1948 Picton Gold Cup Regatta

Death Takes Jack Cooper

Pop Cooper's accident in Blue Blazes
A photograph taken by Bob Webster at Picton just as Blue Blazes started to leave the water before turning over.

A grand motor boat sportsman has run his last race. Jack Cooper at the age of 68, one of the most energetic and active racing drivers in the 135 and 225 cubic inch classes, died in Syracuse on August 11, as the result of injuries sustained in a racing accident a week or so earlier at Picton, Ontario.

In his last race, Pop Cooper was driving Blue Blazes, a 135 boat in the 225 event. His larger boat was not performing to his satisfaction and he elected to drive the smaller boat in the stiffest competition. In the second heat of the race, the fleet got away ahead of the gun and the red flags were shown to signal a restart. The drivers did not heed the signal and continued around the course at top speed. Blue Blazes was not only holding her own but was overtaking the larger craft. There was a brisk breeze blowing against the boats and as they passed the starting barge, Blue Blazes took off, became airborne, and went at least fifteen feet into the air and fell over backwards on Cooper. His helmet had been torn off while the boat was in the air and the boat crashed down on Cooper who was in the water before it. Other drivers did some smart work in avoiding him and stopped to pick him up. He was rushed ashore, given medical attention and later flown to Syracuse Memorial Hospital. It was found that he had suffered a concussion of the brain and a fracture hip. Several brain operations were performed but they failed to save him.

His interest in motorboat racing began in 1929 when he started to drive outboard hydroplanes. Seven years later he took up the inboard hydroplane classes and specialized in the 91-135 and 225 cubic inch classes. He has had any number of fast boats during his years of racing, practically all of them of record-breaking caliber. Records invariably took a beating when he tried for them and in his time he has been record holder in all of his favorite classes. He was particularly fond of racing in Canada and his effort did much to elevate the racing on the Canadian circuit.

During his long career he has had innumerable spills and crack-ups. He merely regarded these as part of the inevitable luck of a racing driver, and was not at all dismayed when a boat cracked up. Back in 1941 he was running time trials with his boat Tops V. He was able to make a one way run at 91.8 m.p.h. but could not complete the required return run. This speed has never been bettered even though it could not be recognized as a record. He was however, awarded a medal and certificate for his effort.

There are many tales dealing with his age. In the Florida circuit, the sports writers generally reported him to be under 75. In Canada and the eastern regattas his age fluctuated between 65 and 69, sometimes 70. He got a great kick out of seeing his age change from week to week and often speculated on what they would say if they knew the true figure.

Some years ago he was reported to be toying with the idea of retiring from racing. He had been doing some flying and he thought it would be fun racing the clouds. Faster, you know.

His sons, Thom and Jack Jr. are also drivers of racing boats and have been record holders in their own right, having held outboard class A and F records. His daughter Nellie likewise drove a midget class outboard and for a time held a record in that class. Her husband, Hud Weeks is also interested in inboard racing.

His unfortunate death takes from us a truly fine sportsman, a truly great driver, and an outstanding competitor in a great sport.

[source unknown, 1948]