Miss Supertest III – the Best Boat in the World

Miss Supertest III celebrates 60 years


June 27, 2019

Racing enthusiasts celebrate Miss Supertest III, 60 years after the Canadian boat and driver seized the title and wouldn’t let go

It’s a feat that has never been repeated, a single boat winning the world’s most prestigious boat racing trophy three years in a row. And it all began 60 years ago this summer.

Miss Supertest III was an all-Canadian success story, a triumph of engineering, design, and driving. Built in London, Ontario and driven by a farmer-mechanic from Ingersoll, it beat the best boats the American racing world could produce and did it so often that eventually the Harmsworth Cup was retired for 16 years: there were no challengers that could beat it.

That amazing history is being celebrated this year. Murray Walker purchased Miss Supertest III two years ago to ensure this Canadian success story remained in this country. Now he’s presenting her at a few select showings this summer and encouraging others to learn more about this remarkable chapter in our sporting and engineering heritage.

Miss Supertest III“In the late 1950s and early 1960s, unlimited hydroplane racing was a huge sport,” says Walker. “Some races drew tens of thousands of spectators. But a lot of that history has been forgotten. We want to help new audiences taste some of that excitement.”

Miss Supertest III will never race again. But even displayed on land, she is an impressive beast. Just over 30 feet of gleaming wood, she’s powered by a 2,800 hp Rolls Royce Griffin V-12 airplane engine; it’s impossible not to imagine her screaming across the water at 170 miles an hour.

It is nearly inconceivable that Bob Hayward, her driver, was a mechanic who drove his first race just one year before piloting Miss Supertest III to victory. And that her designer, Jim Thompson, had never designed a race boat on his own before taking up the challenge with Miss Supertest III

“Jim Thompson and his father, Gordon, got the bug for boat racing in the early 1950s,” Walker explains. “They poured a small fortune – and thousands of hours – into racing two earlier Miss Supertest boats before they unveiled Miss Supertest III in 1959.”

The team set a world speed record with Art Asbury at the wheel of their second Miss Supertest – a record which remains the Canadian water speed record, 61 years later. And in three successive summers, from 1959 to 1961, they beat the best in the world with Miss Supertest III.  This summer, the first of those races will be celebrated in a special twitter feed, @MSRaces1959, where the 1959 races will be “live” tweeted on August 25-27.

Canada Post StampCanada Post honoured Miss Supertest III in 2011

Winning the Harmsworth Cup was the Thompsons’ dream, but it all came to a tragic end just two months after their third Harmsworth victory. Driver Bob Hayward was at the wheel of the older Miss Supertest II, racing on the Detroit River. The boat veered off the course at 80 mph and rolled. Hayward was killed instantly.

The Thompsons retired from racing, and Jim focused on running the family business, Supertest Petroleum. In 1967 Miss Supertest III was put on display at the Ontario Science Centre, spending nearly 40 years there before going back into storage.

Miss Supertest III will be shown at the Antique and Classic Boat Society show in Gravenhurst on July 6, at Port Sandfield Marina in Muskoka on July 13 and 14, and at the Rideau Ferry Vintage Race Boat Regatta on August 17 and 18. Plans are also underway to establish a Canadian RaceBoat Hall of Fame, with Miss Supertest III as a central exhibit.

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