Art Asbury is probably Canada’s most successful and exciting hydroplane boat racer. During a career that spanned 40 years, Art won 12 international, national and provincial championships and set seven North American and World speed records. Born in Dwight, Ontario, in 1922, Art was the youngest child of James and Annie Asbury, whose maiden name was Newton. Art takes great pride in his ties with the province of Quebec. His maternal grandfather, Pierre Villeneuve, was born in Sherbrooke but came with his family to Renfrew, Ont, when he was 18. He later moved to Dwight and changed his name to the anglicized version, Peter Newton. The Asbury family owned and operated the Dwight General Supply Store on the shores of Dwight Bay. It was one of Art’s chores to deliver groceries to the summer cottages, a task he performed in a skiff, powered by a small outboard motor. When Art was taking his load of groceries out on the lake, he travelled sedately but coming back at the end of his deliveries, he realized that if he put the remaining groceries at the front of the boat, he could really fly. Thus came the beginning of a hydroplane racer. During the second World War, Art served with the Royal Air Force Coastal Command and flew 37 operational missions in a Liberator B-24 bomber. Upon returning home after the war, he worked with his parents operating a tourist lodge and resumed his friendship with Art Hatch of Hamilton, a long time friend and summer guest. As a consequence, the Costa Lotta boat-racing team was formed and the two men were instrumental in the eventual formation of the Canadian Boating Federation. On Nov. 1, 1957, Art set a World speed record of 184.54 mph in the unlimited hydroplane class driving Miss Supertest II for Col. J. Gordon Thompson and his son James at Long Reach near Picton, Ont. For this , he was awarded the World Medal of Honour by the Union of International Motorboating located in Ghent, Belgium. This was what you might call getting his feet wet, because Art went on to set two more World speed records, three Canadian speed records and one American speed record. He was Canadian National Champion in 1948, ’51 and ’57; American National Champion in 1963 and ’64; Canadian High Point Champion in 1953, ’58, ’60, ’61, ’69 and ’78 and Quebec Provincial Champion in 1978. In 1964, Art was inducted in the American Marine Racing Hall of Fame and this was followed by his induction into the Canadian Boating and Huntsville, Ont. Halls of Fame in 1990. In 2001, he was inducted into the Great Lakes Maritime Institute Hall of Fame as a Pioneer of Power Boating. Other honours include being named Marina Captain-Harbour Master at Expo ’67 in Montreal, Honourary Race Chairman for Prince Edward Gold Cup, citations for making outstanding contributions to water safety, and receiving the Boating Recognition Award from the Canadian Power Squadrons. And just so nobody thinks he’s been away from the action, in 1996 he was Grand Marshal of the Spirit of Detroit Thunderfest and Quake on the Lake, Pontiac Michigan, 2001.
Image by Byron Lang via Unlimiteds Detroit