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Canada's Miss Supertest III - The Harmsworth Champion

By Fred Farley - Unlimited Hydroplane Historian

One of the all-time favorite Unlimited hydroplanes, the Canadian MISS SUPERTEST III was undefeated in the four races that she entered during her abbreviated career.

She won the 1959 Detroit Memorial Regatta and the 1959-60-61 Harmsworth Trophy races. With Bob Hayward driving, the "III" started in ten heats, finished first in eight of them and placed second twice.

The only two boats ever to finish ahead of the smooth-riding MISS SUPERTEST III were MISS BARDAHL with Jack Regas driving in the second heat of the Detroit Memorial and MAVERICK with Bill Stead driving in the second heat of the 1959 Harmsworth.

MISS SUPERTEST III was designed by her owner J. Gordon Thompson and built by her crew, headed by crew chief Vic Leghorn. The "III" was intended strictly for Harmsworth competition. Her only non-Harmsworth appearance--the Detroit Memorial--was for the purpose of qualifying for the 1959 Harmsworth event.

The Harmsworth Trophy is officially named the British International Trophy and is technically a race between nations, rather than individual boats. First contested in 1903, it predates the APBA Gold Cup by one year. The Harmsworth is traditionally emblematic of the speedboat championship of the world. The legendary Gar Wood won this race eight times as a driver and nine times as an owner between 1920 and 1933 with his various MISS AMERICA boats.

When MISS SUPERTEST III won the 1959 Harmsworth Trophy for Canada at Detroit in 1959, it ended 39 years of U.S. domination.

In the 1960 Harmsworth race at Picton, Ontario, MISS SUPERTEST III set a world lap speed record of 126.226 miles per hour on a 5-statute-mile course.

The MISS SUPERTEST team was the first to achieve winning results with Rolls-Royce Griffon power. The MISS BUDWEISER team did likewise between 1980 and 1985.

The original MISS SUPERTEST was the former MISS CANADA IV, built in 1949. She was a step hydroplane and stricly an "also-ran."

MISS SUPERTEST II was a Les Staudacher creation that challenged for the Harmsworth in 1956. With Bill Braden driving, she was defeated in a best-two-out-of-three-heat contest at Detroit by the U.S. defender SHANTY I with driver Russ Schleeh.

The "II" did win three minor races: the 1956 Prince Edward Trophy at Picton with Braden, the 1957 Buffalo Launch Club Trophy with Art Asbury, and the 1958 St. Clair International Trophy with Hayward. Only Eastern boats participated in these races. None of the faster West Coast boats were present.

The highlight of MISS SUPERTEST II's career was her world kilometer straightaway record of 184.494 with Asbury at Picton in 1957. The record stood for exactly 28 days when it was eclipsed by Jack Regas in HAWAII KAI III, which did 195.329..

An interesting anecdote that is told about MISS SUPERTEST II is the roundabout way in which she compled with the Harmsworth rule, which states that a challenging boat must be built in the country that it represents. Every day during the construction phase, Staudacher and his helpers would pile into an automobile and drive from Kawkawlin, Michigan, to Sarnia, Ontario, where they built the boat and--in so doing--complied with the letter of the rule if not the spirit of it.

After winning his third straight Harmsworth race with MISS SUPERTEST III at Picton in 1961, Colonel Jim Thompson announced his intention to send the "III" to Seattle in 1962 to challenge Bill Muncey and MISS CENTURY 21 for the Gold Cup.

Unfortunately, this plan never reached fruition. Four weeks after winning the 1961 Harmsworth Trophy with MISS SUPERTEST III, Bob Hayward was fatally injured driving MISS SUPERTEST II in the Silver Cup at Detroit.

After the "III" was built, the Thompsons had never planned to run MISS SUPERTEST II again. But since there was such a strong sentiment for the team to appear, Colonel Jim relented and sent the "II" to several races during 1960 and '61.

Following Hayward's death, the team retired after eleven years in the sport. And the MISS SUPERTEST boats never raced again.  

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