Miss Supertest 50th Anniversary Celebration August 6-7-8, 2011 – In Picton, Ontario

Miss Supertest driver Bob Hayward

The folks up in Canada take their vintage hydroplane history very seriously.  A few weeks ago Woody Boater ran a story about the historic Greavette hydroplane named “Miss Canada IV”.  In early July the unique 1949 33′ two-step design by Douglas Van Patten was relocated back to her original home in Gravenhurst, Ontario to be restored for her film debut in “Harold and Lorna.”  The upcoming television docudrama is about the lives of its original owner/driver Harold Wilson, his racing mechanic wife Lorna and the amazing racing dynasty spearheaded by Harold’s father Ernest Wilson.

The Town of Gravenhurst hosted a “Welcome Home” event for “Miss Canada IV” in conjuction with the Toronto Chapter ACBS Antique & Classic Boat Show and proclaimed it as “Miss Canada IV Day.” (To see the “Miss Canada IV” story on Woody Boater you can click here)

After Harold & Lorna Wilson retired from competitive racing in 1950, the Wilson family sold “Miss Canada IV” to J. Gordon Thompson of Sarnia, Ontario. “Miss Canada IV” was then raced by the Thompson’s as the original “Miss Supertest” in 1952 & 1953. This was the first of three legendary hydroplanes to race under the name of “Miss Supertest” campaigned by J. Gordon Thompson.

“Miss Supertest III” was undefeated in the four races that she entered, the 1959 Detroit Memorial Regatta and the 1959-60-61 Harmsworth Trophy races. With Bob Hayward driving, “Miss Supertest III” started in ten heats, finished first in eight of them and placed second twice, a remarkable record for the period.

Bob Hayward aboard Miss Supertest idling near shore.

On August 6,7,& 8 the Prince Edward Chamber of Tourism & Commerce in Picton, Ontario has organized a three day event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Miss Supertest III”. To help make this event even better, the Toronto Chapter ACBS has joined forces with the Trent-Severn Antique and Classic Boat Association and the Manotick Boat Club for a Rendezvous in Picton on August 6th and 7th, 2011.

Kathy Rhodes the Editor of Classicboat Magazine (the Toronto Chapter ACBS quarterly publication) sent us this great article on “Miss Supertest III” written by Terry Clifton for Classicboat magazine.

Canada Post will Honour the Legendary Race Boat Supertest III – Join us August 6 & 7

This August, 50 years since her last visit here, Canada’s most famous race boat “Miss Supertest III” will once again make waves in Picton, Ontario. Canada Post is marking the 50th anniversary of her international racing victories on Monday, August 8, 2011 with the release of a commemorative stamp at the conclusion of a celebration weekend in Picton. The community was the site of two of the legendary unlimited hydroplane’s greatest victories in 1960 and 1961.

Gar Wood looking over Miss Supertest during the 1959 Harmsworth

The launch of the stamp is part of a weekend of events celebrating this Canadian sports achievement, the members of the Thompson family, who owned and designed the three Miss Supertest boats, and the late Bob Hayward, the boat’s popular driver, who died tragically during a race on the Detroit River in Miss Supertest II just weeks after his last Harmsworth Trophy at Picton. Following his death, the Supertest boats were retired.

The last of them, Miss Supertest III faded from view after being on display at the Ontario Science Centre, with only occasional public appearances. This will be a chance for a whole new generation to discover this Canadian icon as well as many other vintage racing boats expected to be on display that weekend in Picton.

Start of the 2nd race in the 1959 Harmsworth at Detroit

In 1957, Miss Supertest l set a world water speed record of 184.494 M.P.H. (still a Canadian record) piloted by Art Asbury. In 1959, 1960, and 1961, Miss Supertest, driven by Bob Hayward, thrilled dignitaries and tens of thousands of enthusiastic spectators as she raced to victory against her American competitors for the international Harmsworth Trophy.

Miss Supertest III during the 1959 Harmsworth race on the Detroit River

Powered by a 2000 H.P. V12 Rolls Royce Griffon engine originally used in the late model versions of Britain’s legendary Spitfire aircraft during the Second World War, this boat was built for speed and to break the American domination of the sport.

Miss Supertest has the inside position in Race 3 of the 1959 Harmsworth


Bob Hayward gets the checkered flag to win the third and deciding race.


Gar Wood presents the 1959 Harmsworth Trophy to Bob Hayward in Detroit
Above, legendary racer and Harmsworth Trophy winner from the 1920’s – Gar Wood presents the 1959 Harmsworth Trophy to Bob Hayward in Detroit.

Her first victory in the Detroit River in 1959 ended a string of American racing successes that stretched back unbroken for 39 years. Miss Supertest III will be the centrepiece of a weekend of events August 6, 7, 8 at Picton. An antique boat show is planned together with a memorial service for Bob Hayward, the postage stamp release, and the showing of a new documentary about the famous Canadian boats.

Don’t miss your opportunity to be part of this historic event.

By Terry Clifton / Classicboat Magazine

Thanks to Terry Clifton and Kathy Rhodes of Classicboat Magazine for sharing this story with us.

Below is the event poster provided by Diane Stuart Denyes-Wenn and the Prince Edward Chamber of Tourism & Commerce.  For more information on the upcoming “Miss Supertest III” Celebration, you can go directly to their web site by clicking here.  You can click on the poster below to slightly enlarge the image.

Below is a cool YouTube video about “Miss Supertest III” which was also provided by the Thompson Family.


The images & YouTube Video for this story are courtesy of the Mariners Park Museum / Thompson Family Collection in Milford, Ontario.

If you are planning to be in the Southern Ontario area in a few weeks, plan to stop by and support all the folks and organizations who are working hard behind the scenes to make this event a success.


15 replies
  1. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    Texx, thanks for the story. It’s a part of history that I hadn’t known of until now. The photo of Gar Wood presenting the Harmsworth Trophy to Bob Hayward is amazing. The very trophy that Gar Wood had earned many times in the past being given to the Canadian must have been a bittersweet moment for him and a very proud moment for Hayward and all of Canada.

  2. Mike M
    Mike M says:

    I love that picture of Gar Wood checking the boat out. You can only imagine how fast the already fast wheels in his head were spinning…..

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    When (if) I get old, will someone please remind me not to pull my pants up even with my elbows?

    Thank you!

  4. newly addicted
    newly addicted says:

    Better your elbows than your knees as is the current fashion of the youth. I commended a group of them the other day for being in trade school at such a young age. When they asked the “old man” what I was talking about, I replied that the only people I knew that showed crack like that where plumbers and I assumed that they were apprentices.

  5. Texx
    Texx says:

    I forgot to note that the image of “Miss Supertest III” we used for today’s cover shot shows that the vintage hydroplane had a Rear View Mirror…

    In the mid 1950’s during a record setting speed run, “Miss Supertest II” was leaving behind a 600-foot rooster tail of flying water and spray that at its peak reached a height of nearly 60 feet. Speed for the run was 186.4 mph. WooHooo!

  6. steven balcer
    steven balcer says:

    And think The record was set at 202 mph in the miss US unlimited hydroplane by Roy Duby. I got to meet him just before he past away. What an interesting time period in boat racing.
    In the late 80’s I worked for a raceboat co. in kawkawlin Mi. that built the super test hull. When I worked for them the story I got told it was built in Canada so it would qualify for the harmsworth. So each day till it was done Less Staudacher would take his crew from Kawkawlin to just over the border in Canada to build the hull.
    I am glad to see that these old race hulls got saved. Tons of history.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks Steven – Lots of interesting history surrounding these old vintage hydros, it’s great!

      We are planning to cover the vintage hydroplane events in Lake Coeur d”Alene, Idaho in August and historic Lake Chelan, Washington at the end of September.

      The folks at from the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Seattle put on a first class event.

  7. Robin M
    Robin M says:

    “The folks up in Canada take their vintage hydroplane history very seriously.” Please dont forget the 102nd Anniversary of the Rideau Ferry Regatta, which is located midway between Kingston and Ottawa on the Historic Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Info can be found here: http://www.vintageraceboatshop.com/RideauFerry-2011.htm
    Maybe Texx should take a drive. And yes, they DO take their boating History seriously.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks for the “Heads Up” Robin. The Flathead with the quad carbs in F-77 on the link looks very cool!

  8. Robin M
    Robin M says:

    Your Welcome Texx. Last time i chatted with the organizer, Scott Cameron, a few months back, he was working on having Miss SuperTest attend the Regatta. Not sure if thats happening or not. Hope to see you there.

  9. Harry Wilson
    Harry Wilson says:

    As much as it pleases me to see Canada trumpeted in these articles, it is more important to note that the racing fraternity is international, borderless. How wonderful it was to see the likes of Tom D’eath, all the way from Taveres Florida, up in Picton to honour Bob Hayward, Jim Thompson and the Supertest family. He was not the only visitor from south of the border… Long may we all honour our collective racing histories, from stock outboards to unlimiteds as well as the glorious wooden boats of our recreational past.

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