More Power To You [Speed Records, 1946]
by W. Melvin Crook

In the November issue, Britisher Sir Malcolm Campbell presents a plethora of perpendicular pronouns under the title of "My Next Record Attempt." This sort of thing is all a most serious business on the little island, because British racing motor boats have been approximatley as successful as British heavyweight fighters since Maple Leaf IV last copped the Harmsworth Trophy in 1913.

Campbell's story -- as do most others concerning his 141 mile an hour record -- neatly glosses over the fact that his latest Bluebird was nothing more nor less than a beautifully-built "blow-up" of a Ventnor 225 three point hydroplane. Little or no credit has been given to New Jersey's Apels who developed this design. "My Next Record Attempt" leaves the inference that the 11- mile increase in the record chalked up in 1939 was due solely to improved propeller efficiency. From where we sat, we would blame it on the replacement of an awkward looking single step hull with a modern three pointer.

Campbell's apparently conclusion that propeller slip represents a quantitative measure of propeller inefficiency hardly could lead to the rationalization of many improvements. His statement ". . . propeller slip. We found that as much as twenty per cent of the engine power developed was lost through inefficiency of the propeller" neglects the fact that slip is only one of the factors constituting propeller loss. Actually he was lucky if he was able to put 50 per cent of his engine horsepower to work driving his hull. It is even possible that a propeller with a higher apparent slip might have given him more boat speed!

While on the subject of boat speed, it might be suggested that the British speed merchant obtain the advice of someone who knows how to figure the proper trim for a three-point hull. His Bluebird is supposed to have weighed only 2.14 pounds per horsepower. If she had shown the same efficiency as the best American three-point boats, she should have run nearer 165 mph than 141.

At the conclusion of the eastern power boat racing season at least one of the year's big winners was not treated to the customary lay-up for the winter. Owner Al Fallon and driver Dan Foster stayed over in Washington one day after they won the President's Cup with Miss Great Lakes, long enough to receive the trophy from President Truman, and then made tracks for Detroit and their next boating goal.

As Fallon explains it: "We knew we could raise Gar Wood's 124 mile an hour record without half trying so we decided to concentrate on that 141 mile thing of Malcolm Campbell. The first thing we planned to do was to run Great Lakes over the mile course on the Canadian side of the Detroit River at increasing steps of revolution speeds to find out how fast she would go and how she would behave at each step.

"We were all set to start this work on Saturday, October 12th, but the water was too rough to make any attempt at real speed. The next day the wind had gone down and we had a chance to see how things were behaving. The gear box oil seal that blew in Washington had been fixed up and everything seemed to be in apple pie order . . .

"On Monday, it was raining but we decided to try our stepping-up trials anyway. The first run was at an engine speed of 1500 rpm and from there we kept moving it up faster for each run. Our fastest complete mile was between 2300 and 2400 rpm and the watch showed that we had made it in 32 seconds (112.5 mph). Then we tried one at 2800 but the visibility was so bad that we almost ran up on shore and we had to quit.

"On Tuesday, the 15th, Lou Meier, an old boating friend of mine from Detroit, came out for a run in the boat and Dan Foster took him along for the trials. They made a few quiet runs and then decided to try a fast one. They must have been going pretty fast -- the tachometer stuck at 2950 -- when, right near the Coast Guard station, they hit a series of three bad seas. The first wave threw the boat up in the air and she came down at an angle to her course. The second one tossed her harder and she dove back in, veering still farther from her course. Then, on the third one, she jumped at least 6 feet out of the water and traveled a good 40 feet through the air. She landed on her right sponson, then on her after plane and finally over on to her port sponson and that one dug under. The boat flipped, end for end, tossing Meier high above it. When she came to rest, she settled stern first."

Foster and Meier were rushed to the hospital where it was found that Dan had broken some ribs and Lou was missing a few teeth but they are presently recovering satisfactorily. The boat was badly smashed but is not beyond repair.

Fallon plans to lay her up until February when he will start fixing the hull and installing a new Allison engine. By the time the water around Detroit is warm enough for that kind of boating, Miss Great Lakes should be out there running again. "But," says Fallon, "we're not going after that record except in perfectly calm water."

The annual racing rules meetings of the APBA will be held in New York City during the Motor Boat Show. Among the more important questions likely to come up for discussion at that time are these:

1. A group of racing men from the Detroit area will be plugging for an amendment to the Gold Cup rules to limit the class to boats with only one engine each. These lads feel that we are still a long way from having the proper hulls to handle all the output of one engine such as an Allison or Merlin and that any attempt to mount more than one such job in a boat is likely to hurt somebody.

Passage of such a rule would bar Miss America X, whose four Packards put out about as much power as four of anything available today. Yet the "Tenth" gave all appearances of docility when running.

2. Drivers as a whole, and the outboarders particularly, feel that they have received some shoddy treatment at the hands of regatta committees in the form of inadequate and isolated pits. Red Bank and Washington are being cited as the worst offenders. The drivers are ready to insist that APBA referees live up to their assignments in seeing that the competitors are given decent treatment along this line.

3. The old, old question of Salton Sea speed records is again being raised by a group of easterners. Several of the boats which hung up startling records on the below sea level saucer have been brought East and proven something less than spectacular. Regardless of the reasons for this speed disparity, motions are sure to be made -- and seconded.

(reprinted from Yachting Magazine, December 1946)


Hydroplane History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010.
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at wildturnip@gmail.com
Leslie Field, 1999