Norm Woods

Mark Rotharmel and Norm Woods with builder Ed Skinner in Gravenhurst in August, 2012.

Inducted 2011

Norm Woods’ passion for boat racing started as a very young boy, when his father first took him to watch the races at the CNE in Toronto. Summers at the family cottage in Muskoka, Ont. were spent building small hydroplanes and ‘racing’ in the bay. In 1980, after years of attending races as a spectator, Norm became pit crew and part owner on a race team. In 1982 Norm was ready to run his own race team and fulfill his desire to ‘sit in the driver’s seat’. He purchased a Beismeyer flat bottom runabout, naming it ‘Gambler’. After many serious discussions with his wife, sue, it was greed that if he didn’t have the necessary skill or confidence to race the boat himself, they would hire a driver. Much to his delight, Norm, racing in the Can AM class, proved himself early in his rookie season and never looked back.

Norm was Quebec High Point Champion 5 years running, from 1987 to 1991. Gambler Racing took the Canadian High Points Championship and the Gold Medal at the World Championship in 1988. It was after the gold medal win that Norm was approached by Ray Brown, a well respected boat builder from Lake Havasu, Ariz. Brown was interested in building a new hull design and felt confident that Norm had the ability to drive it. While the new boat was in production, Norm continued his success, breaking 2 speed records in 1989, one in Valleyfield, Quebec and the other in Essex, Md. where he was awarded the Governor’s Cup.

In 1990, Gambler Racing welcomed its newest addition – Gambler 2. A narrow hulled Beizer, powered by a fuel injected 500 c.i. Chevy big block, run on methanol. The winning continued, with Norm capturing the North American Championship in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993, and the High Points Championship in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. Further accomplishments also included the silver medal win at the 1992 World’s in Valleyfield, a new speed record in Ville Marie, Que. in 1992 and in a Chambly, Que. event, which saw the top 7 litre hydroplane take on the number one Can Am flat bottom in a crowd pleasing all out ‘grudge match’. After 3 laps of head to head racing the dust settled and the Mayor’s Cup was awarded to Norm and the Gambler.

It became obvious to Norm early in his career that the success of any sport depended just as much on what went on behind the scenes, as at the race track itself and consequently he took on the role of president of the Can Am Sprint Boat Association, a position he held for 8 years. He also sat on the CBF racing commission as VP for Inboard Racing from 1991-1994. In 1993, Norm brought powerboat racing back to Muskoka, Ont. by resurrecting a local race site and serving as promoter, organizer and also competing in the Muskoka Power Sport Regatta for 2 years. His efforts there awarded him the Norman B. Courtney Memorial award. It was at that time that Norm played a significant role in securing new liability insurance for CBF with CG&B Insurance Brokers and K & K Insurance.

At the end of the 1994 season, Norm retired the Gambler 2 and was hired to drive for a U.S. team in the KRR Unlimited Class. Over the next 4 years while still achieving several podium
finishes, Norm considered his major success to be the area of safety. Due to the increased speed of these supercharged engines and after witnessing several good friends injured in crashes, Norm insisted on sitting inside a reinforced racing capsule. The K-boat was fitted with a Kevlar an carbon fiber capsule equipped with an air supply and in 1996 it proved it’s worth. Travelling at 130 miles per hour the boat caught a wave at the start of a race in Hampton, Va. and instantly barrel rolled, then flipped end over end. The capsule, with Norm strapped inside, sank amid a sea of debris. After being freed by the rescue crew and receiving medical care, it was determined that Norm’s injuries were limited to bruising on his knees. The outcome of this accident prompted other owners and drivers to adopt the capsule system, including many in the Canadian flat bottom class.

After his many years of racing, Norm’s most esteemed hour came in 2002 when he was inducted into the Canadian Boating Federation’s Hall of Fame. Having his accomplishments recognized in such a way was one of the greatest highlights of his racing career. Naturally as most racers know, although the sport seems all consuming, in most cases it really is equivalent to a part-time job, albeit a very demanding part-time job. All throughout his racing career, Norm also owned and operated a successful business in Bracebridge, Ont. with his wife, Sue. And, determined to make racing truly a ‘family affair’, together they raised two children, Lindsay and Dennis, who quite literally grew up on the race circuit, loving the travel, excitement and camaraderie that goes hand in hand with his amazing sport of powerboat racing.

Image courtesy of What’s Up Bracebridge

Jean Theoret

Inducted 2011

Background

Jean Theoret was born in Valleyfield, Quebec on January 29, 1962. Valleyfield is the home of Canada’s oldest and most successful hydroplane regatta. Jean grew up around hydroplane racing. It is in his blood. His uncle, Robert Theoret, is one of Canada’s most successful hydroplane owners and an honoured member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. Jean’s father, Gerald Theoret was a legendary driver, boat owner and tuner. While still in his teens, Jean was not only a crew member, he was the team’s engine builder. His elder brother, Pierre, was the driver. Pierre was killed in a crash at St. Gabriel in 1981. Despite that tragedy, Robert was determined to be a hydroplane racer. His father decided to support him. “My father said, ‘I want to give you what I gave to Pierre’…I thought that was pretty amazing for him, losing a son and not going completely out of it. It’s really a faith thing.”

The 2.5 Litre Class

Jean Theoret made his debut as a hydroplane driver in 1983. Racing in the 2.5 Litre Class, he won his first hydroplane races and was Rookie of the Year.

The Grand Prix Class

In only his second year as a hydroplane racer, Jean moved up to the Grand Prix class, the premier inboard hydroplane class in Canada and the top limited hydroplane class in North America. Despite a ten-fold increase in horsepower, he was soon on a level with the top drivers in the class. Jean drove for his family’s team, managed by his father, through the whole of his time in the Grand Prix class. He started with Danash II, which he raced from 1984 through 1993. From 1994 through 2001, Jean raced boats built by Jamie Auld of Brockville, Ontario. Sponsored by Lotto Quebec, they were called Super 7 in Quebec and Casino de Montreal when he raced outside of Quebec.

1984 – Rookie of the year in Grand Prix
– First win in Grand Prix class in St.Timothee
1985 – Wins at St.Timothee and Ville-Marie
– 3rd in Grand Prix championship
1986 – Win at Littleton, N.H.
– U.S. National Championship
1990 – 5th in Grand Prix Championship
1991 – One win at Tonawanda
– Canadian & U.S. Closed Course Competition Record (1¼ mile circuit): 105.47 mph.
1992 – World Closed Course Competition Record (1¼ mile circuit):112.4 mph., set at Aylmer, P.Q.
1993 – Three wins: Valleyfield, Summerside, Cocagne.
– 3rd in the World Championship
– 2nd in the Grand Prix Hydroplane Drivers’ Championship
1994 – Six wins: Detroit, Kansas City, Gatineau, Valleyfield (twice) and Cocagne.
– World Champion
– Canadian Boating Federation Champion – Export “A“ Series Championship
– U.S. National Champion (APBA)
– U.S. High Point Champion (APBA)
– World Closed Course Competition Record (1¼ mile circuit): 114.97
1995 – Four wins: Valleyfield, Ville-Marie, Summerside, Dubuque
– Canadian Champion
– North American Champion
– U.S. National Champion
1996 – Three wins: Tonawanda, Summerside, Longueil
– World Champion
1997 – Four wins: Detroit, Valleyfield (twice), Cocagne
– World Champion
– Canadian Champion
– Winner of the APBA Silver Cup

1998 – Three wins: Valleyfield, Tonawanda, Verdun
– World Closed Course Competition Record (1 mile circuit): 99.59 mph
– Canadian Champion
1999 – Four wins: Muscatine, Ville-Marie, Tonawanda, Cocagne
– Canadian Champion
– U.S. High Point Champion
– U.S. National Champion
2000 – Eight wins: Tonawanda, Valleyfield, Indiana, 5 wins in 6 races on New Zealand tour
– World Champion – won at Cambridge, New Zealand
– U.S. High Point Champion
2001 – Three wins: Pontiac Lake, Hampton Beach, Tonawanda)
– World Champion
– Fastest time trial in Valleyfield on
– Closed Course Competition Record (1 mile circuit): 102.1 mph

Jean Theoret retired from the Grand Prix Class after the 2001 season. He had met all the challenges and there was nothing left to win. Many believe that Jean’s dominance of the class in the 1990s led to the demise of the Grand Prix Class.

Unlimited Hydroplane Racing

Jean always had an ambition to race the big turbine powered Unlimiteds. In 2003 and 2004, he visited Unlimited races and sent videos to the teams. Bill Wurster was looking for a driver for his U-8 Llumar boat. Team members convinced him Jean was the best choice. He was hired at the start of the 2005 season. As Unlimited legend Chip Hanauer said, “I wondered for years why no one ever hired him”. By late summer, Wurster was calling Jean “the best driver the sport has ever seen”.

2005 – Won his first ever Unlimited heat at Evansville
– Two wins: Seattle’s Seafare and Nashville’s Music City Hydrofest
– 2nd in American Boat Racing Association (ABRA) championship points
– Unlimited hydroplane Rookie of the Year at age 43

Before the 2006 season, Wurster sold the U-8 to Unlimited hydro legend Billy Schumacher who rechristened it the U-37, with sponsorship from Beacon Plumbing.

2006 – Winner of the APBA Gold Cup, the crown jewel of Unlimited Hydroplane racing. Jean
won even though bodywork came loose, flew off and tore the rear stabilizer wing off his
boat. Jean “just kept racing”. He was the first Canadian to officially win APBA Gold Cup. (Harry Greening
won on the water but lost it in boardroom in 1924).
– Won the Chevrolet Cup at Seattle Seafare
– UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique) Unlimited Class World Champion – won at
San Diego
– 4th in ABRA Unlimited Hydroplane championship points
2007 – No wins, 2nd at Evansville, 3rd at San Diego, 4th at Madison
– finished 1st or 2nd in 12 of 23 heat races
– 3rd in ABRA Unlimited Hydroplane championship standings

Jean Theoret has been in hydroplane racing all his life – as a crew member, an engine builder, a driver and a team owner and manager. In 2007, he celebrated his 25th anniversary as a driver. Jean was the most successful driver in the history of the Grand Prix class – Canada’s premier inboard hydroplane class – with 43 wins, and numerous Canadian, American, North American and World Championships and speed records. He was the first Canadian to win an Unlimited hydroplane race since Bob Hayward. He has won more Unlimited races than any other Canadian. He was the first Canadian to officially win APBA Gold Cup. Simply put, Jean Theoret is Canada’s most successful living hydroplane racer and one of the greatest powerboat racers Canada has produced.

Image via Weismann Marine

John Webster

Inducted 2010

John’s name is synonymous with Boat Racing in Canada and throughout much of the USA. 2010 was the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Boating Federation (CBF). The CBF is Canada’s recognized sanctioning body by the World sanctioning body, the Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) in Monaco. 2012 is the anniversary of the Toronto Outboard Racing Club (TORC), Canada’s oldest and largest sanctioned powerboat racing club. John has been a very influential member of both of these groups. He is the winningest powerboat driver in all of Canadian boat racing history. He has also stepped up and beyond that incredible achievement to volunteer and guide at the race level as an Official, club level as a President, and Canadian sanctioning body level as a Division Chairman. He also volunteers to work at every racing trade show display.

John is the longest standing member of TORC, he has been a member since it started in 1952 to this day. He may also be Canada’s longest CBF member being a steady member 58 of its 60 year history.

Image via boatracingfacts.com

Ted Gryguc

Inducted 2007

Ted Gryguc was Canada ‘s most prominent outboard racer from the late-1980s through his retirement in 1999. Ted started working with performance boats in 1977 and soon had a reputation for making fast boats even faster. By 1980, he had his own firm, Speedmaster Marine. That year he took an old boat, fixed it up, and started racing himself. The next year, Ted won his first Canadian title. From 1981 to 1988, Ted Gryguc earned six Canadian High Point Championships and five Canadian National Championships in CBF’s Modified FL and VP classes. In 1991, he was the Mod VP World Champion. He also tried marathon racing, becoming the first Canadian winner of classic events like the Parker Seven Hour Enduro, the Lake Havasu Classic and the Bill Muncey Memorial Trophy. From 1986 to 1992, Ted raced successfully on the International Outboard Grand Prix (IOGP) circuit. He took a two year hiatus from racing in 1992-1993 but missed the competition. He also saw a direct correlation between his racing successes and his firm’s sales and service work. In 1995, at the age of 45, Ted Gryguc bought a Formula 1 tunnel boat and mounted an attack on the premier outboard class. He succeeded, capturing three Canadian National Championships and three Canadian High Point Championships between 1995 and 1999. Ted also raced in the Dominican Republic garnering further recognition as an international competitor. Since retirement, he continues to run his marine business, builds high-performance boats and contributes to the sport as a team owner.

Image via Speedmaster Marine

Robert Theoret

Inducted 2006

Robert Theoret was born 64 years ago in Valleyfield, Que., home of the oldest continuously run powerboat regatta in Canada. Robert grew up with hydroplane racing and started driving in 1970 when he purchased a 145 c.i. class boat that he named Miss Virgo. The following year, he bought a rear-engine, or cab-over 145, which carried on the Virgo name. From 1973 to 1979, Robert was virtually unbeatable. He won 10 Canadian and North American high point championships and set five speed records along the way. In the late 1970s, he served as a technical inspector and referee for the Canadian Boating Federation. In 1980, Robert and Guy Lafleur, an architect, purchased a 22.5 foot Grand Prix boat which they named Grand Prix Valleyfield (444). From 1982 through 1988, he dominated the GP class winning 22 of 65 races and was Canadian high-point champion every year except 1987. He also was U.S. and world high-point champion in 1982, ’83, ’84 and ’88 setting three new world speed records. He retired in 1989 and became an owner/manager. His two-boat team won the Canadian, U.S and world high-point championship plus a North American championship and set two more world speed records. He also found time to be chairman of the Grand Prix Hydroplane Association in 1984, ’89, ’90 and ’91. In his day, Robert Theoret was a major sports star and celebrity in Quebec, winning the Merite Sportif Quebecois award for the Athlete of the Year (Motonautisme) in 1974, ’82, ’83 and ’84. He came to be known as the Gilles Villeneuve of boat racing.

Image via Performance Boat

Lorne Leibel

Lorne Leibel in his Ferrari 365 GTB/4 at Lime Rock in 2011

Inducted 2006

Lorne Liebel, born in Toronto in 1951, was fascinated with boats from an early age. In 1976, he represented Canada in the Olympics, sailing in the Tempest class with his cousin. After the Games, Lorne focused his attention on developing his career as a homebuilder. Six years later, during a visit to a friend’s cottage, he was offered a ride in a high speed offshore powerboat. In Lorne’s words, “To say I was hooked would be an understatement!” He first purchased a 30-foot performance boat, then a faster 38-foot “Cigarette.” After that, it was off to Miami, the hotbed of performance boating and offshore racing. He eventually purchased a 41-foot, three-man, offshore racing machine from Japan and set about building a team. In 1986, he won the American Power Boat Association’s rookie-of-the-year award and was named Canadian Yachtsman of the Year (Powerboat) that same year. In 1993, he won the U.S. National Championship and in 2001 earned the title of Superboat World Champion. Offshore powerboat racing is a very demanding sport. The combination of high speed and large waves result in very harsh conditions for the participants. Lorne’s career has been free of major crashes and injury but the constant pounding took its toll on his back and legs. Lorne began to consider retirement but one goal remained and that was to be the first to move the A.P.B.A. speed record over 200 miles an hour and leave the sport with a milestone that would be a legacy of his career. In 2003, Lorne won his second Word Superboat Championship, set an official A.P.B.A. World Speed Record of 177 mph and ripped off a single run of 201 mph. In retirement, Lorne is involved in vintage car racing and collecting.

Image via Motorsport.com

Harold Wilson

Inducted 2005

Harold Wilson, the first Canadian to win a world championship in any form of motorsport, won his first speedboat race when he was 15 in the 1926 Muskoka Lakes Regatta. In 1934, Wilson won his first world championship event. Driving the Muskoka-built Little Miss Canada III with his future wife, Lorna Reid, beside him as riding mechanic, he won the 225 c.i. Class race at the Canadian National Exhibition. He successfully defended his title in 1935. In 1939, the International Motor Yachting Union organized a world championship race in Washington, D.C., for the 7 Litre Class. Wilson defeated the U.S. entry, Notre Dame, to win the President’s Cup and become World Champion. After the war, the American Power Boat Association declared the Gold Cup Class for unlimited hydroplanes as its top class. Wilson installed a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine in Miss Canada III. In 1946, he set a class speed record of 119.009 mph at Picton, Ont., and won the Silver Cup at Detroit. In 1947, Wilson set a North American speed record of 138.865 mph with his powerful Miss Canada IV. He retired from boat racing in 1950 and went rally driving – he finished second the first two years of the Canadian Winter Rally, and second-in-class in the Shell 4000 cross-Canada rally. He was president of the CASC from 1957-’59, and served on Mosport’s founding Board of Directors.

Jim Thompson

Inducted 2005

Jim Thompson, a graduate Naval Officer of Royal Roads who studied engineering at U of T and business at Western, had an avid interest in unlimited hydroplane racing. As co-founder and president of the Supertest Petroleum Co., he combined the two and established probably the most dynamic marketing and promotional program of the late Fifties and early Sixties: Miss Supertest. When fellow CMHF inductee Harold Wilson retired, Thompson bought Wilson’s Miss Canada IV and renamed her Miss Supertest I. Thus began the journey that would ultimately establish a world’s speed record and capture the Harmsworth Trophy – emblematic of world supremacy in powerboat racing – three years in succession. Initially, in the Supertest program, all the development driving and testing was done by Mr. Thompson. The result was Miss Supertest II, a Rolls Royce Griffon powered hydroplane and holder of the Canadian and British Empire speed record for propeller-driven craft. Driven by Art Asbury, Miss Supertest II shattered the existing world record with a speed of 184.54 in 1957. Supertest III soon followed and, driven by Bob Hayward, won the Harmsworth in 1959, ’60 and ’61. Miss Supertest III was never beaten in a race. She was retired following a tragic accident later in 1961 that took the life of Hayward, the driver who thought of her as human.

Photo by Bruce Urquhart via Woodstock Sentinal Review

Mark Rotharmel

Inducted 2004

Mark Rotharmel made a name for himself in a sport where the penalties for making a mistake are abrupt and serious: high-level powerboat racing. He started racing at 17 when he entered his first professional race in Peterborough. He won his first title – the Vee-bottom (FE) Canadian championship – in 1972. He was then recruited by Mercury Marine to join their factory racing team. He won the restricted Unlimited One (U1) tunnel boat Canadian and High Point championships and sent a Canadian record in the class. From 1974 to ’79, Mark raced for Mercury in the unlimited outboard categories, earning four more titles and another speed record. When Mercury withdrew from competition, he was hired by Outboard Marine Corporation, and continued?his winning ways with?back-to-back Championships in 1980. In 1984, Mark entered several U.S. and two European races with his Evinrude-sponsored V-8-powered Formula One tunnel boat and then he competed in the full 1985 nine-country world tour. He also continued to race in Canada, winning the 1985 North American Mod U championship and he set the fastest recorded average lap time at the Gold Cup course in Picton, Ont., of 116 miles an hour. Shortly after, Mark retired from the cockpit – but he wasn’t finished. After announcing at national races and hosting regional cable TV specials, Mark co-hosted Power Boat Television, a long-running series on TSN and Speed channel. He’s written about the sport for numerous publications, hosted and produced the American Power Boat Association’s offshore races held in Toronto and co-hosted Canada’s largest F1 Powerboat Grand Prix. He has been chairman and secretary of the Performance Boat Club of Canada. He is a member of the Canadian Boating Federation’s Hall of Fame.

Harry Greening

Jim Thompson, Harry Greening, Bill Braden, Gar Wood in 1957

Inducted 2003

Harry Greening was a prominent Hamilton industrialist who was president of the B. Greening Wire Co. As well, he was co-founder of International Airways, which became part of Canadian Pacific Airlines, and a major player in the founding of the Hamilton Automobile Club. He was commodore of the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club and Chairman of the Racing Commission of the American Power Boat Association, elected later to the honour squadron for his contribution to the sport of power boating. Also known as the father of Canadian powerboat racing, this tremendous sportsman constructed Canada’s first power boat in the attic of his Hamilton home. His originality resulted in the development of a hydroplane, which made boating history. As his enthusiasm for the sport grew, his true talent began to shine. He rocked the power boat word in the Roaring Twenties, shattering world records for speed and endurance. His active racing career dated from 1904 to 1929 but his contribution to the sport through various associations and governing bodies continued for many years. His pioneering achievements broke ground for other Canadians and the successes of Hall of Fame member Bob Hayward, for example, can logically be said to have resulted from Greening’s trailblazing efforts. Herold Greening carried the Canadian flag to an unprecedented series of wins and world records, gaining international honours, esteem and respect. In typical Canadian fashion, these momentous achievements have brought little appreciation here at home, except in Hamilton.