1903 Harmsworth Trophy Race

The Harmsworth International Cup Race

Doubtless the fact that the first race for this trophy---now recognized as the world's speed-launch classic---was held at the end of an automobile fortnight in which the struggle for the Gordon- Bennett Cup was the chief event, caused it to suffer somewhat in comparison with the latter, which might well be expected to attract the bulk of the attention of Continental and American sportsmen. Probably also the uncertainty as to the exact course that would be chosen which existed until quite recently was also responsible for the shortage of entries. But in no degree can the yachting press be blamed for not giving the event all the publicity due its importance. From the United States the customary amount of ante-post talk was duly forthcoming, as in the case of the Gordon-Bennett Cup; but no entries. And French and German sportsmen, as has been said, were absorbed in preparation for the great struggle on the Kildare roads. Nevertheless, although the outcome was that only three launches, all English built and engined, competed, thus temporarily obliterating the international character of the contest, the times made by each of the three competitors proved conclusively that British designers, builders and engineers have leapt into the lead in speed-launch construction, new though it be in British waters, on the solid ground of deeds, not words. It may well be that the course ultimately chosen was not calculated to retain the interest of spectators, nor in accordance with the experience of local yachtsmen who were best acquainted with those waters. Still, although it happened that the three boats were run in a heat, a bye, and a final on a river on which as many as eight eight-oared rowing boats had been started abreast at a regatta---thus unduly protracting the event to no purpose and exhausting the patience of the spectators, most of whom did not stay for the remaining events in the programme---it cannot be gainsaid that the attendance at the start was as numerous as could be desired. As was generally expected, the 40-ft. Napier launch, designed by Mr. Linton Hope and built by Tamner & Co., of Camden Town, N.W., with 20-gauge steel plates, easily overpowered its two 30-ft. rivals, winning its first race against Mr. F. Beadle's Saunders-built launch by 3 min. and 2/5 sec., in 24 min. 44 sec.; thus showing a mean speed allowing for the flood tide, of over 2o knots per hour. Nevertheless she seemed overloaded with machinery, the weight of which it is said, had exceeded the estimate of those who superintended her construction by some 3 cwt. It may be, however, that her 75 h.p. four cylinder engine had not been, as stated in other quarters, originally designed for marine work; many motorists professing to recognize it as that of the Paris-Berlin Napier car, the "Elephant" of three years ago. Nevertheless, no engine on any launch could have done better, as it started easily and ran all day without a miss. Yet it has been authoritatively stated that it did not give more than 50 h.p. And certainly the course of 8.97 knots---practically nine knots including the turns round the buoys, whatever the shortcomings from the spectator's point of view, was perfect for the sport in hand.

But in contradistinction to the Napier launch which had canvass stretched over an iron deck frame in place of a deck, it must be admitted that Mr. F. Beadle's boat was a more ship like and sporting looking vessel with her wooden deck. This little craft was designed by Messrs. Wort and Beadle of Arctic Chambers, Cowes, and built by the Saunders Patent Launch Building Syndicate, Limited, at their Goring yard, on their patent "Consuta" system. The engine, which is an M.M.C. 8-cylinder, 4-cycle motor of 50 h.p., was supplied through the Grovsenor Engineering Works, of Danvers-street, Chelsea, who are sole marine agents for these motors. When in the water the vessel looks like a miniature torpedo-boat, and has already done a trial spin on which the rate of 19 knots was obtained. It may be remarked that there is a total absence of vibration from the engine, a fact which speaks volumes for its balance and the solidity of the construction of the hull. We understand for her length her speed is far in excess of any existing speed launch. The deck is in one piece, and so well has the work been carried out that, when in racing trim the driver and steersman on board, the total weight of the launch, including machinery, is only about one ton. So strong is the hull (which is built of three skins of mahogany sewn together with copper wire) that her builder claims to be able to suspend her stem and stern with the engine aboard, without sagging of any kind.

The Thornycroft boat, which ran the bye, was constructed by F, Maynard, of Chiswick, and engined by Thornycroft with a four-cylinder motor, developing 20 h.p. In spite of its low horse-power this launch made an excellent show, and was undoubtedly the most efficient of the race. She ran her bye in 30 min. 28 4/5 sec.

She was not built especially for the race, but was entered on account of the excellent results attained on her trial, as the 40-ft. Thornycroft boat was not completed in time. Her measurements are: Length, 30 ft.; beam, 5 ft.; depth, extreme, 2 ft. 1 in. The hull is of cedar planks and American elm timbers. A turtle deck is fitted forward and a deck of light pine aft, covered with calico. The power is supplied by a "Thornycroft" 20 b.h.p. four-cylinder petrol motor, identical to that recently fitted by them in the launch for H.M. the King.

In the final the tide had slackened, and the Napier boat's time was 26 min 6 sec, that of the Thornycroft launch being 31 min. 14 3/5 sec.

The handicap race for the Yachtsman Cup was also confined to the three previous competitors, the Mercedes launch specially imported for the occasion by M. Charley having hopelessly broken down due to lack of lubrication. This boat was ineligible for the Harmsworth Cup, having a French hull and a German engine, and the mechanic in charge, with the happy-go-lucky characteristics of the average Frenchman, had come all the way without a spanner. The M.M.A. rules discourage extreme powers, with the result that the Thornycroft boat received 11 min. 50 sec, time allowance from the Napier, and won easily; the Beadle boat received 6 min. 55 sec., and was a bad second. The actual times over the course are interesting. The Thornycroft launch, with only 20 h.p., took 33 min. 51 1/5 sec., while the Beadle boat, with a reputed 50 h.p., occupied 33 min. 12 3/5 sec to run the course. When the scratch boat started the ebb was running fairly hard, and the time was 27 min. 9 1/5 sec. The competition, although so limited---owing perhaps to the fact that up to the present so few British makers of fuel-flash engines has realised the possibilities of the power-boat---was exceedingly interesting, and opens a great filed for future sport. The M.M.A. time scale also worked exceedingly well.

A sweepstakes race of 1 pound each for yacht's launches was also held, in which Mr. Compton's Lady Calista, of 23 ft. length with 5 min. handicap, was first in 56 min. 31 3/5 sec., and Mr. A. Nicholson's Gnat. 31 ft. long, won second prize from scratch in 1 hr. 7 min. 2 1/5 sec. Other entrants were Mr./ A. S. Bowlby's 24 ft., 6 h.p. Vanessa, and Mr. A. F. Evans's 18 ft., 2 h.p. Motive. Vanessa's time was 1 hr. 7 min. 50 1/5 sec.

In conclusion it should be stated that the Admiralty attached so much importance to the contest that they sent a special representative.

Transcribed from The Yachting World, July 16, 1903, pp. 55-56.

*  *  *

The Lessons Of The Marine Motor Race

It is true that British power-boats have had a walk-over for the Harmsworth International Cup. This in some measure detracts from the abstract interest. And it must be admitted that some consideration was not given beforehand to the choice of the course so as to sustain the interest of the spectators from start to finish. It should have been remembered that none but a company of the most patient enthusiasts care to see the competitors in any sporting event disappear shortly after the start, and after having fought out the whole issue invisibly reappear several hours later to finish a contest in such wise that the only interest centres in the momentary question of how far one competitor will win. From this point of view, which we take to be that of sportsmen in general, it is safe to say that a worse course could hardly have been chosen. The situation of the finishing point was well enough, nor could any exception be taken to it as a starting-point, had the course been laid eastward and back again; in which case the whole progress of the race would have been visible. As it was, praise the results of these races as performances against time as we may, the whole affair was the direst fiasco as a spectacular event. From all that can be gathered, too, the cause was, as usual, over-administration; or rather, we should say, administration too widely dispersed. It has long been a notable fact that the organisation of an ordinary club regatta is far more successful when left in the hands of the secretary, the handicapper, and the honorary timekeeper, than when the said hard-worked, frequently-blamed officials are assisted more or less by their race committee. But following up this line of argument, when control is vested in two distinct bodies, as in the present case, the wonder is, not that the event was a spectacular failure, but that it ever came off at all. The entire management of the affair, in a word, should have been left in one man's , and he was the one who's local experience was likely to be the widest. Apparently he was the last consulted.

But if judicious organisation were for to seek, those immediately concerned in the design and build of the competing power-boats and their engines cannot be too-warmly congratulated on the success of their work. For although of a widely differing type of craft from those of the design and sailing of which Mr. Linton Hope has established a reputation second to none on either side of the Atlantic, he has at a stroke achieved the notable feat of designing, in the Napier boat, the fastest speed-launch of her type in the world, bar none. And, be it remembered, that one, the Leighton speed launch, with her eight-cylindered engine has only a recorded speed rate of 23 miles an hour, which was not maintained for more than two miles said to have been measured during the previous winter on the ice of Lake Onondaga, N.Y. But that record is one which must be accepted with more or less caution by British yachtsmen, especially since the owner of the boat which made it did not bring her across to repeat it in the Harmsworth Cup race. On the other hand, we have the Napier boat running the whole nine miles of the course at an average of a trifle over 20 knots. Furthermore, her stability (contrary to all expectation from her appearance and the height of her engine) was such that she never showed the semblance of a tendency to roll at any time. Nor, for that manner, did either of her beautifully designed and built competitors, the Maynard-built Thornycroft boat---which was the most efficient in the race---and the even speedier but higher-powered Durandel, built by Saunders, Ltd., of Cowes.

The chief deduction to be derived from the race in particular is that the naval scouting of the future---in all probablility---will be done in fuel-flash engined speed-craft of the Napier and Thornycroft type; which, making no smoke, and little or no noise, would be hard to discover, and harder still to hit, even with a light quick-firer. And the lesson of these races most immediately applicable to power-yachting and the construction of both hulls and engines is that the lines of the speed hull need be only modified for the cruiser, while the makers whose engine has come through such a racing test in perfect condition may be relied upon to set the standard of absolute efficiency for either auxiliary or cruising-power-yacht work. For such a race is the demonstration in excelsis of the qualities required for either speed-launch or cruiser.

Transcribed from The Yachting World, July 23, 1903. pp. 69-70.

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


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Leslie Field, 1999