Miss Madison - The Gold Cup Champion - Prologue

By Fred Farley - ABRA Unlimited Historian

MISS MADISON's victory in the 1971 APBA Gold Cup on home waters in Madison, Indiana, ranks as one of racing's most memorable milestones. After years of countless retelling, the MISS MADISON Gold Cup story has indeed reached mythic proportions.

The popular press account tells of MISS M--this aging underdog of a boat--suddenly and miraculously coming alive on July 4, 1971, and trouncing its well-financed opposition in the race of races. Here was a modern day David and Goliath--the hydro upset of the century--in the most memorable aquatic shootout since the MONITOR and the MERRIMAC.

All of this hyperbole, of course, is pure poppycock. MISS MADISON was not the thousand-to-one longshot of popular legend. On the contrary, she was a bona-fide contender. I've tried to develop this point in the story that follows.

At the time of the 1971 Gold Cup, it was easy for the media representatives to get caught up in the emotion of the moment. I know that I certainly did. The race was the answer to a sports reporter's dream. The inevitable reaction: "What a scoop! I can't overwrite this one!"

Unfortunately, quite a few columnists got carried away in the euphoria of the MISS MADISON's triumph. And I was as guilty as anyone. The article that I did for RACE BOAT & INDUSTRY NEWS on the 1971 Gold Cup was as badly written as anything that I've ever done in 36 years of covering Unlimiteds. I'm not proud of it.

Okay. I was a rabid fan of MISS M. The driver, Jim McCormick, was a personal friend. And this was my first of many visits to the picturesque Ohio River town that would soon become my home away from home. Small wonder then that my initial report on the race was something less than objective.

In the years that followed, I toyed with the idea of writing a truly definitive account of the race for posterity. The opportunity to do so presented itself in late 1983. That was when my friend David Taylor, editor of the Madison Regatta souvenir program book, asked for my help on the 1984 edition.

I worked all winter on the MISS MADISON Gold Cup article. It totaled approximately 5000 words on nineteen typewritten pages, one of my longer efforts. Most of my stories average around 1500 or 2000 words, but this one was extra special.

My thanks go to David Greene and Philip Haldeman, both of the APBA Unlimited Historical Committee. I received a lot of valuable input from Dave and Phil that I greatly appreciate.

For what it's worth, I consider MISS MADISON, THE GOLD CUP CHAMPION to be the single best article that I've ever written for publication, out of the hundreds that I've done since 1962. I really gave it my all

I wanted to set the record straight about the second MISS MADISON being a competitive boat from late-1970 onward. But mainly, I did it for the driver and crew. I just wrote it down. They're the ones that went out there and did it. I wanted them to be able to re-experience their magnificent achievement. (All of the surviving team members told me that they enjoyed reading my story.)

I also wrote it for the fans. For those that were fortunate enough to be there, hopefully they can return (in the mind's eye) to that thrilling day of yesteryear. For those that weren't alive in 1971, perhaps they too will be able to feel some of the same emotions as if they had been there, cheering the MISS MADISON on to gold and glory.

Miss Madison, The Gold Cup Champion - Part I


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