1906 Columbia Yacht Club Regatta
New York City, June 16, 1906

At The Columbia Yacht Club

Fifth Annual Yacht Club Regatta
At the Columbia Yacht Club
Power Boat Regatta of the Columbia Yacht Club

The racing season in the Metropolitan District opened with the races held by the Columbia Yacht Club on June 16. Unfortunately, the weather was the reverse of what would have been desired for an event of this kind, the day opening with a drizzle and a northeasterly gale, accompanied at times by a fog which made the up and down stream marks invisible from the clubhouse. All the races were run over a four-mile course, which was roughly a diamond in shape, the start and finish mark being a buoy directly in front of the clubhouse. The classes for the Sea Skunks and yacht tenders went once around the course, making a distance of four nautical miles, while all the other classes went twice over, making a distance of eight nautical miles, or 9.21 statute miles.

The races were scheduled to occupy the entire day with starts at suitable intervals, so as to allow the finish of one class before its successor was started. But in the early morning, when our representative reached the clubhouse, the prospects looked exceedingly blue for a day's racing, as very few boats were about and the first class for open boats under 40 rating, having only one entry, was declared off. As the day wore on, however, the competitors commenced to appear, so that by the time the second race was scheduled prospects had livened up and the outlook was much brighter, as several fast boats, such as Kit, Simplex IV, Omeomi and Colonia, were on hand., which, together with the boats which had arrived the night before, made quite a respectable aggregation. The work of the regatta committee in starting the races promptly and running them off without any waits or misunderstandings is certainly to be commended to the attention of regatta committees of other clubs.

The first race actually run off was for cabin cruisers between 20 and 40 feet rating, and brought out Scat and Dotti. The class did not prove wildly exciting, as the boats did not have the speed to give the necessary skill, and in addition Scat broke down before reaching the first mark. Her owner, however, made good the damage, and after drifting down the river for some distance, started up and went back around his mark and continued the race, making a finish somewhat delayed, but showing plenty of pluck and perseverance. Dotti won.

Classes H and I, open boats over 40 feet rating, brought out Nanita, Omeomi, Tormary and Kit, and each was started according to its handicap under the American Power Boat Association rating, under whose auspices the races were run. At the end of the first round the boats were pretty well bunched, Omeomi and Kit arriving opposite the clubhouse within 15 seconds of each other, arousing the first excitement of the day. On the last round, also, Tormary and Kit made a grand stand finish, coming in within 100 yards of each other, the others trailing along at wide intervals. This race was the most successful of the day as regards the handicaps given the boats, as Kit was the scratch boat, and had to make up very nearly 13 minutes in 8 miles. If the race had been a half mile longer she would have won. Kit is a brand new boat, a Gas Engine-Seabury production, and is of a very useful and popular type, having ample freeboard, good speed and a fine appearance. She is designed for private ferry service on the Sound and should prove very successful

After this event came the intermission for lunch, and the racing commenced again at two in the afternoon with an event for cabin cruisers of over 40 feet rating. During the intermission the weather man decided to provide better conditions for the Saturday afternoon crowd, and permitted the sun to shine for short intervals during this time and throughout the rest of the day; but the discouraging weather of the morning served to frighten away a large crowd from the clubhouse, and to keep the usual gallery, which at other Columbia meetings has lined the slopes along Riverside Drive, from being in attendance. Still, before the afternoon's racing was over, most of the well-known faces of motorboat enthusiasts were seen somewhere in the enclosure, and the interest grew with each succeeding event.

In the cabin boat class, which was scheduled to start at two o'clock, Shawna, Lucania and Beldame were started in this order, at times varying from 2:03 to 2:15, Shawna being the limit boat and Beldame the scratch boat. At the end of the first round, the three passed the mark within one minute of each other in the same order in which they started. As Beldame and Lucania had practically made up their handicaps in the first round, it was a foregone conclusion that, barring accidents, the finish would be Beldame, Lucania and Shawna. Therefore the race lost considerable of its interest, although the exact amount by which they would win could not be determined. Beldame, the big Lozier cruiser, was a fine sight as she came up to the mark on each of her rounds. She expressed power in every line, and seemed to travel through the water without the slightest effort. She won in 44:15, the others trailing along as expected.

At three o'clock four yacht tenders were sent off without handicaps or time allowance. This and the Sea Skunk event were the only open races of the regatta. The race was decided before the boats went out of sight in the fog, which had again settled down. In fact, in this race, as in the others, it was simply a question of by how much time the winner would defeat its competitors. The tender belonging to C. A. Starbuck won in 42:03.

The Sea Skunks, which have hitherto furnished the fizz in all the events in which they have entered, were not as well represented as was expected, doubtless due to the bad weather and fog, which prevented several of them from coming around from the Sound. However, those of Charles Caughtry and A. E. Colgate came to the line at four o'clock and started off in their usual businesslike way, only about 20 feet apart. The Yankee, which was the sole entry in the first class, was started with the Sea Skunks for a sail over, getting away about 50 feet behind the boat of Mr. Caughtry. About half an hour later, they were made out coming up to the finish, and as they crossed the line only about 50 feet separated the Knickerbocker boats, while the Yankee was about 50 yards in the rear. The time made by these boats, 32:50 for the winner, figures out at about 8.4 statute miles per hour, and is considerably lower than the speed of which the boats are capable. This slow time, to a certain extent indicates the nature of all the racing, and accounts for the slow time made by some of the boats, as the races were run in waters where the tide was fairly strong, and on the back stretch especially quite a sea was kicked up by the northeast wind.

The next event, for auto boats over 80 rating, was undoubtedly the race of the meet, and furnished excitement galore. Dixie, which was entered in this event, unfortunately met with an accident in going through the Harlem River in the morning, running into a piling along the speedway and smashing in her bows to such an extent that extended repairs will be necessary to fit her for further use. The entrants, therefore, narrowed down to Brush By, a big, wholesome, 45-foot fast cruiser, built by the Gas Engine and Power Co., and designed for ferry service between New York and Yonkers. Brush By is fitted with cabin-house forward, and a standing canvass canopy over the motor and the after cockpit, which clearly put her out of the class with her competitors --- out and out speed boats. While her speed is high (she is capable of over 20 miles under favorable conditions), still she was clearly outclassed by her two running mates; but the fact that she made so good a showing as will later appear is a matter of congratulation to her builders. She is a thoroughly rational boat, and is of a kind which is sure to be popular and of which many examples will doubtless be built in the near future --- a class that should survive after the light racing machine has entirely disappeared.

Simplex IV, the second one of the class, is a new boat of the Simplex series, very similar in general appearance to Simplex III, but improved in such points as experience with the earlier boat would seem to indicate that an advance could be made. Her plans were illustrated in THE MOTOR BOAT of May 25. She has a mahogany hull and is equipped with a 30-h. Smith & Mabley Simplex motor. It was her initial bow to the public, in fact, all parts of her fitting were not in place, she being rushed to completion in order to compete in this event. The third competitor was the much-heralded Den, and this event makes her famous rather than notorious. Her performance in this event, while not at all approaching the newspaper speed, she was very creditable and was such as to show that she is in the first flight of speed boats in this country. If Dixie had not met with this unfortunate accident, this race would undoubtedly have been one of the most exciting ever seen upon the Hudson.

Brush By was the limit boat, receiving a handicap of 36 seconds over Simplex and 2 m. 3 s. over Den. She got away promptly by 4:30, making a fine start, and Simplex immediately took up her position just back of the line, waiting for the gun, while Den cruised about at high speed outside the line and showed by her running what might be expected when the race was on. Simplex also made a good start, promptly on her signal, and tore away up the river, giving an impression that she would be a factor in the race. Den came up to her position back of the line fully a minute before her starting time and treated the grandstand to a lively fusillade from her exhausts. She made a fine start, and went away over the line as though shot out of a gun. Just about this time the fog closed down again, so that it was difficult to pick out the racers until they were almost opposite the clubhouse. When they came in sight, Den had passed Simplex and was rapidly overhauling the Brush By, which she did about half-way between the the second and third mark. The excitement among those around the clubhouse was growing, and everyone wondered, when Den cut wide on the lower mark, and it was seen that Brush By was again leading, but closely followed by Den. Approaching the clubhouse, Den attempted to run through the wake of her leader, but proved unsuccessful, and had to sheer wide of starboard to get by. Within 500 yards of the line, Brush By was still leading, but Den was rapidly overhauling her, and as they came up the excitement among the spectators was intense. Den passed Brush By within 50 feet of rounding the buoy, and started away at an enormous speed. This was probably the closest passing of a mark under like circumstances of any race ever held around New York, and it was certainly a beautiful sight to see these two boats so close together and traveling at such high speed. Brush By travels very cleanly, and impresses one as having plenty of reserve power and not being pushed. Den, on the other hand, being smaller and higher powered, and going at a greater speed, naturally throws much more spray, and gives the impression of traveling much faster than she really does. Simplex followed shortly after, going finely and traveling very cleanly.

The fog now let up, and it was possible to watch the boats entirely around the course. Den was again leading at the first mark and at the second mark opposite the clubhouse, and was evidently slowed down to some extent, as on the third leg her gain was not as perceptible. Rounding the third buoy, she again cut very wide, but her lead was now so great that she finished about three minutes ahead of Brush By. It was the impression of those who watched the race that Den was purposely sent wide at the lower mark, and that she was not pushed anywhere near her limit except when rounding the home buoy on each of her rounds. As it is, her speed figures out for the race at 21.6 statute miles per hour, and, taking into account the distance she traveled, her speed will probably figure out at about 26 or 27 miles an hour under favorable circumstances. Brush By and Simplex also made excellent times, 18 1/2 and 17 miles per hour respectively, which, considering the roughness of the water and the tide, is very good in either case, especially as Brush By is not an out-and-out racer, but a comfortable cruising boat, and Simplex has only about one-third the power of Den.

After this race the interest naturally fell off, and there was a reaction from the excitement; but the last race of the day, that for auto boats between 50 and 80 rating, produced craft fast enough to revive the interest and to make a fairly exciting race, although the handicaps were not such as to make a close finish. The event brought out Anona, Chum, 20th Century and Colonia, and was won by the latter at a speed of about sixteen miles per hour. Anona, the limit boat, was sent off at 5.15, followed by Chum at 5.19, 20th Century at 5.24 and Colonia at 5.25. The first round found the boats in the same relative positions, except that 20th Century and Colonia had changed places. On the last round Colonia showed up first, winning the race, followed by 20th Century, Anona and Chum in this order, bringing the day's racing to a close. If the weather had been fine, the field doubtless would have been much larger, as there were quite a number of absentees, whose records, in comparison with those which did compete, should have made some interesting racing. However, taking it all in all, the meet was very successful, and if some system of handicapping which would have produced some closer finished had been used, in place of the rating rule which was employed, the interest would have been more intense.

This was really the first big meet at which the new rating rule of the A.P.B.A. has been tried, and the results obtained at this event would seem to indicate that the new rule is inadequate to produce close finishes, and is unfair in many respects, and practically precludes the victory of a boat with a two-cycle motor. The only instance in which the rule worked out well was in the class for open boats of over 40 feet rating. In this event Tormary and Kit, both boats of the same general class, of widely varying sizes to be sure, but equipped with four-cycle motors, finished close together. But the same race also shows up the unfairness of the motor rating of these rules. Omeomi, equipped with an 8-h. Toquet motor, has a motor rating of 18 hp. Tormary, equipped with a 25-h. Standard, has a rating of 16-hp. This is an illustration of the absurdity of the rating formula which decidedly favors the four-cycle motor. In past years under the rating rule of this association, the two-cycle motor has been favored, but this year the step is in the opposite direction, and in all the events in this regatta the two-cycle was so badly handicapped as to make its winning a practical impossibility. The time-scale evidently is also at fault, as in the class for cabin boats of 40 feet rating the handicaps figured out very closely for half the distance, but are away off for the whole distance. This is also true in the class for auto boats over 80 rating. In this case, in the first round, the boats finished within a minute of each other, but over the whole course were wide apart. In the last race another anomaly of the rule is brought out when one sees a 20-foot boat and a 36-foot boat racing in the same class and making speeds varying from 10 to 16 miles per hour.

It seems impossible to devise a formula which will admit of racing boats of such widely varying dimensions and power together with any degree of success, and although the new rule is not as yet thoroughly tried out, and should have the benefit of the doubt, the experience in sailboat racing and the attempts at racing formulas would seem to indicate that the chances of making a successful rule are very slim. It would be possible to devise an empirical formula for rating and handicapping boats which have the same general form, construction and proportionate power, and the same general characteristics, but to attempt to harmonize widely varying factors is apparently beyond the limit of human ingenuity, and the question might as well be begged at once, rather than to engage in the hopeless task of attempting the impossible.

(Transcribed from The Motor Boat, June 25, 1906, pp. 27-30. )

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

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