Asbury drove Miss Supertest II to record 60 years ago

Miss Supertest II during her world's record speed trial on November 1, 1957. (Gazette file photo)



It was 60 years ago yesterday that Prince Edward County served as the scene of a world’s record.

And while Art Asbury’s mark of reaching 184.494 miles per hour would only stand for a few weeks before it was recaptured by an American craft and driver, he and Miss Supertest II did the unthinkable on a seven-mile course on Hayward Long Reach on a sun soaked and calm late fall day six decades ago.

Local powerboat and boat racing historian John Lyons alerted the Gazette to the passing of the 60th anniversary of the Miss Supertest II speed trials that caught the County’s and then the world’s attention and it put the municipality on the boat racing map.

“They had made several previous attempts in years prior, both here and down on the Sarnia River that had ended in disaster,” Lyons said.

Wakes from pleasure crafts filled with gawkers and submerged objects like dead heads and other debris cut many attempts short.

But there were no issues of the like on county waters on November 1, 1957 as the course was scoured for drift wood and debris that would not only derail the attempt but likely kill Asbury.

“The RCMP had a water detail that cleared the course to ensure there was no pleasure boat traffic,” Lyons added.

The entire course was seven miles long with the first three miles serving as a runway for the boat to build speed.

The middle, mile long section is where six stop watches at six intervals measured the time it took to get from one interval to the next.

The final three three miles allowed Asbury and Miss Supertest II to slow down.

The boat then had to turn around and go through the course again and then an average would be taken of the two speeds.

With the Griffon VI engine purring properly and winds barely measurable, the boat left the Cole property in the early morning hours of the first day of November 1957.

In his first pass, Asbury reached a speed of 187 mph and excitement was high that the record was in reach.

Facing a slight breeze on the way back through the course, Miss Supertest II still managed to completed the mile long stretch at a rate of 182 mph for an average of 184.494 mph, shattering Sayres1952 mark of 178.998 mph.

According John Kelly’s book Roostertail:The Miss Supertest story, There had been plans to make a number of runs that day to possibly push the mark higher however the boat backfired on the next pass and it was decided that the boat had reached optimum performance.

Miss Supertest II Driver Art Asbury is congratulated by boat owner Gordon Thompson after setting the world’s water speed record on Long Reach on November 1, 1957. (Gazette file photo)

The toll taken on Miss Supertest II was evident when she returned to the dock as her paints had been scorched by the exhaust and a four inch gash had developed on a metal scoop on her bow near the air intake to the carburetor.

Within a a few weeks the world’s record was bested although the successful trial likely paved the way for the father and son team of Gordon and Jim Thompson and driver and boat caretaker Bob Hayward to make a successful foray into the Harmsworth races a few years later.

Hayward would lose his life behind the controls of Miss Supertest II in the Detroit River in the fall of 1961, just weeks after piloting Miss Supertest III to a successful Harmsworth Trophy defence on the Long Reach course.

“It’s still a Canadian record and that’s the big deal,” Lyons said. “It’s quite something that this record still stands and not many people know about it.”

The breaking of the record was celebrated with a candlelight supper at the Royal Hotel with Picton Mayor HJ McFarland and several other dignitaries in attendance to “honour those that that brought honour to the town as well as Canada.”

“It’s men like the Thompson’s who keep the wheels of progress in motion,” McFarland stated and the time, also lauding Asbury for his efforts as pilot.

“It takes a lot of what it takes to sit behind the wheel of a boat going 184 miles per hour,” the then-mayor said.

In recognition of the passing of the anniversary, Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff proclaimed November 1 as “Miss Supertest” Day in the municipality.