The 1909 Racing Season at Buffalo
By Dr. John C. Mesmer
The motorboat racing season of 1909, just drawn to a close in Buffalo, can safely said to have been the most successful in the history of yachting on the Niagara frontier. Better boats have been built this year than heretofore, faster time has been made than in previous years, and together with the harmony and good fellowship prevailing among club members, has done much toward further elevating this gentlemanly sport.
To the officers and members of the Buffalo Launch Club and the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo too much cannot be said in praise of the manner in which this year’s racing has been conducted. They have been untiring in their efforts to promote clean sport. Most of the races this season were conducted under the auspices of the former organization, the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo having been severely handicapped by the loss of its clubhouse by fire. This club is game, however, and will have its new home about completed before cold weather sets in.
To equalize matters somewhat, all boats entering races this year were placed in one of three classes, A. B. or C.
The Class A pennant was carried off by Ralph Sidway’s Arab III, this craft, with fourteen points to her credit, having competed in seven races during the season, winning three and in no race finishing worse than second. Her best time was made in the 25-mile International Scratch Race held on September 6th, when she competed with Hoosier Boy and La Truda, Arab III finishing second with an average speed of 30.37 miles an hour.
In Class B the honors went to Snip, with eleven points to her credit, having competed in six events, winning one first, three second and three third prizes. Snip’s best time was made on September 4th, in the 10-mile handicap race, when she captured second place, attaining a speed of 14.42 miles an hour.
Libbie H won Class C, with six points, having won two firsts, her best speed being 8.33 miles an hour.
The best and most sensational race of 1909 was the 50-miles International Scratch race on September 6th. Although this was not the fastest race of the season, it was interesting to see Hoosier Boy win a stubbornly fought contest after going fully twenty of the fifty miles in a crippled condition that would have caused almost any other man than Whitlock to have to quit the race.
While the Hoosier Boy was plugging along at a 30-mile-an-hour clip, Mr. Whitlock, who was at the wheel, suddenly felt something give way. At the same time the boat refused to answer her rudder. Without stopping, a hasty examination was made and it was found that the pin holding the rudder to the shoe had gone wrong. Here is where "Sandy," Mr. Whitlock’s machinist, proved that he possessed a good head. Lying on his stomach on the after deck, "Sandy" allowed himself to be hurriedly lashed to the cleats. He grasped the broken rudder in his hands and forced it against the shoe and held it there for twenty miles., winning the race against La Truda and H.S.
The 25-mile International Scratch Race, held on the same day, proved to be the fastest of the season. Here it was that Hoosier Boy put it over her competitors and smashed all records previously made on the Niagara River. Together with Hoosier Boy were entered Arab III and La Truda. Although it was a close contest from start to finish, Hoosier Boy won out. Her elapsed time showed an average speed of 31.2 miles an hour. Arab III finished ahead of La Truda, with an average speed of 30.37 miles an hour, the latter boat showing 30.24 miles an hour.
The last race of the season, on September 11th, for the Letchworth Cup, was won by La Truda against Hoosier Boy and Buffalo II, a new arrival in the local racing field, this being her first appearance. It was a pretty race, but not so fast as those of September 6th.
There were some surprises and also disappointments as regards speed this year. Of the latter might be mentioned the Courier II, which was heralded as a world beater last Spring, but the racing season came and went, yet the Courier II failed to get into shape to enter a single race, and it is said has not been accepted by her prospective owner.
The H.S., a Tonawanda boat, which caused the best of them to sit up and take notice last year, was also somewhat of a disappointment this season, due, perhaps, to constant changes in her mechanism and to the fact that faster boats are being built from year to year. Racing boats are in a measure like ring champions; they must go down to defeat sooner or later.
With new ideas gathered this year, it is certain that next season will see still faster time on the Niagara River. The racing fever is spreading.
One thing shown this year is that better time was made although the horsepower of the motors has not been increased materially; more attention has been given to the lines of hulls, adjusting for weights, etc.
Buffalo has established a prestige in the motorboating line, and we now anxiously await the outcome of what will be doped out around the fire this Winter. There will be a lot of conversation boats built before Spring, the results of which can better be shown when the fleet captain’s form sheets are completed next Fall.
(Transcribed from MotorBoat, Nov. 10, 1909, pp. 20-21.)
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page --LF]
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