1959 Harmsworth Trophy
Victory Drive Began in 1951
The principals behind the successful Canadian challenge that has seen the Harmsworth Trophy leave this country for the first time since 1920 are J. Gordon Thompson, his son Jim and Bob Hayward.
The Thompsons have been in the sport of unlimited powerboat racing since they purchased Harold Wilson’s Miss Canada IV in 1951. They changed the name of the boat to Miss Supertest. Thompson owns a Canadian oil refinery and a string of gas stations.
The original Miss Supertest served as a training ground. In 1954, the Thompsons introduced a new Miss Supertest. This was a three-point hydroplane built by Les Staudacher.
After campaigning the boat late in 1954 and throughout the 1955 season, the Thompsons issued a challenge for the Harmsworth race in 1956.
The boat never lived up to expectations and William Waggoner’s Shanty had no trouble keeping the trophy in the United States. Although the Supertest was raced in 1957, there was no challenge for the Harmsworth.
The Thompsons had learned a lot about powerboat racing in seven years. Over the past winter they set about building a boat they felt could handle the job.
This time the Thompsons built their own boat. Although basing his design on the second Miss Supertest, Jim Thompson did a great deal of refining on his own.
The boat was lighter and had innumerable little changes along the riding surface. Only on the exterior was the boat similar. Its first trial came in the Memorial Race here July 4.
Behind the wheel was Hayward, a farmer from Embro, Ont. A member of the Thompsons’ crew of mechanics, Hayward was given the driving assignment after driver Bill Braden was killed when the Supertest II exploded in 1957. [Correction: Braden was killed in the Duke of York Trophy Race for limited hydroplanes when his boat, Aerial V, was struck by Sir Ron II in 1958. —LF]
The boat showed real power as it defeated a good field to win the Thompsons’ first major trophy. The boat was held out of further competition, being prepared for the Harmsworth.
The 1956 challenge had seen the Thompsons borrow engines from the British government.
These engines had to be run according to government regulations. When they needed work, they were shipped back to England.
"This year we’ve bought a number of engines from the government," said Jim Thompson. "We can do anything to them we want."
The younger Thompson, who actually handles the racing end of the business, is undecided about what comes next. There may be an attempt at a straightaway record. Then there is a defense of the Harmsworth next year.
"I don’t know where the race will be held next year," said Thompson. "It will be up to the Canadian Boating Federation. We’ve held races before at Picton, Ont. It’s a good course, but bad for spectators."
(Reprinted from The Detroit News, August 28, 1959)
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