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December 07, 1959
"I Felt a Great Relief"
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December 07, 1959

Events & Discoveries

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"I Felt a Great Relief"

Les Staudacher of Bay City, Mich. is a mild-spoken Sunday school teacher and manufacturer of church pews whose sport is the raucous and risky one of racing jet speed boats.

Aiming to break the world water-speed record of 260.35 held by England's Donald Campbell, Staudacher seemed near his goal on Nevada's Pyramid Lake one day last week. Then, in a single luckless second, his Tempo- Alcoa ripped into a small peninsula jutting into the lake at Pelican Point. The boat took off like an airplane toward a ledge of rocks along shore. Staudacher's story of what it was like:

"When I saw that rocky shore coming at me I said to myself, 'This is a heck of a way to end this thing. I just hope I hit hard enough to do a good job.' I believed this was the end of my life.

"Then I did hit, and I was airborne. I felt a great relief. I was about 20 feet above the peninsula, and that aerial view looked good to me. I knew I hadn't hit too hard. My jet pilot's helmet saved my head when I smashed into the windshield coming down. I'll say one thing. The boat runs much better on water than it does on land."

Staudacher's flying jet (its engine is from an airplane) covered about 150 feet in the air, passing over the crest of Pelican Point and plowed down in loam and sand, skidding to the water's edge on the other side. It missed by 18 inches hitting the shelf of rock.

Staudacher was uninjured. Later that day he drove the boat's co-owner, Guy Lombardo, back to Reno in Lombardo's car: Lombardo had skinned his knee in a fall while running down to the beach to see whether Staudacher had been injured.

Winner and System

It was just last week that our Emily Hahn (in Britain's Golden Pool) was describing the Cinderella riches that arise from Britain's system of soccer betting. At about the same moment a modest punter from Yorkshire was breaking all existing records.

Arthur Webb, a 70-year-old retired printer of Scarborough, had looked forward to nothing more exciting than Christmas dinner with his family of 17 children and grandchildren when he made a one-shilling-sixpence bet. It earned him a nontaxable $742,904.40. Like millions of his fellow Britons, Webb had played the pools regularly but with only a wistful dream that chance might favor his picks.

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