Model Boat Racing in 1910


Racing Model Motor Boat

Racing model yachts and motor boats is a question often discussed by the Pacific motor boat and yacht cluibs. The following taken from the Nautical Gazette gives an idea of how this sport is carried on in England. A number of the English ponds in the parks have become veritable Meccas for model motor boat fiends and exciting races are indulged in.

Model motor boat racing, a new sport, has caught the popular fancy, and is being taken up in all the large cities. With a view to encouraging owners of models to enter their boats in the various competitions, challenge cups are offered by the clubs, and the conditions are made so broad that every designer feels that there is a chance to win a trophy. The prizes are awarded for speed, for workmanship, for the general appearance of the models, for the behaviour of the machinery, and the performance of the boats while on the water.

Not less than 5,000 spectators entered recently at Clapham Common, one of the many open spaces in South London, to witness the regatta on the lake. The competition brought to the front some of the speediest racing models; some particularly fine ones of saloon steamers, liners and torpedo boats; and other craft that were built for appearance rather than for racing.

The rules for racing were very simple. Each owner started his model boat to run a straight line over the course, at the end of which the officials appointed for the purpose waited to "catch" the racers and return them to their owners. After the models were once started no interference was permitted, the ability of the unguided boat to keep in a line for the finish of the course being part of the qualifications for prize winning.

Over a course measuring 51 yards, four boats were started in the first race. The best time was made by a steam hydroplane, the Folly, in 9 1-5 seconds; Sunny Jim, a gasoline craft, did the distance in 12 3-5 seconds; Leda IV, a steamer, covered it in 15 4-5 seconds, and the fourth steamer, Idunno, in 21 seconds.

On running off the final heat, boat against boat in pairs, Sunny Jim scored three wins, the Leda IV two wins, and the Idunno one win, thus taking first, second and third prizes in the order named. The prizes were silver cups. The Folly, the fastest boat in the eliminating trials, unfortunately ran off her course in the finals, through her propeller fouling, and not being able to get going in the others, she had to give her opponents a walk-over.

Steering troubles were responsible for many awkward results in the other races. While hailed by the spectators as adding greatly to the enjoyment of the regatta, the failure of the little craft to keep their pointing and the perversity of the machinery when left to its own resources proved a great disappointment to the owners of models that failed to keep a true headway. Boats that had run true as a die or practice spins exhibited a tendency at the regatta to run anything but straight, or not to run at all. Gasoline motors refused to start, pumps gave out, boilers leaked, and the models exhibited a crankiness that showed there is a lot of improvement necessary before this sport can be brought to perfection. But that is why the regattas are encouraged. The weak points of the models are strengthened, and motor-boat building is benefited as the result of the lessons learned from the eccentric performances of the models in the cup races.

The reliability of electric power in model regattas was demonstrated again and again, one finely-modeled liner, the Fairholme, although not built for speed, scoring through the certainty of her performance and the untrust-

worthiness of some of her competitors. The surprise of the meeting was the performance of a finely-modeled gasoline boat, the Silver Dart. So fast was this entry, that the officials stationed to catch the models at the posts could only reach her when a little off the line, the little boat eluded a second attempt at seizure, and before she finally came to hand she had completed two round trips in brilliant, if somewhat erratic fashion, to the admiration of the spectators.

The expediency of running the regattas on a circular instead of a straight course is also engaging the attention of the experts, the difficulty of handling and controlling the big fast boats being very evident. In sending these speedy craft on a straight run across a small pond serious accidents seem unavoidable. One beautiful model, the Moraima II, after accomplishing several fine sprints, eluded the catchers, dashed off on a course of her own, and wound up a series of mischievous gyrations by running fill tilt into the bank, seriously damaging her hull and deranging the machinery. On a large lake, with a round course, such accidents it is thought, might be avoided by a circle of catchers standing ready to keep the boats on their way until the distance is completed.

(Transcribed from The Western Yacht and Launchman, June 15, 1910, p.20.)

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


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Leslie Field, 2003