Harmsworth Preparations - USA [1904] (Pt. 2)

Gasoline Explodes on Auto Boat Challenger

Flier Was Having a Speed Trial on Bowery Bay

Occupants Leap Overboard

Boat Will Be Repaired in Time to Go Abroad to Race For The Harmsworth Cup

An explosion of gasoline in the fast automobile boat, the Challenger, yesterday, came within an ace of damaging the boat so badly as to prevent sending her to Europe this week to compete on July 30 for the Harmsworth Cup. The boat was being tried in a speed test in Bowery Bay and adjacent parts of the East River when a quantity of gasoline that had leaked from the pipe connecting the gasoline tank with the motor exploded in the bottom of the boat directly beneath the engines. Three men were in the boat at the time, Clinton H. Crane, the yacht designer, who designed the hull of the Challenger; Carlton R, Mabley of the firm of Smith & Mabley, automobile manufacturers, and the builders of the boat, and a mechanic. They were uninjured, although as soon as the gasoline exploded, sending a great flash of fire in the air, the occupants leaped into the water. The boat then was about 200 feet off the pier at North Beach.

The ferryboat Bronx was just leaving her pier for East One Hundred and Thirty-fourth Street, but at the noise of the explosion and the sight of the three men leaping into the water the Captain of the ferryboat drew up to the swimming men and they were pulled aboard by the crew. The fire hose of the ferryboat was then brought out, and running up close to the burning automobile boat, a stream of water was turned upon the blazing hull, and in a short time the flames were extinguished. The boat was then towed by a launch to the Smith & Mabley boatbuilding shops, at the foot of East Eighty-third Street.

Mr. Mabley said last night that he could not explain the exact nature of the accident, but the cause of the leak will be carefully investigated to-day. Mr. Crane looked the hull over after the flames were put out, and stated that the boat was not seriously damaged, and that, with a few alterations, she can be shipped to England on Saturday, as originally intended. The interior woodwork was badly scorched, and some of the beams will probably have to be replaced. The boat had done very well before the accident, coming fully up to the expectations of her designer and builder, having made on one stretch five miles in eleven minutes. it is stated that the boat is able to do twenty-eight statute miles an hour, which would be better than any automobile boat has yet done. The fastest boat abroad has done about twenty-five miles an hour, while the Standard, which holds the American record, has done twenty-three statute miles an hour.

The Challenger is a new boat, having been launched only two weeks ago. In her first attempt for a speed trial at the Columbia Yacht Club last week, she ran against a submerged log, damaging her steering gear, and had to be repaired. This accident prevented the boat from being sent to England last Saturday, as had been planned. W. Proctor Smith of the firm sailed at that time, as he is to manage the boat in the coming Harmsworth Cup race.. This race will be held in the Solent, near the Isle of Wight, on July 30. It will be the second competition for the cup. The trophy is to autoboats practically what the Gordon Bennett Cup is to automobiles, entries being restricted to three boats from each country. Last year America had no entry, but this year Smith & Mabley made two entries. The smaller boat of the two, the Vingt-et-Un, it has been decided, will not be sent abroad. The Challenger, after being repaired last week, went to the American Yacht Club last Saturday and then to the Indian Harbor Yacht Club on July 4 to compete in the motor boat races held by those clubs, but owing to the high winds and rough water the Challenger only went once over the course in the Indian Harbor races and then, having shipped so much water, retired from the contest.

The boat is a trifle less than 40 feet long, the maximum length for a Harmsworth Cup competitor, and her horse power is 150, the highest that an autoboat in this country has yet been equipped with, although one is now being built with 175 horse power, but the boat is over 60 feet long. Nearly all the forward part of the boat is occupied with the engine, which is an eight-cylinder motor, and over forty gallons of gasoline can be carried. If the gasoline tank had blown up there would have been nothing left of the boat, or of any one in it at the time. She was not filled to her full capacity yesterday.

(Transcribed from the New York Times, July 7, 1904, p. 9.)

[See also:

Harmsworth Preparations - USA [1904] (Pt. 1)

1904 Harmsworth Trophy

1904 Harmsworth Trophy (from The Rudder)]

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

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