1959-03 (Sharkey) / 5903 (UNJ)

Miss Supertest Gets Her Stamp [2011]

The long-awaited celebration of one of Canada’s most magnificent sporting achievements took place in Picton, Ontario, on Monday, August 15 when Canada Post officially unveiled a commemorative stamp in memory of the unlimited hydroplane Miss Supertest III and her driver, the ill-fated Bob Hayward.

The stamp ceremony took place at 10 a.m. and honored not only the greatest (and fastest) racing boat in Canadian history and her driver but also Western Ontario businessman Jim Thompson, who designed and built her and who owns her to this very day.

It’s hard to believe now but Miss Supertest was a household name in Canada in the early 1960s. Like the finest of thoroughbred horses, she was only raced four times and she never lost. Every time her driver, Hayward, rode her into battle, she made headlines from coast to coast.

Why? Because in 1959, she wrested the famous Harmsworth Trophy away from the Americans, who’d held the trophy for 39 years, and then turned back annual challenges for it twice. One time when she went to war, in the waters of the Bay of Quinte’s Long Reach off Picton, the prime minister, John Diefenbacker, arrived to watch her defend the honor of the country.

Only hockey players attract that much attention in Canada nowadays.

Miss Supertest III and Hayward successfully defended the Harmsworth again in 1961 but several months later, on Sept. 10, while competing for the Silver Cup on the Detroit River in the sister boat Miss Supertest II, Hayward was killed.

Thompson retired from the sport then and there. Miss Supertest III, which ran a total of 10 heats in those four races, winning eight and finishing second twice, was never sent out to race again.

Ivan Novotny of Toronto designed the commemorative stamp, which is available from Canada Post. He speaks in awe of Jim Thompson, whom he went to visit while researching the stamp project.

“It was one of the best days of my career,” said Novotny. “Jim has wonderful photographs from the three years — ‘59, 60 and ‘61 — and he relived the moments with us. Then he took us to see the boat (which was front and center in Picton, along with the families of Hayward and Thompson) and Jim went over each area of it, explaining what the details were and why he designed it that way, what made it special.”

Novotny, who’s been a motorsport fan since he was a child, said that listening to Thompson’s passion and memories that day made him realize what Miss Supertest was all about and inspired him when it came time to actually design the stamp.

“He wanted to bring grace, style, beauty and horesepower together and mix them, which he did,” Novotny said.

“Creating that kind of speed on water is remarkable. And it’s really interesting that no matter how fast she was going, the water was very calm and peaceful on the front side and on the back of the boat you had those 200-foot-long rooster tails.

“It’s absolutely violent at the back side of the boat, so the contrast between the calm and the violence was terribly interesting. So I tried to capture that with some explosive splashing happening in behind and keeping the front very calm.”

To many Canadians, Bob Hayward was a hero. On Dec. 28, 1961, George H. Carver, the sports editor of the Ontario Intelligencer, called for the Long Reach to be renamed Hayward Long Reach in the driver’s memory. The suggestion was embraced and applauded. To this day, the Long Reach has been called Hayward Long Reach.

– Norris McDonald, Toronto Star

[Reprinted from Thunderboat, October 2011]