1966 President's Cup
Potomac River, Washington D.C., June 19, 1966
Ron Musson's world exploded at 146 miles per hour Sunday. That pretty well says it all: he died going fast, which figures.
As you may have noticed here before, I am not sympathetic with any kind of racing except foot racing. People who pursue mechanized speed seem, to me, to, have the death wish and when they die, it is as if they had finally attained their final target.
God made man and He gave him a restricted speed. But then man made the machine and he has been using it to destroy himself ever since and there is really nothing God can do about it.
Yesterday, three men died entertaining people at speeds for which they would have been arrested, had they been not performing in a sanctioned boat race.
One of the three was Ron Musson, and when a friend phoned my house to report the death of Musson and the complete destruction of his boat, Miss Bardahl, we both felt a twinge of sadness because we had met Musson just a few weeks ago.
We had driven to Seattle, actually, to see the boat, Miss Bardahl, which was being overhauled. It was propped up, incongruously, on a couple of battered old oil cans but even treated so cavalierly, it looked awesomely powerful.
From 12 Horses to 3,000
While we marvelled at this costly 33 feet of sleek beauty, Musson came in from lunch. Somehow, he just didn't look like the right kind of man to handle that much boat. His fingernails weren't dirty, for one thing. And he looked too short and too full of relaxed fun and too dapper. He was wearing an obviously expensive tailored suit that had his initials embroidered on the jacket cuff and his soft shoes, with the extra thick heels, looked as if they might have been manufactured by Tinker Bell.
He made it known immediately that he was a class guy. He expressed loud disappointment that we hadn't been there earlier so that he could have taken us to lunch because, he explained, the lobster tails at Rosselliniís that day were the best he could remember and he had discovered a wonderful new Chablis.
Then he started talking shop. He walked around Miss Bardahl, touching her familiarly, as if she might be a horse, or a woman. In answer to a question, he explained that the first boat he had driven himself, when he was 15 years old, had been a little dinghy with a 12-horse outboard. "Twelve horses," he roared, as if amazed that he might ever, at any time, have been so square as to bother with anything with that little power.
He explained that the souped-up aircraft engines he used on Bardahl generated 3,000 horsepower. He said that the average life of an engine was two hours. We didn't ask him about the average life of a driver.
New Boat Needs New Techniques
He told us about the new experience of driving the new Miss Bardahl, with its rear engine mounting and how he was working out with weights every day to build up the strength of his arms because some times it was necessary to steer a boat by main force.
And he told about his pride in his crew, the guys in the white overalls who kept the boat in shape for him. He said, as I recall, "It is important to have a close relationship with the crew because, quite often, when there is an accident, or a boat conks out, it is because the boat wasn't capable of doing what the driver wanted it to do. Only a close driver-crew communication can avoid this misunderstanding."
We asked him how long he thought he could stay on top in the boat racing business.
He said, with easy confidence, "Well, with this rear-engine mounting, I have to learn a whole new set of driving techniques. But, as for me staying on top, would you believe 10 years."
Up to yesterday, I would have.
(Reprinted from the Vancouver Sun, June 20, 1966)
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