1961 Silver Cup
Detroit River, Detroit, MI, September 10, 1961

Silver Cup Racer Dies in Boat Flip
Harry LeDuc

bullet All Have Shot at Silver Cup
bullet Miss Lumberville Pleases Owner
bullet Silver Cup Racer Dies in Boat Flip
bullet Hayward Dies Trying Fastest Turn in History
bullet Silver Cup Future is in Doubt
bullet 32 Seconds to Death
bullet Statistics

Canadian Bob Hayward, three times Harmsworth Cup winner, was killed instantly yesterday in the third heat of the Silver Cup Race on the Detroit River when his big Miss Supertest flipped over as he attempted a curve at nearly 140 miles an hour.

His neck was broken when his speeding craft dug into the water, rolled over and then righted itself.

His death brought an instant end to the racing program, which included remaining heats of the Silver Cup competition. Shocked officials cleared the river of racing boats and the flag at the Detroit Yacht Club was dropped to half staff. Other drivers voted not to continue. Bill Muncey, driver of Miss Century 21, one of the boats in the race, telephoned his home in Seattle and said he was through with racing. He saw Hayward, popular, friendly, with a mania for speed on the water, die.

Don Wilson, driver of Miss U.S. I, of West Palm Beach, Fla., another of the boats in the race, secluded himself in a truck, unable to talk. He, too, saw Hayward die.

Jim Thompson, with his father, J. Gordon Thompson, of London, Ont., owner of the boat Hayward was driving, was also too overcome to talk.

Hayward was killed as he entered the turn in the race course just above the Belle Isle Bridge. In a daring effort to take the lead, Hayward shot between Miss Century 21 and Miss U.S. I, entering the turn at an estimated 140 miles an hour. ‘‘The speed was too great. Miss Supertest dug in a sponson and it did a complete flip.

Caught In Boat

Hayward was trapped in his boat. When Bud Saile, driver of the Thunderbolt, another craft in the race, leaped from his cockpit and swam to Miss Supertest, he found Hayward crushed against the battered hull.

The victory dinner at the Detroit Yacht Club was called off and its commodore, C. J. Belanger, quickly drafted a tribute to Canada’s greatest race driver,

There have been other boat races in which men have been killed, but no other fatal accident so quickly generated an instinctive revulsion to all action and all planned festivity.

Young-Looking 33

Few of the thousands on the shores knew Bob Hayward personally but they knew about him and from television, press and radio since 1959 they had come to admire and to like him.

Hayward was a farm boy, born and raised in Embro, Ont., about 17 miles out of London. He was blond, blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked, tanned and with a few freckles to compose a face that, either in repose or smiling, was pleasant to study. His shyness and modesty became the boyish youthfulness, for he looked more like 23 than 33.

Small of stature hut strong in structure, Bob always described himself as "the chicken boy" on the Hayward farm at Embro, where he, his mother and an older brother worked the land for produce as well as poultry. His brother, a bigger man, did the trucking but Bob liked working on motors and he kept the mechanical equipment in repair.

He remained a chicken farmer until this year, when he left the farm to take a full-time job with the Thompsons. His duties as an executive in the research division were solely concerned with the boat. A bachelor, Hayward had taken up residence in London.

It was as a mechanic that he first applied to the Supertest Oil Co. for a job, at about the time the Thompsons were building the first Supertest to challenge the United States for the Harmsworth Trophy.

When Hayward got his mechanic’s job, William J. (Bill) Braden, a wealthy sportsman, was Canada’s ace boat racer. On the Detroit River in 1956 Braden raced Col. Russell Schleeh of the U.S. Air Force driving the Shanty, owned by the Arizona millionaire, Bill Waggoner.

In Pit Crew

Braden was overcome by fumes in Supertest’s cockpit and Shanty and Schleeh kept the Harmsworth Trophy in this country. Braden was killed in a limited class boat race in Canada in 1957 [Correction: 1958 —LF].

Art Asbury followed Braden as driver of the Supertests, with Hayward a member of the Thompson pit crew.

Hayward got the job of piloting Supertest by demonstrations of his courage and talent in nursing the 3,000 horsepower, Rolls-Royce Griffon engine in test runs near Sarnia, He could open it up and keep it under control.

By 1959 Hayward was the Supertest’s pilot and he clinched the job by beating Bill Stead in the Maverick on the river here and taking the Harmsworth Trophy to Canada for the first time.

Hayward, with Supertest II and III, won the Harmsworth 1960, at Picton, Ont., he defeated the Gale V and the two Nitrogens, a one-heat victory against a three-boat challenge by the United States. Again at Picton, in August of this year, Hayward turned back the U.S. one-heat challenge of Chuck Thompson and his Miss Detroit.

Wasn’t Spoiled

All the praise and glory of his achievements never spoiled Bob. He never forgot a face and rarely a name. He had a habit of saying thanks every time to anyone who shook hands with him.

He never refused an invitation to appear at schools or clubs to explain the Supertest and to answer questions. And the invitations to schools especially were numerous because youngsters looked up to him. He did not drink nor smoke. He never swore.

(Reprinted from the Detroit News, September 1961)

Hydroplane History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at wildturnip@gmail.com
© Leslie Field, 2006