When it comes to racing, Guntersville Lake is often called "the fastest water in the South."
A history of boat racing - and of water speed records - lent that title to the lake. One of those records, Roy Duby's 1962 200 mph hour speed record, marks its 60th year this season and will be acknowledged as part of the HydroFest festivities.
The legend of the South's fastest water started in 1939, after the completion of Guntersville Dam.
As a way to showcase the lake, TVA suggested a Southeastern Outboard Motor Race and it was a success. They thought the event would bring in around 2,000 to 3,000 people, but in all actuality, it was reportedly more than 50,000 people, a crowd so large the town was totally unprepared to deal with it. There were traffic jams in and out of town.
The first boat races were such a success that Guntersville continued to hold the races for many years. The big unlimited hydroplanes were the top draw throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Racers always knew Guntersville Lake was "fast water" and that reputation led some teams looking to set water speed records to come to Guntersville just for that purpose.
In 1962, Roy Duby broke the world straightaway record for outboard motor racing with a speed of 200.419 mph. Another record was set in 1967 by Lee Taylor driving a jet-powered boat with a speed of 285.213 mph.
Roy Duby drove the Miss U.S. for a world speed record for propeller-driven boat in a straightaway on the Guntersville Lake. Duby had previously raced on the Ohio, but with its many curves, it did not yield the results the team wanted. A sportswriter from Indiana suggested Duby’s team take their equipment to Guntersville because the water was relatively calm and straight.
On April 15, 1962, Duby set two records: 200.44 mph for one mile and 198.168 mph for one kilometer. Duby passed away in Key Largo, Fla., on Mar. 4, 1999, at the age of 87.
On June 30, 1967, Lee Taylor broke the record in the fastest jet boat named Hustler with a speed of 299.18 mph and an average speed of 285.12 mph. During his time trials, a spectator’s boat wandered into the path which caused Taylor to slow his pace on the returning leg of his run. The Coast Guard gave the other boater a ticket for reckless driving.
Taylor died on November 13, 1980, after an incident on Lake Tahoe as he attempted to set another water speed record. It is still undetermined what caused the accident.
The speculation is a collision with flotsam or a freak swell, but at the time it was undetected from the water or air. After searching for three days, his body was never found. He did not break any records at the time of his death on Tahoe, but he still holds the record he set on Guntersville Lake.
Guntersville Lake is deemed as fast because of the relative calm waters and long straightaways.
“Guntersville Lake is known as the ‘fastest water in the south’ because of the records set by Duby and Taylor," said Katy Norton of the Marshall County Tourism & Sports. She said the H1 Unlimited drivers have commented about how the smooth water helps with speed.
With the unlimited hydroplanes being the fastest crafts on water, they can reach speeds upwards of 200 mph and maintain speeds of 130 mph.
In June 2017, Jimmy Shane in Miss Homestreet tested his hydroplane on Spring Creek and reached speeds of 194 mph. Shane stated that it was the smoothest water he had ever raced on.
“You couldn’t ask for any more ideal conditions," he said. "The lake is protected and I can see this being a great race venue for years to come."
With the records set on Guntersville Lake and the races to come, the lake has a good reason to continue its legends as the “fasted water in the south.”