1910 British Hydroplanes

Hydroplane Development in England
What the British Designers Have Done and Are Doing with this Type of Speed Craft.
The Possibilities of a Hydroplane in the British International
By J. Rendell Wilson

About two years ago a startling report appeared in the press that a mysterious little boat had been seen in Southampton water traveling at an extraordinary speed. Rumor, for once, was true, a a few days afterward the craft paid literally a flying visit to the Enchantress, the boating headquarters of the Motor Yacht Club. She turned out to be Ricochet X, a little 13-foot hydroplane of French construction, fitted with a 12 H.P. Anzani motor. She gave a number of demonstration runs attaining no less than 23 miles per hour. Her wonderful performance attracted great attention, and during the remainder of the season club chats were principally about "animated tea trays," as the motor-boatists nick-named that boat. Ou to then hydroplanes had been given but little notice, but from that time on some interesting data leaked out bit by bit, and their early history is worthy of narration.

Early in the year 1872 some interesting experiments were carried out by the Rev. C. M. Ramus, of Rye, Sussex, with model two and three-step hydroplanes, or "Bhisphenic" and "Polysphenic" ships as the inventor termed them. He placed his invention before the Admiralty, who also experimented with the models, but, as is usual with British Government, "red-tape" allowed the matter to drop shortly afterwards. Five years later Sir John Thornycroft, the head of the famous firm of torpedo-boat destroyer builders, produced a single-step model which he patented. The results of further experiments were not made public by Sir John, until early last year when he read a paper on the subject before the Royal Automobile Club. A few months afterward his experi- ments took practical form in the launching of Miranda, a wonderful boat, which I shall; describe later, and in a larger and faster craft which is now on the stocks, and which will probably come to America as a British International Trophy challenger. The construction work is being carried out in secret and particulars are not obtainable, except that a speed of over 45 miles per hour is practically certain.

To continue with the history of hydroplanes, the first practical English "skimmer," as this type of boat should correctly be termed, was Sleuthhound, a Wilesmith built boat, owned by Mr. Robinson who steered her in several races during the years 1907 and 1908, but, as there was nothing startling about her speed, she did not cause much comment. In the autumn of 1908 a hydroplane of the two-plane variety was tried with success on the Norfolk Broads, and over 20 miles per hour was reached with only 12 H.P. Surprise, as the little craft was named, was owned by Mr. M. Brooke, of Lowescroft, and had a length of 13 ft., with a 5 ft. 6 in. beam. She was built purely for experimental purposes, so did not take part in any of the public speed contests.

Last year saw a considerable improvement in the development, and no fewer than seven successful hydroplanes were launched and appeared in various races, namely:—

Miranda III, Baby-Hydro, Dollydo II, Glisseuse, Flapper, Two-Step and Mr. Tom Thornycroft’s Glider. Besides these there were several unsuccessful boats, which absolutely refused to be coaxed by their owners and planes. Of the first mentioned undoubtedly the most remarkable was Miranda III, designed by Sir John Thornycroft. On her trials she maintained a speed of over 30 miles per hour on a mean of seven runs with and against the tide over a measured half-mile, yet she was equipped with only a 55 H.P. Thornycroft motor. She presented an entirely new departure in hull design, so her appearance caused great excitement among the marine motoring fraternity. Unlike most hydroplanes she is essentially a sea boat, and from her looks one would think that she is only capable of about eight miles per hour instead of four times that speed. Her length is 24 ft. and the beam 7 ft., the point of greatest beam being well forward of amidships, while the stern finished to a point, a direct contrast to modern power boats. With regard to her underwater lines there is a small foot, or, aqua-plane under her bow, while towards aft she has an egg-shaped flat bottom, with the small end at the stern. When the engine throttle is opened, and the boat moves, the forward plane rises clear of the water, then the after body hits gradually, the speed increasing at the same time. At a certain point the stern comes clear of the water, and the bow drops until the aqua-plane just touches the surface, the whole operation of rising to the surface only taking about 10 seconds.

"Like father, like son," and Mr. Tom Thornycroft has followed in his father’s footsteps by designing and building "glider," with which he obtained abut 26 miles per hour with but 30 H.P. His boat has a single plane only, with the exception of a small sump in the bottom of the hull into which the motor is installed. There is no rudder, she being steered by a small paddle.

Baby-Hydro, Dollydo II and Two-Step are all of the Ricochet or two-plane box type., and have all attained speed of about 24 miles per hour. The first mentioned is 15 ft. in length and is fitted with a two-cylinder V-type 12 H.P. Brooke motor, while Dollydo II is two feet shorter with a 5 ft. beam, and is installed with a two-cylinder Boulton and Paul engine, developing 13 H.P. at 1,300 revolutions. The total hull and engine weight of Dollydo II is 548 lbs.; the hull weighing 250 lbs. The underwater section increases from fore to aft where it is perfectly flat on the transom. The reason for this was to overcome the tremendous sectional resistance against the skin of the boat when lifting out of the water. Two-Step was built by Wilesmith of Sleuthhound fame, and it is also 13 ft. in length, with a total weight of about 450 lbs. Her Coventri-Simplex engine develops 15 H.P. at 1,500 revolutions, and has four cylinders.

Flapper is a miniature Miranda, being built on much the same lines. At present she is having her old engine taken out, with which she obtained a high speed and is being fitted with more powerful equipment from which 40 miles per hour is expected. The only Fauber, or multiplane type, hydroplane successfully run in England is Glisseuse, Lord Hardwick’s little boat. She is about 18 feet in length and is fitted with an Anzani motor, but as she did not make an appearance until the end of last season her speeds are not authentic.

From the foregoing it will be seen that last year saw a wonderful hydroplane development in England. Excellent progress was also made in France, but of that I shall not deal here, although two French hydroplanes accomplished 40 miles per hour during a short burst of speed at Monaco. But the coming season will show a far more wonderful improvement in the shape of the Hope-Rathbone patent multi-step hydroplane from which is expected the astounding speed of over 50 miles per hour with 120 H.P., yet retaining the ordinary seaworthy qualities of a racing launch. As I write negotiations are being made for her construction, and there is every likelihood of her being brought to America, in company with the new Thornycroft boat, to win back the B.I. Trophy. If so, there is no doubt that Dixie III will have to look to her laurels. Coming from such a reliable source (as Mr. Linton Hope, the designer, is a naval architect of unimpeachable standing), there is no doubt that the speeds will be obtained, and Mr. Hope has checked and rechecked his figures until there can be no shadow of a doubt of their accuracy. When the hull is built two 60 H.P. E.N.V. engines will be fitted. Although of Belgian design the engines are being made in England expressly to allow the boat being eligible to enter for the Trophy race.

It is a source of surprise and wonder to the author that the hydroplane boom has not spread to America and taken the country by storm. The magnificent rivers and other sheltered waters are far more suitable for hydroplanes of the "animated tea tray" type, than are the exposed waters round the British Isles. Also that the sensations and delights of an expensive, high-powered speed-boat can be obtained for a few hundred dollars, by building one of these marvelous little craft. About 15 H.P. in a 14 ft. hull of the two-plane variety is quite sufficient to obtain 25 miles per hour, if careful attention is paid to the design and position of the planes. The hydroplane, therefore, promises to be the means of bringing the higher speeds within the reach of all.

(Transcribed from MotorBoating, April 1910, pp. 4-6.)

[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page --LF]

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