1904 Harmsworth Trophy
Cowes, England, July 31, 1904

Motor Boat Racing

The British International Cup

Britain, France and America in Competition

Victory of the British Boat

Twelve months, or at least six, may be regarded as the minimum time for preparation of any international sporting trophy. Therefore when Sir Alfred Harmsworth last year presented the Harmsworth Cup for international competition for power boats under 40 ft. waterline length and using any form of power the date appointed for the first race---namely, July 11---was so close at hand, comparatively speaking, that it was scarcely expected that many, if any, foreign boats would be entered. So great, however, was the eclat arising from the first race, if only because of the speed recorded by the winning boat, that it immediately began to be regarded as the blue riband event of the marine motor world; with this difference perhaps, that there was no d----d pretence of merit about it, but the reality. Other international trophies for motor-boats have since been given and raced for as most successful events, exactly as there are other Derbies in the Turf world beside the one run on Epson Downs. But the latter remains the Derby just as the Harmsworth (since most appropriately named the British International) Cup race remains the motor-boat race of the world.

However, under the circumstances ruling twelve months ago, there were no foreign entries which complied with the rule that each competing vessel should be constructed wholly in every detail in the country which it represented. The first race was therefore confined, as will be remembered, to British boats---one entered by Messrs. S. F. Edge, Ltd., one by Messrs. J. I. Thornycroft and Co., Ltd., and one by Messrs. Wort and Beadle. Run in Queenstown harbour, the race was won by Messrs. S. F. Edge's Napier I---since sold to M. Henri Deutsch---which, steered by Mr. Campbell Muir, achieved a speed of some 19 1/2 knots. For a boat of 40 ft. length this was not an unknown speed; but for one propelled by a form of power which was then in its earliest experimental stages for high-speed work, it was a remarkable achievement; one, moreover, which was less important per se than for the promise of still better things which it contained. Such, indeed, was the effect produced that this year---as will be seen from the accompanying list of entries---as many as nine boats were engaged, representing Great Britain, France. and the United States. Indeed, had the very justifiable contemporary expectations been borne by the eventual facts, and the conditions of representation as to numbers been taken advantage of, there should have been at least six countries represented by some eighteen boats. However, as it turned out, three countries only were represented in the entries; Great Britain with five competitors, France with three, and the United States with but one. This circumstance, perhaps more than any other, illustrates the lead already taken by this country in the marine motor industry. In the following list, however, will be found full details as to the owners, designers, and builders of the competing boats, as well as the length, make of engine installed, the motive power used, and the hores-power developed in each case:

Entries For The Cup

No. Country Competitor Hull Designer Hull Builder
1 England S.F. Edge Ltd. Saunders P.L.B. Co. Saunders
2 "


Yarrow & Co. Yarrow
3 " J.E. Hutton Ltd. Linton Hope & Co. Hart, Harden & Co.
4 " J.I. Thornycroft & Co. Ltd. Thornycroft & Co. Strickland & Co.
5 " Lord Howard de Walden H. Knudsen Simpson, Strickland & Co.
6 France M.A. Clement M. Chevreaux Ste. le Marguerite
7 " M.H. Legru Legru Legru
8 " Richard Brasier Seyler Seyler
9 U.S.A. Smith & Mabley Tams, Lemoine & Crane Smith & Mabley
No. Engine Maker H.P. Length Cylinders Motive Fuel
1 D. Napier & Son 55 35 ft. 4 Petrol
2 " 90 40 ft. 8 "
3 J.E. Hutton Ltd 150 39.95 ft. 6 "
4 Thornycroft 120 40 ft. 4 "
5   300 40 ft. 12 "
6 Clement 180 40 ft. 8 "
7 Gardner-Serpollet 100 39.3 ft. Steam  
8 Richard Brasier 82 30 ft. 2 3/4 in. 4 Petrol
9 Smith & Mabley 150 39 ft. 10 7/8 in. 8 "

Naturally, with five boats entered in the British section, eliminating trials were rendered necessary. These, as well as the race itself, were run under the combined auspices of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, over a course laid from barges moored in a line between Ryde Pier Head and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club battery, thence around three mark-boats moored off Osborne (so as to give a wide semicircular turn) and back to the finishing line between the familiar black and white signal post on Ryde Pier Head and a flag-boat moored 150 yards north of it. This distance, 7.7 nautical miles, represents the course for the eliminating trials and the preliminary heats for the race itself. But in comparing the times recorded for these and that of the winning boat in the final;, a fact should be taken into account which appears to have escaped general notice; this being in that in the final the course was swung rather wider, thus making the total distance 7.8 nautical miles.

Both on Friday and Saturday last the officers of the day were Captain du Boulay, R.E., and Messrs. B. O. Cochrane and G. H. Harrison; these gentlemen also constituting the sub-committee appointed by the R.V.Y.C., the Automobile Club being duly represented by its Marine Motor Committee, as follows: Dr. Boverton Redwood, D.Sc., F.R.S.E. (chairman), Sir John I. Thornycroft, F.R.S., Major F. Lindsey Lloyd, R.E., Captain R. T. Dixon, R.E., Lieutenant Mansfield Smith Cumming, R.E., and Messrs. G. Schenley, Henry Sturmey, E. Campbell Muir, G. Foster Pedley, Bernard Redwood, A. F. Yarrow, S. F. Edge, and Roger Fuller.

The Eliminating Trials

Friday dawned fine and clear with a light E.S.E. breeze which afterwards strengthened and backed southerly and then S.S.W., bringing with it occasional light showers, sufficient to render oilskins in general request. Hove to aboard a 5-tonner a couple of cables' lengths from the two barges moored opposite the club battery, from which all competitors started, one was able to secure a better view than could be obtained anywhere else of the preparatory proceedings; long, in fact, before the arrival of the Automobile Club steamer Princess Helena, and much closer than could be afforded from any point of the pier. Looking out over the roadstead northwards, a green canvass hood, set in a cascade of foam, glinted in the fitful gleams of sunlight like some huge tourmaline. A few minutes more, and a second flashed into view, pearl in a grey-green setting. These were the first arrivals of the British teams: Napier II, steered by Mr. S. F. Edge, accompanied by Mr. M. Napier, Mr. Stocks and Macdonald---and Napier Minor, in charge of Mr. A. F. Evans. A few minutes more, and the former's dull black hull swept in through the anchorage, swung round hard-a-starboard then hard-a-port, and finally slowed down to wait for Napier Minor, the exhaust steam roaring defiance from the two escape funnels aft, until---as she was run astern to the barge side---a touch on the invisible ignition switch brought silence for a moment. The Napier Minor dashed in, and proceeded to her station by the southern-moored barge without losing a moment, as she was drawn for the first heat against the Thornycroft boat.

But where, people began to ask, was her antagonist, and where Fer de Lance---from which such sensational speed developments had been expected, though matched with Napier II, for the honor of representing Great Britain? Yet five minutes then ten then twenty dragged along; the blue-and- white pennant delivered to the mast-head on the pier while one gazed seaward, weather-sheet in hand, waiting, waiting. Still no appearance. Soon the word was passed from boat to boat that neither were coming over from Gosport. It was the old story again---sufficient time allowed for preparation, thus fulfilling the predictions quietly made for months past by a few practical men. The Thornycroft engine, it appeared, had in some way or other seized so that it could not be started; and Fer de Lance, with her gigantic installation of 300 b.h.p. in twelve cylinders, had not even, it was said, arrived at Gosport.

At noon on the previous day one had seen the Linton Hope designed Hutton boat in the Itchen, opposite Summers and Payne's, her hull a triumph of design and build, but with her crew working hard to get her engine to start. Looking at the cylinder heads, one anticipated compressive leaking; and the water jackets appeared frail for their purpose. Indeed, the whole engine savoured too much of the automobile; and when it was also reported that on account of the aluminium of which the water jackets were made, the additional complication of radiators and fresh water tank undermined the little confidence of the success of the Hutton boat for the race. Still, towed over from the mainland, there she was and hoe successful her crew's efforts had been on the previous day remained to be seen. Unfortunately, long after the Edge boats had run their heats, although a few occasional reports rang in the distance, they failed to get the engine running.

It is always easy to criticise failure; for few people can be brought to understand that there are some failures only less significant than success. Of such, indeed, was the Hutton boat, out this season, though for the time being only, we may be assured. One may perhaps regard her engine as a little too high-school in design for marine work; but as to the rest, let it be understood that no birch-bark canoe ever floated was easier to drive than the Hope-designe, Harden-built hull. Lastly, there were few of those connected with her who had rested either by night or day for weeks past in their efforts to bring her to the line "fit and spinning." Time and time alone, beat them; yet we may gather that no technical miscalculations had been made, for she floated not half an inch lower than her designed water-line.

The details of Napier Minor's construction and installation have for some time past been familiar to readers of THE YACHTING WORLD. Suffice it therefore to say that two things, the superiority of the Saunders system of construction for strength combined with lightness and the uselessness of installing more than a certain amount of power, were never more thoroughly manifest tan in these trials and the race itself. The details of Napier II have however, never yet appeared. As the result of a careful examination on the previous day, one saw at the first glance that, although she was probably installed with twice the necessary power for her length, the installation, as regards the situation of the engines, was strictly orthodox from a marine standpoint, and consequently simple and efficient to the utmost degree, both being bedded compactly side by side on a powerful-looking double girder keelson carried to a point just forward of the engines and tapering right away into the after-body, short but stout steel bedplates supporting them to port and starboard. There is just sufficient space to pass between them to give free access to all parts; and each engine has an independent switchboard and ignition---a point on which opinions differ as to merits---and its own carburettor and fuel supply. Both, moreover, are independently started at first by the usual lever and pawl, and later automatically, motor-car fashion, by a switch completing the circuit. Each clutch is of the Napier forked type, but put in or out of engagement by a worm and wheel instead of a pedal as on a car, or the usual lever. Such, then, is the general description of the installation of Napier II; and although at first glance she seems full of machinery, a further examination discloses the simplicity of the whole, as well as its sound design. Furthermore, a look at the space occupied by the whole---barely nine feet in length---shows how little would be occupied aboard a power yacht of adequate size for engines of such power.

Returning again to the trials, at gun-fire there was nothing left for Napier Minor than to run over the course, which she did in 28 min. odd; either not let out or indifferently steered. Five minutes later, the red swallow-tail was mastheaded; and ten minutes afterwards, after a delay of some five seconds, Napier II made her official debut, quickly gathering a most satisfactory speed, but, like her predecessor, throwing a tremendous bow wave, clearly showing that her hull lines are badly at fault. Indeed, one cannot help thinking, from a sort of resemblance which exists between the pair, that they must have been draughted from a hasty impression of Trefle-a-Quatre. be this as it may, she covered the course six seconds faster than Napier Minor; clearly hard held---for Mr. S. F. Edge can hold a course with the best---at the rate of some 16 knots. Then came a long interval, during which every effort was made to get the Hutton boat under way. At length, the engine was actually started, the boat glided away at the first piston-stroke; but after about half a dozen revolutions stopped and resisted all further endeavour. Clearly, there was nothing for it but for the two Edge boats to run on a final heat; the result of an interesting trial being that Napier II completed the course in 27 min. 14 sec., just six seconds ahead of Napier Minor, which was yawing about terribly on the home stretch. Nothing had occurred to damp British prospects so far, but everyone seemed possessed of the idea that the cup was "bound foreign."

The Cup Day

Having also seen Trefle-a-Quatre darting about the Itchen, her exhaust engine banging like a Maxim gun in full blast, and also had the opportunity, at Day, Summers and Co's jetty, of noting every detail of Bayard, as well as seeing her run, one felt fairly confident that, whether the cup departed or not, it would not cross the Channel. Challenger, the Smith and Mabley boat, was however the unknown element, though her real strength, as it happened, will not be known until the next race in which she is started. The remainder of Friday had been wet and gloomy enough, but Saturday morning dawned fine and clear, with a light S.W. breeze. In fact, the weather was perfect when Challenger, Napier Minor, Napier II, Trefle-a-Quatre, and Bayard came across the Solent, the first to arrive being the American boat. Challenger, Napier II (with Mr. S. F. Edge at the wheel), and Bayard were down to race in the first heat, and at gun-fire the first-named shot ahead about a dozen lengths before Napier II could be started. Slowly the latter drew out, only one of her engines working at first, but it was even worse with the French boat, which had unfortunately got a submerged rope foul of her propeller. Thus the race was left to Challenger and Napier II, the former maintaining her lead right out to the Osborne mark-boat. However, as soon as they got round the turn Edge was seen to be gradually lessening the distance between himself and his opponent. Soon he overhauled her and then, after running beam and beam for about half a mile, shot clear ahead. Challenger was a beaten boat a mile from the finish, but at that point she seemed to slacken speed all at once. What had happened was that the insulation of the commutator had given way in some sort, and although this made no difference to her defeat, she was only running on four out of her eight cylinders. Napier II, however, never slowed down for an instant and finally, amid loud and continuous cheering, dashed across the line quite three-quarters of a mile ahead, her time for the heat being 24 min. 19 sec., while Challenger finished in 26 min. 3 sec.

The second heat was run over for Napier Minor, as Mr. Legru's Gardner-Serpollet boat, against which she had been drawn, had been scratched. Napier Minor, therefore, went the course alone, accomplishing the distance in 23 min. 21 sec. Similarly, as the Hutton boat was still unable to run, Trefle-a-Quatre ran the third heat by herself, doing the course in 25 min. 20 sec. As soon as this time was known a more hopeful view of the chances of the British boats was entertained; but as will be seen, although the issue clearly lay between Trefle-a-Quatre and one or other of the Edge boats, there was really nothing to go upon, as the Brasier 32-footer had been longer in running order than Napier II, and might not have been driven at her best speed. Again she was not likely to break down; whereas the latest Edge boat might. As a fact, this is just what happened at the end of the fourth heat between Napier II and Napier Minor---to decide which should have the honour of representing Great Britain in the final. Both made an excellent start, Napier Minor getting a slight lead, which she increased a little further on the run out to the Osborne mark-boats. After rounding, however, Evans steered her very wide of her true course, with the result that Napier II overhauled and passed her on the run to the line; their finishing times being: Napier II, 24:07; Napier Minor, 24:23. Just after finishing, as Edge swung Napier II hard over for the run back to the barge, the girder keelson under the starboard engine gave way and the frames and plating close to the fracture followed suit. This was not known ashore for another hour, but it afterwards transpired that she had only been kept afloat by hard pumping and was quite unfit to race.

A long interval now ensued, for although it had been originally intended to run off the final immediately after the last heat, this was deferred by Royal command. In the meantime a very pleasant luncheon party was given aboard the steamer Princess Helena, chartered by the Automobile Club. Messrs. Edge and Stocks came on board and announced the accident to Napier II, and that the cup would now perforce be defended by Napier Minor.

The booming of cannon at Portsmouth now announced the approach of Royalty, and the Royal yacht, followed by the Admiralty yacht, Enchantress, slowly made her way out into the Solent, and proceeded to her moorings off Ryde pier. The weather, however, had some time since undergone a most untoward change, and the rain came down in drenching showers, which not only lasted during the final race, but throughout the afternoon. So soon as the Royal yacht was moored all preparations for the race were complete. The history of the race is soon told. Napier Minor and Trefle-a-Quatre both started promptly to gun-fire, but the former was quicker into her speed, and when she disappeared into the haze long before reaching Osborne, it was seen that she was well ahead of the French boat, which was, nevertheless, going well and making very little wave-disturbance. Owing to the rain, both boats were lost sight of for what seemed hours; but when they were sighted again, well out in the Roads, Napier Minor was leading by at least a quarter of a mile. Trefle-a-Quatre was still going well, but her chance was hopeless, for Edge gradually increased his lead to at least half a mile. The finish was at the Royal yacht, to which Edge dashed in a blinding cloud of rain and spray, amid uproarious cheering and the shrieking of sirens and whistles from the steam yachts. He ran twice round the Royal yacht, while the King and Queen bowed their kindly acknowledgments as he lifted his cap. The French boat, coming in almost immediately afterwards, also received a kindly and sympathetic greeting, as her steersman also came to pay his respects to their Majesties. Thus ended a fine race, as a result of which Great Britain retains the cup. The times were:

Napier Minor, 23:03; Trefle-a-Quatre, 24:27.

Transcribed from The Yachting World, Aug. 4, 1904, pp. 90-92.

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

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

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

1904 Harmsworth Trophy

1904 Harmsworth Trophy (from The Rudder)]

This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010.
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Leslie Field, 1999