powerful single-engined race boat ever to compete (3,000 hp.). And, for some reason, she is possessed of a wobbling, corkscrew action—sometimes combined with a porpoising motion.
Braden was subjected to a severe shaking in each of the three races, reaching a climax in the third event. On each succeeding lap of that finale Bill became more weary and ill. After crossing the finish line he shut off the engine and collapsed in the cockpit. He was rushed to the hospital and treated for shock and exhaustion. Fortunately no internal injuries developed and he was discharged the next day.
Supertest was over first at the start of the opening race, Aug. 25, and held her lead through the first turn. Early on the first backstretch Schleeh passed Braden. As soon as the Canadian craft was compelled to ride in Shanty's wake, she became a nearly-unmanageable thing. Schleeh continued to increase his lead for the remainder of the 35 nautical mile race, although his speed was diminished lap after lap. Shanty’s average speed for the race was 94.772; Supertest's 89.313.
On Aug. 27, the second race again saw Braden lead over the starting line, although Schleeh was close behind and moving faster. Shanty went out in front before reaching the first turn and rounded the first lap at a Harmsworth record speed of 110.357 (old record of 102.676 set in 1950 by Lou Fageol in Slo-mo-shun IV).
But Shanty ran barely a mile after completing that first round before a gear in her accessory housing quit. Supertest completed the race at a conservative pace to average 83.258 and even the series.
The decisive third race was run on Aug. 28. Even after a 30-minute postponement the race course was too rough for comfort in an unlimited hydro. For the third time Braden beat Schleeh to the start, and this time he was most reluctant to give up the lead. For three-quarters of that first lap Supertest showed her heels to the American boat.
Then Schleeh made his bid, moved into first spot and stayed there. Shanty's first lap speed was 97.869; Supertest's 96.672. From that point on the smooth-riding Waggoner entry toured the course with ease, while Thompson's impressive challenger beat her driver mercilessly.
(Reprinted from Yachting, October 1956)
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