1960 Harmsworth Trophy
Lake Ontario, Picton, Ontario, August 19-20, 1960
Canada Keeps Harmsworth … And How!
|Despite having to contend with three U.S. challengers the Canadian Miss Supertest III turned race into runaway romping home far ahead of the Americans; reporter LeDuc, whose critical eye has witnessed many of these motorboating competitions, pinpoints the U.S. troubles and suggests what might be done for '61|
When is a race not a race? When it's the 1960 competition for the Harmsworth International Trophy, held by Canada and challenged for by the United States. It was a runaway: the U.S. had quantity, Canada had quality, and quality prevailed.
Miss Supertest III, owned by James Gordon Thompson and his son, James, both of London, Ont., was the Canadian defender against this U.S. challenge, the first since Gar Wood defeated England in 1920. Supertest is the boat that defeated Uncle Sam's then unlimited hydroplane champion, Maverick, in 1959, thus giving to Canada the trophy that had stayed in the United States for 39 years.
The U.S. sent to Picton, Ont., this August, a team of three boats to race against the single Canadian defender, an advantage permitted by rules which the Yachtsmen's Association of America generously waived for Canada in 1959 with the understanding that the waiver was for one year only.
At Picton on paper the odds looked unfair but on water the paper was all wet.
The U.S. boats were Nitrogen and Nitrogen Too, both owned by Samuel W. Dupont of Wilmington, Del., and Gale V, owned by Joseph A. Schoenith of Detroit.
The three U.S. drivers were Norm Evans, 35, of Wenatchee, Wash., in Nitrogen; Ron Musson, 28, of Akron, 0., in Nitrogen Too; and the veteran Bill Cantrell, 52, in Gale V.
Canada's knight in crash helmet and life jacket was Bob Hayward, 32, of Embro, Ont., once a chicken farmer whose life gave him a face as kind and as shy as a boyish seminarian's.
The course on Quinte Bay, sheltered by high hills on both sides, was laid out on a stretch of water called The Long Reach. On the chart its shape was that of the Indianapolis Speedway but it was of five statute miles, with 2¼-mile straightaways and 1400-foot turns.
Thousands on the hills watched the contest below.
Hordes of Canadian dignitaries were present for the opening race on Friday, from Canada's prime minister to Ontario's premier. Gar Wood was a special guest, as was Britain's walking vegetarian. Dr. Barbara Moore. The host was Picton's mayor, Harvey J. McFarland.
Neither race — it was to be a 2 out of 3 affair — demands much description, each was so one-sided. All three U.S. boats started the first race. Supertest stayed clear of traffic and Nitrogen crossed the line first but not much distance separated any of them. The 7000-foot run to the first turn and the 2¼-mile ride up the backstretch gave Supertest what she needed to get her roostertail high. She turned the first lap at 124.82 mph and the second at 122.03 mph, the fastest lap speeds ever made in motorboat racing. By that time her lead was so well established that on the eighth lap Hayward throttled down to as low as 108.82 mph, but took Supertest back up to 114.36 mph on the ninth and final lap, a gesture of the confidence he had in his craft.
The winning Supertest averaged 117.09 for the race. Gale V, finishing second, averaged 115.51 mph; Nitrogen Too, third, 108.87. No time was taken on Nitrogen but her best lap was her third, 110.29 mph.
The second race on Saturday started with only the Nitrogens opposing Miss Supertest. Gale V fired once for Cantrell near her pit just before the five-minute gun; then she quit.
A disgusted Cantrell, helmet off, stood on Gale's deck and watched Nitrogen and Nitrogen Too cross the starting line together, both ahead of Supertest.
On the second lap, however, Hayward boosted Supertest's revs to average 126.22 mph, another world lap record.
By this time the Nitrogens were nowhere. Too's engine packed up on the fifth lap. Nitrogen averaged only 109.98 mph for this race.
The superb Supertest, under restraint for the last two laps to average 115.48 mph, had kept the Harmsworth in Canada.
The records Supertest broke were her own. On Detroit's three-mile course in 1959 the same Supertest set a lap mark of 109.334 and a race standard of 104.098 mph.
One Toronto columnist called the race a farce. Well, there have been worse Harmsworths, as the publisher of this magazine, Charles F. Chapman, well knows — he officiated in them in Detroit away back when. . . .
At least all the U.S. challengers started and finished the first race. At least one U.S. boat was running when the second race ended. Yes, there have been worse Harmsworth challenges. But not many. England tried seven times in the 1920s and '30s to get back from the U.S. motorboat racing's most historic emblem of competition on water. Seven times England failed. Canada tried three times after World War II, finally winning on the Detroit River in 1959.
The trouble with the U.S. challengers this year was not in their hulls nor in their drivers. It was in their power and in the method of the challenge itself.
The Nitrogens each had what are called "stock" Allisons. Gale had what is termed a souped-up Allison. The Nitrogens burned aviation gas and could go the 45 miles on about 120 gallons but couldn't accelerate or rev along with Gale, to say nothing of staying with Supertest.
Gale, on the other hand, mixed methanol with gas but burned it so fast (she got only a mile out of four gallons) that she had to carry 170 gallons of fuel, increasing her weight by 500 pounds. She carried two extra 35-gallon tanks; normally she carries two 50-gallon tanks.
Canada's defender in contrast was powered with a Rolls Royce Griffon, the type used in the famous Spitfire fighter planes in World War II.
Turning only 2800-3000 rpms, she forced the Allisons to rpms above 4000 on the long straightaways. Miss Supertest used only 100 gallons of fuel per race, her owner said.
Moreover, the defense was better planned than was the challenge.
Miss Supertest was tested for the Harmsworth and saved for the Harmsworth.
The owners of the American boats didn't know until the last week in July that their boats were to be the challengers. That was when the YAA, governing U.S. body, picked the team. The boats had been racing half the summer on three-mile courses and in fifteen-mile heats. Their crews had no time to plan for Picton. Not until they got there, three days before the first race, did they get a chance to run on a 45-mile course. Not one of the three ran the full 45 miles in practice. All they did was run laps, measure the fuel used and then estimate the gallonage needed.
Obviously, this was not an efficient way to press a U.S. challenge.
The rules change for 1961, and if there is a challenge only one boat will be allowed to a country.
This change moves the experienced Bill Cantrell to suggest that the YAA invite interested U.S. owners to file notice of desire to challenge as early this year as possible. That done, the YAA could select the boat deemed most representative and tell the chosen owner to go to work on a 1961 race. That done, the YAA formally could issue the U.S. challenge to Canada, which must be done before Jan. 1.
A one-boat choice again would have to be restricted to a craft with an engine of American design. Such unlimiteds as Miss Thriftway, Miss Wahoo, Miss U.S. and Hawaii Kai are not eligible. They have in them Packard-Merlin engines and the Merlin was designed in England.
But jets will be eligible next year and, with enough time, an owner might jet-power a hull to give Miss Supertest a stronger run for the money.
Right now it looks as if the Harmsworth is the Maple Leaf's forever.
(Reprinted from Motor Boating, October 1960)
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