1959 Harmsworth Trophy
Maverick’s Driver Confident
International power boating’s most important race will begin today on the Detroit River when the U.S. boat Maverick defends the Harmsworth Trophy against the challenge of Canada’s Miss Supertest III.
Behind the wheel of the Maverick will be 34-year-old Nevada rancher Bill Stead, who has climbed to the top of the highly competitive field of hydroplane racing.
In The Detroit News Sports Quiz, conducted yesterday by staff members Harry LeDuc, Larry Middlemas and Paul Preuss, the soft-spoken Stead gave his impressions on the upcoming duel.
• You lost to Miss Supertest last month in the Detroit Memorial Regatta. Is your boatperforming better now?
"Much better. It’s a new boat, you know, and we were experimenting here before. That was a poor performance (two seconds and a third in the three heats). Now it’s running excellently. You can see that by the way we won the Gold Cup in Seattle a few weeks ago. Of course, Supertest may be much better, too."
• This will be your first try at a two-boat race. Will you change your driving strategy?
"I think of the Harmsworth as strictly between two boats, not two drivers. Some of the driving tactics that we consider proper in a bigger field might be questionable here. Because of the international prestige of the Harmsworth, I wouldn’t think of doing anything that would cheapen the victory. If I have the faster boat, I’ll win. If Bob Hayward (Supertest’s driver) has the faster boat, he’ll win."
• Well, won’t you find a few things different, like fewer roostertails to contend with?
"Yes, that’s true. But maybe you’ve noticed, most races turn into two-boat affairs. Usually two boats are better than the rest and pull away from the pack. Of course, the start and first turn will be just as important as in any other race."
• How about the spectator angle? Will two boats put on as good a show as, say, the GoldCup or Silver Cup?
"Maybe not, if one boat is much faster than the other. There’s too much at stake to slow up and make a race of it. In other races, if a couple of drivers know they have the best boats, they may say, ‘Let’s give the people a show.’ That is, we’ll still race, but the driver who gets in front will be satisfied just to hold the lead without building up a big margin. Here, if I can pour it on, I’ll do it."
• Will you make your own start in the race or will you base it on what Miss Supertest isdoing?
"I’ll definitely make my own start. The two boats undoubtedly accelerate differently."
• Hayward had Supertest out on the river late yesterday practicing runs with the sun in hiseyes. Have you done the same?
"The sun hasn’t bothered me in any of the late afternoon races, like the last heat of the Gold Cup. I wear an Air Force smoked-glass face mask, and it cuts down reflections."
• Driver fatigue often plays a part in races. Might those long, 45-mile heats bother you?
"It’s true I’ve never driven anything longer than a 30-mile heat, but I did three of them in one day to win the Gold Cup and felt fine. I could have gone another one."
• The Yachtmen’s Association could have awarded the Harmsworth race to any site itchose. Are you satisfied with the Detroit River?
"It makes no difference to me. I’ll always go along with what the majority wants."
• Is the Detroit course more difficult than others?
"I wouldn’t say more difficult, but it is different. It’s the only course with a wide turn at one end and a very narrow turn at the other end. Anyplace else, the turns are the same. But as I say, it makes no difference. It’s the same course for both boats."
• The river gets pretty choppy sometimes. How does Maverick handle in rough water?
"I’m not worried. The roughest water we’ve seen this year was at Lake Coeur d’Alene (Ida.). Five boats were damaged and three drivers went to the hospital. We led all the way and set a course record."
• While we’re discussing rough water — Miss Supertest weighs about 1,000 pounds morethan Maverick. Will that give the Canadians any advantage if it’s rough?
"Not necessarily. Sometimes a heavy boat can pound too much in rough water. Look what happened in the last Harmsworth in 1956 when Col. Russell Schleeh won in the Shanty. Bill Braden ended up in the hospital after the rough ride he had in the old Supertest."
• Maverick has run more than 200 miles in competition this year, while Miss Supertest’sonly race was the 45-mile Detroit Memorial. Do you have an advantage there?
"I think so. You need competition. You can’t learn what your boat can do, just running around by yourself. But the Canadians have only one boat and couldn’t afford to have something happen to it. We had to race even to be picked to represent the U.S."
• Which race would you rather win, the Harmsworth or the Gold Cup?
"Oh, the Gold Cup. It means much more in the United States. But internationally there’s more prestige to the Harmsworth. It’s a great honor to defend the trophy for this country."
• You rank it second to the Gold Cup then?
"Yes. We’re going all out for the Harmsworth now. Originally, Waggoner (owner William Waggoner) told us to skip the Silver Cup here this Saturday. He was afraid we might hold something back because of another race coming up."
• You won’t be here Saturday?
"Yes, we will, after all. He changed his mind, but he still said forget the Silver Cup until this race is over. We’ll also go to Buffalo (Sept. 5-6), but we’ll skip the President’s Cup at Washington and the race at Madison, Ind."
• Why? Won’t that cost you points toward the season championship?
"Waggoner won’t go there because there have been bad crackups. Maybe we’ll skip Coeur d’Alene next year, since Jack Regas was hurt."
• Let’s get back to comparing the Harmsworth boats. What are some of the changes youhave made since you were here in July?
"We’ve done a lot of work on the underside, changing the rudder, experimenting with design, adding a spoiler fin, moving the center of gravity. The boat has been completely rebalanced."
• Are you satisfied with it?
"I could use another 10 or 15 miles an hour of peak speed on the straight-\aways. We’ll get it eventually. It usually takes a year to get the maximum performance out of a boat."
• How about your acceleration?
"That’s tremendous. I just ran away from everyone on the turns in the Gold Cup."
• Well, how about Supertest? What were your impressions in the Memorial Regatta?
"It’s a good high-performance boat with a good engine and a good crew. This is the third boat the Thompsons (J. Gordon and his son Jim) have owned, and they’ve been learning more with each one."
• Maverick is one of the few boats to continue using an Allison engine. The Canadianboat, as well as many American boats, use Rolls Royce power plants. Are you satisfied with the Allison?
"We’ve won more races at higher speeds than any other boat this year. Supertest’s engine is higher powered than the Rolls used by American boats, but I think we have enough to match it."
• How much damage could you sustain and come back for the next race?
"Just about anything except turning over and ripping all the decking off. Even if the boat should sink, we probably could get it ready again. We have three engines, one for each race. We brought special plywood for patching the hull, our special band saws, other tools and so on. It takes only an hour and a half to change engines."
• How big is your crew?
"Seven men, four paid and three volunteers. Ricky Iglesias, our crew chief, used to work for Ray Crawford at Indianapolis. Bill Newman builds our engines."
• How important is the crew?
"More important than the driver. Most races are won in the work they do beforehand. I just prove whether they were right."
• Most races are run in heats of 15 miles except the Gold Cup which has 30-mile heats.Each Harmsworth race is 45 miles. Do you expect any fuel problem?
"No. We built the boat with the Harmsworth in mind. We carry 200-gallon tanks."
• Changing the subject, what do you think is responsible for the decline of Detroit boats?
"It’s a strange thing. I thought this might be their year in the Gold Cup. Detroit has good boats, and its drivers are better than any we have in the West. They just don’t seem to get the breaks."
• Now that you’ve taken the Gold Cup to Lake Mead, do you think it will be a good racethere?
"It should be. There’s a lot of money in that Las Vegas area. Water conditions usually are good, although it’s too hot to run in the summer. That’s why the Gold Cup will be in October."
• How did a rancher like yourself get started in boat racing?
"I used to fool around with Chris Crafts and the like on Lake Tahoe. In1949 I bought an old unlimited from Stanley Dollar. In 1952 I bought Morland Visel’s old Hurricane."
• Do you think you’ll be at it much longer?
"No. I’ve got too many business commitments to go running around the country racing boats all the time."
RACING COURSE — Starts at foot of Parkview on Detroit River between Belle Isle and mainland; each heat consists of 15 laps around three-mile course for a total of 45 miles.
RACE RULES — First country to win two heats will win Harmsworth Trophy. If the challenger is unable to race, the trophy stays in the U.S. If the defender is unable to race, the trophy goes to the Canadian Boating Federation, which can pick the site for the next Harmsworth Race. If either boat fails to run in the first heat, it will be permitted to enter the second and third heats if repairs are possible.
TIME AND TELEVISION — 5 p.m. today and Wednesday, and Thursday if necessary; telecast by WWJ-TV (Channel 4).
AREAS FOR FANS — Belle Isle Beach and Bridge, Riverside, Owen and Memorial parks.
(Reprinted from the Detroit News, August 25, 1959)
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