1905 Algiers to Toulon Race

Autoboats Swamped; Duc Decazes Missing
Disaster Overtakes The Racers From Algiers To Toulon
Six Of Seven Crews Safe
Duke's Boat And Her Escort, A Destroyer, May Be Lost --- Mme. Du Gast Rescued

Camille du Gast (L'Amazone)

Camille du Gast (L'Amazone)

Madame du Gast is rescued from Camille and taken on board the cruiser Kleber

Madame du Gast is rescued from Camille and taken on board the cruiser Kleber

Madame du Gast is rescued from Camille and taken on board the cruiser Kleber

TOULON, May 14---The race of autoboats from Algiers to this port has ended in disaster.

Six of the seven boats which took part in the second stage of the run, from Port Mahon, Minorca, to Toulon, were either sunk or disabled, though the crews of all of them escaped.

The fate of the seventh boat, the Quand-Meme, on which was the Duc Decazes, is unknown, but it is feared that she has been lost She was convoyed by the torpedo-boat destroyer Arbalete, and this torpedo-boat destroyer, with a crew of eleven men, is also missing.

The cruisers Desaix and Kleber, after a vain search for the Quand-Meme and the Arbalete, reached here this evening, being obliged to seek shelter from a terrific hurricane, accompanied by torrential rain.

The crew of the Quand-Meme, including the Duc Decazes, consisted of seven men.

The disaster to the autoboats was the result of a storm of frightful intensity. The seven racers left Port Mahon for Toulon at 4 A.M. yesterday. A torpedo-boat destroyer accompanied each autoboat, while cruisers followed. The sea was somewhat rough at the start, and soon became worse. The competing boats were unable to withstand the violence of the storm, and requested the warships to tow them.

Shortly afterward the Mercedes C.P. sank, men from the destroyer Hallebarde rescuing her crew.

The cruiser La Hire hoisted the F.I.A.T. and her crew aboard.

The Camille was abandoned, the destroyer Dard saving her crew.

The Heracles II is adrift, but her crew was taken on board the destroyer Sarbacane.

The Malgre-Tout sank and her crew was taken on board the destroyer Carabine.

The Mercedes-Mercedes had to be abandoned, the destroyer Pertuisane saving the crew.

Accounts furnished by officers of destroyers which have arrived here with the crews of the wrecked autoboats show that the storm which overtook the frail craft was of a terrible character, the waves attaining a height of twenty-five feet. It was impossible to keep the flotilla in tow, steel hawsers breaking repeatedly, owing to the sea's fury, and the destroyers themselves being in imminent danger. In several instances they were compelled to cast off tow lines in order to avoid sinking themselves.

Some of the competitors, however, persisted in racing until they were swamped. Sometimes, owing to the mountainous waves, they were lost from their consort's view.

The Desaix and Kleber, though much buffeted by the tempest, kept up constant wireless communication with the convoying destroyers, standing by in order to render assistance

The condition of the racers' crews bears bears out the statements of their awful experiences. All were thoroughly exhausted and scarcely able to reply to inquiries. They consider themselves fortunate to have escaped with their lives. Many of them had their clothes torn to ribbons, and some are bruised, while a member of the Malgre-Tout's crew had a leg broken.

They relate stories of daring rescues by the warships. When Mme. DuGast's Camille broke down the destroyer Dard, having several time unsuccessfully attempted to approach her, the cruiser Kleber lowered a whaleboat, but, owing to the darkness of the night and the heavy seas, the effort to reach the autoboat failed. The Kleber then approached and threw grapplers, finally succeeding in saving all on board, though Mme. DuGast first fell into the sea.

The rescue of the crew of the Heracles was also an exciting affair. After three men had been taken off she went adrift with the remaining two men. Ten attempts were made to secure them, and, finally, under powerful searchlights, the castaways were taken from the boat just as she disappeared beneath the waves.

When the crews were landed at the Toulon quay by the destroyers a great gathering of sympathizers awaited them, the event having attracted sportsmen of many nations to the finishing point, owing to the international character of the original entries, which included French, German, Italian, British, and American boats. The two last named, however, did not take part in the race, owing to their late arrival.

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

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Leslie Field, 2001