1906 Hudson River Water Carnival
Motor Boat Ratings Need Radical Change
If the recent motor boat carnival on the Hudson River has shown anything conclusive thus far it has shown that the rating measurements fixed by the American Power Boat Association are open to serious censure. Taking the showings made by Sparrow to the long distance race to Poughkeepsie alone and figuring out her speed on the basis of her corrected time, which is her actual elapsed time less the handicap allowance made under the American Power Boat Association's measurement scale, it is found that to each of the 188 minutes with which she is charged for the 115.6 knots, a boat to beat her would have had to make 36.9 knots an hour over the entire course, an impossibility in view of the fact that no American motor boat has yet made 26 knots.
Manifestly, either Sparrow is rated ridiculously low or the standards set by the American Power Boat Association are untrue and unfair. To be sure, there was a strenuous complaint against the Sparrow at the races of the Power Boat Association at Chippewa bay, as well as against the winner of the Gold Challenge Cup, Chip II, but these complaints were not that the boats did not fulfill the proper ratings under the rules, but that they should have been rated differently if equitably placed. In other words, if a boat goes faster than she ought to go theoretically according to the American tables, she must receive a different rating, but the tables must not be altered. The protest made at that time has not yet been settled by the Executive Committee of the American Power Boat Association to which it was referred.
The rule under which the protest was made in the case of the Sparrow and Chip is Rule 8 of the Racing Rules, which is:
"If from any peculiarity in the build of the yacht or other cause the measurer shall be of the opinion that the rule will not rate the yacht fairly, or that in any other respect she does not comply with the requirements of these rules, he shall report the circumstances to the Race Committee, who, with the measurer, after due in- quiry, shall award such certificate of rating as they may consider equitable, and the measurement shall be considered incomplete until this is done."
The absurdity of such a suggestion is apparent on its face, and entails an arbitrary action in which there can be no equity for contestants. Moreover, it is a confession of the weakness of the rule that at once demonstrates its impracticability.
The originator of this rule is one of the fairest naval architects in America. In discussing its operation since the change enacted in it last year, he made the significant statement that the present rule was easier of enforcement than the old, but immeasurably inferior as to accuracy in determining true ratings. It was for the purpose of securing easier enforcement that all principles of scientific accuracy were overthrown when the present rule was adopted.
Motor boats are naturally measured by the length of water line, which has been proved to be a factor in speed, and by the power they generate. This is the theory. IOn practice the water line is obtained, but the power never is. The power is determined by the area of the cylinders of the motor, the number of cylinders, the stroke of the engine, and the number of revolutions it makes. These were all factor in the abandoned rule, but in the new one only the area of the cylinder head, the number of cylinders, and an arbitrary assumption of the number of revolutions appear. The stroke of the engine is ignored completely, and the assumed revolutions is never obtained. it is always either exceeded or never reached.
Both these factors can be accurately determined by honest measurement, and if it fails of determination it fails because the owners do not wish to be honestly rated. Such a condition of affairs is so farcical as to be ridiculous when advanced as a consideration in setting upon a rule that will rate, and rate fairly, all competitors.
The rules demand change. Any superficial examination of the results of any race will show that no two boats perform truly according to their ratings. Under these conditions boats never can be brought together and classified so that they will produce interesting contests, and unless so brought together the sport must die. The difficulty has been that the sport has been largely controlled for trade purposes, and no one has had the courage to speak out and protest against the manifest unfairness.
Another thing the motor boat carnival has shown is that no boat can make the time claimed for it. When there is a test there is always some excuse, some reason alleged for the failure to equal its best. Until this year there has never been an attempt to secure real records, and these records made this year show beyond question that the speed of the motor boats has been exaggerated when times were taken in unofficial tests. The motor boat is too important and influential a factor both in future commercial and sporting activities to be trifled with, and it is time that an effort was made to show its possibilities on a more substantial basis.
(Transcribed from the New York Times, Sep. 16, 1906, p. 10. )
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page. LF]
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