John Cobb Dies in Pursuit of Speed Mark
(The Great American Sports Book, 1978)
By George Gipe
Cobb also enjoyed powerboating and in September, 1952, decided to have a shot at breaking the existing record of 178.497 mph set by Stanley Sayres on July 7 with Slo-mo- shun IV on Lake Washington, Seattle. To be accepted as an official time, the mile course had to be covered twice -- once in each direction -- and the results averaged. Cobb was confident that he could shatter the mark if he could find a time when the waters of Loch Ness, Scotland, were so smooth that the full power of his jet-propelled Crusader could be applied without submitting the 31-foot aluminum and plywood craft to unbearable strain.
On September 29, at high noon, he thought the right moment had arrived. The 52-year-old sportsman entered his craft and roared down the first mile in just 17.4 seconds -- a rate of 206.89 mph. With any kind of luck at all, it was apparent that Cobb would shatter the speed record easily.
No sooner had Cobb finished the first mile, however, than the Crusader was seen to bounce slightly. It bounced twice more, then flew out of the water and disintegrated. In a matter of seconds, the debris created by the shattered boat settled onto the surface of the lake, smoke and mist rising from the whirlpool of destruction. Cobb was taken from the water quickly but his neck had been broken and he was dead before he reached shore.
One theory was that the bumps were caused by ripples in the otherwise perfectly smooth surface of the lake. Some spectators thought the engine exploded. Still others felt that when he completed the first mile, Cobb throttled down too rapidly, causing the Crusader's bow to dip, throwing the odd-shaped projectile out of line.
(Reprinted from the UHRA Thunder Letter Issue Number 347 Friday, March 27, 1998)
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