El Lagarto

More Power to You [1960]
By W. Melvin Crook

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I have often written of my friend and neighbor George Reis and his fabulous El Lagarto, only boat ever to post three consecutive wins of the Gold Cup and the scourge of her class in the 1932-1935 era. "The Lady With a Past," in the July, 1956 YACHTING, told an astounding tale of this famous craft which was created by John Hacker in 1922.

You have surely read some of the voluminous publicity concerning the U.S. Navy's new concept of a "super-cavitating" propeller.

These two disparate subjects became linked one day about 18 months ago when Reis, propeller engineer Ted Meyer, and I were rehashing our early racing association over a quiet quaff. Meyer mentioned the new Navy idea and I replied somewhat as I wrote in "More Power to You" in last December's issue, "I will accept the implied superiority of the Navy's super cavitator when I see it proven in competition around a race course rather than in page after page of formulae."

Ted opined that the El Lagarto was about as thoroughly tested a fast non prop-riding boat as had ever been developed and he was going to suggest to the Navy that they run one of their new props on Reis' craft. George immediately agreed to do his part in any such experiment.

As Meyer tells it, "To my surprise, the Bureau of Ships took to my suggestion almost immediately and some time in July or August last year authorized the David Taylor Model Basin to make up their conception of a super-cavitating propeller for direct comparison with the 16" by 26" Special El Lagarto propeller I designed for George and which he used when he set the unsupercharged Gold Cup straightaway record of 72.727 m.p.h. in 1935.

"The first step in the project was to send the Basin my original wheel for complete evaluation in the 'Dough-Nut' test tunnel at the Basin. The next was for the Basin to lay out one of its super-cavitating wheels to outdo, if possible, my old job. As was expected, their job under Basin tests showed up better than mine though only fractionally so. The next step was to see what would happen on the boat proper.

"At first the Basin demurred on actual boat tests on grounds that their standard instrumentation of thrust and torque meters, etc., was much too cumbersome and heavy to put aboard El Lagarto, and the necessary miniaturization thereof would have run to astronomical costs. It was finally decided to run straight stop-watch trials."

On June 14 of this year the tests were run on Lake George, N.Y., with Reis at the wheel of the 38-year-old craft and Lt. Comm. Elias Yenning Jr., who was in charge of the tests for the Model Basin, riding in the mechanic's seat.

Meyer sums it up this way. "The David Taylor Model Basin is not prepared to release any specific speed, or other figures in advance of a formal report on the entire project. However, the runs not only definitely proved the scientific , superiority of the Basin's super-cavitating design, but incidentally revealed that there was more to my old design than it had been given scientific credit for."

Since such speed trials could hardly have been run in secrecy on a busy lake, here is what they showed. Ted

Meyer's old El Lagarto special prop was used for four passes over the half-mile course and produced an average speed of 72 m.p.h. with the engine direct-driving the wheel at 3,275 r.p.m. Four runs over the same course with the Navy super-cavitating type prop averaged out at 72.6 at 3,400. On one run with the Navy wheel, El Lagarto crossed her own wake at the start and completed the course abnormally high in the water; this run was more than two miles an hour faster than any of the others.

Reis comments, "The Navy wheel was a honey beautifully smooth-running but it had more slip than Ted's design. The BuShips man asked me not to accelerate fast for fear it would deform the wheel's thin leading edges. But I did and it didn't."

(Reprinted from Yachting, September 1960)

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Leslie Field, 2006