APBA Changes [1910]

New Motor Boat Trophy
American Power Boat Association Puts Up Cup in 32-Foot Class

A new silver challenge cup for high-speed boats not over thirty-two feet in length will shortly be put up by the American Power Boat Association, according to a statement made last week by Morris M. Whitaker, Secretary of the association. This makes the third grand challenge cup offered by the organization, the other two being the Gold Challenge Cup now held by the Thousand Islands Yacht Club, and the Bronze Twenty-Foot Cup held on the Mississippi.

"These facts indicate," said Mr. Whitaker, "to what extent the association has helped so far to promote racing. Steps are now on foot to readjust the association’s long-established rating formula to meet the demands of the modern boats and bring the formula abreast of present conditions.

"To that end all the clubs forming the association—and they extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Gulf—have been asked to give their actual experience with the formula as now in force. The leading naval architects of this country have also been asked to make suggestions as to changes and betterments. So, when a special meeting of the association is called to consider the matter, as will be the case. Changes will be determined upon that will produce the desired results.

"The association has in view, also, the formation of restricted classes, boats of given length in which maximum power and minimum weight will be fixed, so as to secure boats which will be rational high speed runabouts, strong enough to last through several seasons of hard use and so designed so they cannot be made back numbers by newer boats of abnormal power.

The restrictions will be rigid enough so that a boat’s racing career will not be limited to one season. Through the cooperation of the clubs forming our association it is hoped to bring about racing among these boats from widely varying sections of the country."

(Transcribed from the New York Times, Mar. 13, 1910, Sect. IV, p. 4)

*  *  *

Restricted Power Boat Classes Wanted
Standardization Needed to Provide Proper Stimulus to the Racing Feature
by H. T. Koerner, President of the American Power Boat Association

Why the sport of motor boat racing languishes except in well-known and clearly defined instances has been a fruitful source of conjecture during the past two years. The meteoric rise of the sport and its more-or-less dormant state to-day cannot be explained away by indifference or apathy or by a waning interest on the part of either spectators or participants.

It is a fact that the sport has languished despite the phenomenal development of the motor boat as a means of convenience, pleasure, or business. The actual use of power boats has progressed in astounding leaps and bounds, yet the craft devoted to racing and pleasure combined have dwindled in very perceptible number.

Many reasons, as I have said, have been advanced for this peculiar condition, but none is convincing. No sport should languish in the face of brilliant development in its own particular sphere of activity unless abnormal and detrimental conditions are at the bottom of such a retrogression.


To make a hasty survey of the rise of gasoline-driven boat racing we need go back no more than ten years, when the small power boats, built on speed lines, made us gasp in astonishment at what we believed was well-nigh record speed, yet these early examples were capable of but twelve or thirteen miles an hour. Each year saw faster and finer-lined boats launched, and the interest of the public kept pace with the new speeds developed.

Naturally this development suggested a new line of sport. Motor boat clubs were founded by the dozen, and thousands of individuals became interested. The young mechanic, the artisan, the clerk, the professional man, men of all occupations and shades of thought—but usually of modest means—became devotees of the fine sport. But this state of affairs was of very short duration.

The next few years saw the twenty-two-mile boat make its debut, and the hundreds became scarce who ventured to play this interesting game of miles and cost. Twenty-four miles an hour came, and then others of the already dwindling lot fell away. So, when thirty miles and more were reeled off and the limit seemed nowhere in sight, most of the men who were pioneers of the game were put entirely out of the running.


The sport languished not because of lack of interest in lower speed boats—for a race of twenty-two to twenty-seven mile boats is as spectacular to the observer and as exhilarating to the participant as a trial of speed of much faster craft—but because the men who loved the sport and doggedly played the game up to a certain point were discouraged by the ever-increasing cost and the precarious life of their boats as racers.

The speed-wonder of to-day was relegated to the shades of to-morrow. The cost of the undertaking grew entirely out of proportion to the meager results obtained, and the battle of records confined itself entirely to a very few men who cared little for expense provided a victory was within reach. The man of moderate means was thereby put absolutely out of the game.

Even in the lower record boats the same conditions prevailed. A good, sensible forty-footer , developing thirty to thirty-two miles with a reliable 75 horse power engine became a back number on the appearance of a freak thirty-two-footer over-engined with a 100 horse power motor. A race under such conditions entailed a shrinkage in value to the loser of hundreds of dollars in a day. The game became discouraging even to those that could still afford the expensive pastime and who stuck to the sport despite the tremendous financial burden.

The past year proved no exception. Speed results increased while the number of speed boats decreased. Exceptional races like the Gold Challenge Cup contests on the St. Lawrence, are and will be in evidence, and there is no flagging of interest in the competitions which the wonderful fliers entered therein naturally create.

But is a sport confined to such a few exceptional instances in a healthy, normal condition? What becomes of the dozens of localities, the hundreds of boats, where racing saw its rise and fall? What of the men who have dropped out of the noble game, and who would again become actively interested under different conditions and on more modest lines? Will a return even now to the conditions hitherto prevailing be entirely satisfactory?

I am emphatically of the opinion that it will not. In an experience extending over a decade the fact has become evident to me that nothing but scratch races fill all requirements. With the starting gun comes the thrill. And now what can be done to produce races where all boats start on scratch, where any number of boats have an equal chance of victory?

In my opinion there is but one thing that will revive the waning interest generally. That thing is the adoption of classified boats. Let there be several classes and let each class be restricted in length and volume of power. Let each class be so adjusted that a twenty-six-foot boat shall not race with a twenty-one-footer but have no chance with a thirty-two-foot boat. Let the volume of power be proportionate to the hull, and insist upon a boat, not a freak, in each class.

Under such conditions it is perfectly apparent that men will again enter into the true spirit of motor boat racing and buy such craft in the various classes in proportion to their means. It is also plain that when once they have entered into the class selected they will find many boats of like length and cylinder volume to race with. The freak cannot disturb them. It has no place under the arrangement.


The general adoption of this system of classified boats will make locality and district racing a certainty. It will produce a class of racing men who will look into the refinements of hull and engine, and who will learn seamanship—which, in boats where power alone is the factor, has been notoriously bad.

The adoption of standard sized boats for racing will enormously increase the business of hull and engine building and all interests directly connected with these industries, whereas it will in no measure affect the free-for-all contests, in which the great fliers meet annually. The Gold Challenge Cup races and other like events will be run with enlarged interest, stimulated by a general revival of racing interest.

The idea of standardizing motor boats was first brought to my attention last July by Clarence S. Sidway of Buffalo, a racing man well-known for his enthusiastic adherence to the sport even in the face of most discouraging conditions. An abortive attempt to put the idea into practice was made by an ill-assorted committee, but their recommendations were of no real value.

The American Power Boat Association. Realizing that an earnest effort must be made forthwith to rehabilitate the sport on scientific lines, has now actively undertaken the task of reform. It has appointed a number of naval architects of National reputation to formulate a series of restricted classes of boats.

This final standardization will be authorized by the council of the American Power Boat Association after the most careful consideration and will be spread broadcast in a determined effort to arrest the downward course of power boat racing and to put the magnificent sport on the high plain to which it belongs. Then we must all work to keep it there.

(Transcribed from the New York Times, March 6, 1910, Sect. IV, p.4.)

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

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