1907 Hudson River Water Carnival

National Motor Boat Carnival on the Hudson River

A Week of Good Sport in Which Those Who Have Maintained That There is No Real Sport in Motor Boat Racing, but That it Lacks the Thrill and, Has No Picturesque Elements, Have Realized the Falsity of Their Intentions

There Were, in Point of Fact, Races That Made the Breath Come Quick and There Were Scenes That Would Have Appealed to Any Man, Whether He Knew a Power Craft From a Battleship or Not

Races of Den II, Skedaddle, Dixie, XPDNC and Other "Flighty" Boats

by Robert Medill McBride

Motor Boat Races on Hudson River
Motorboat Afire in Race
Thrilling Race of  Two Motor Boats
The Hudson River Carnival
National Motor Boat Carnival
National Motor Boat Carnival on the Hudson River

After a season of disappointing dullness in motor boat racing, relieved only by the international contest in England, the second annual regatta of the Motor Boat Club of America was held on the Hudson River during the week of September 25th, with an entry list which exceeded by far that of a year ago. This was especially the case in the cruising classes, a pleasing contrast to the last regatta when cruising men seemed more content to watch the events than to participate in them.

The results of the week's racing generally showed an improvement in the new rating rules over those which had heretofore obtained and those in use by other associations, although they will need revision before final adoption in permanent form. In the speed classes, through development by greater usage, the regulations adopted this year proved, by practical test during the races, to be almost entirely satisfactory. So nearly perfect are they that when tried, there was almost no variation between the computed rating, and the speed actually developed. Many power yachtsmen, however, hope that eventually we shall adopt the English rule of rating which restricts the hull length only, imposing no restrictions whatever on beam, displacement or horsepower.

The most noteworthy element in the first day's contest, the Reliability Trials, in which eight boats came to the line, was, that under severely adverse conditions of driving rain and fog which at times cut off all view of the shore a few hundred feet away, not one of the contestants was eliminated through engine troubles in the six hours of contest running. On the last lap, however, after making eight rounds, which consumed more than four hours' time, the valiant Sparrow, owned by Charles J. Swain of Philadelphia, the only entrant not finishing, ran short of gasolene and was thus compelled to withdraw.

This is a remarkable showing as four of the entrants were speed boats pure and simple, the others being in the cruising classes, boats into whose design the element of seaworthiness was not to any particular degree taken into consideration. During the latter part of the trial especially rough water and driving rain put every boat to the most exacting test. Even at the start the weather conditions were so severe that eight of the sixteen boats entered withdrew before the start.

The race was over a ten-mile triangular course, and a time limit of six hours was set. Speed alone was not to determine the victor but regularity of speed, reliability of freedom from stoppage, actual speed in comparison with theoretical speed of engine, consumption of oil and fuel, reversibility, ease of control and such tests of real dependability so desirable in a motor boat. It may be interesting to give the regulations governing this contest and the number of points for each qualification.

1. Reliability in Operation, 50 points, with 5 points deduction for every stop of the motor.

2. Regularity in covering the course or uniformity of speed throughout the test, 50 points, based upon the performance of the boat making the least variation in time.

3. Fuel Economy, 50 points based upon fuel consumption per horsepower per hour. Horsepower being figured as per formula. Points being calculated from boat making the best performance in fuel consumption.

4. Lubricating Economy, 25 points, based upon lubricating oil consumed. Points being calculated from the boat making the least consumption.

5. Speed, 50 points, each boat to be awarded such percentage of 50 points as her actual speed is of her theoretical speed.

6. Reversibility, Ease of Control, Starting, 25 points each, to be based upon the boat making the best performance in these qualities. Starting should be from rest with cylinders empty of gases. These tests to mb made separate from the six-hour test.

7. Final Conditions. The boats upon completing the reliability test shall be surrendered by the crew to the custody of the Committee for inspection. The inspection will take account the condition of the hull, motor installation and generally the satisfactory condition of the outfit as a whole, 50 points or any part of this number of points at the discretion of the Committee.

On Tuesday afternoon was run the race for the American Free-For-All-Championship. The conditions were even more treacherous than of the preceding day, although the pessimists then had thought it could not be worse. The wind was blowing at a 25 or 30-mile clip which whipped up a bad sea and made conditions that were really hazardous for the low and lean type of speed boats entered. The course was the same one of ten miles to be run over three times. There were four starters: James H. Hoadley's 74-horsepower Den II, H. N. Baruch's 190-horsepower Skedaddle, Commodore E. J. Schroeder's Dixie (which by the way was handled by Captain S. B. Pierce and Al Rapoon who brought her through a winner in the Southampton races) and J. F. Anderson's 200-horsepower Irene.

With this fine set of entries an unusually exciting contest was expected, but misfortune seemed to follow the whole event. Dixie dropped out in the first round because of engine troubles, the remaining boats were nip and tuck over the first lap of ten miles when a furious rain squall swept down the course. Those who were watching Skedaddle saw her suddenly burst into flames. The heavy seas created by the fury of the storm had choked the exhaust, causing the engine to back fire as a result, of which the oil and gasolene in the drip pan became ignited. After nerve wracking work on the part of the crew, two of whom were obliged to work frantically at the pumps to keep afloat, the fire was extinguished, Skedaddle continuing over the course. In the meantime Den II, which is a much smaller and less seaworthy boat was seen to be in trouble, (some driftwood had fouled her propeller and Joseph H. Hoadley put out in his motor yacht Alabama and towed her ashore. It was then between Skedaddle and Irene, but the last boat after making a game fight with only one cylinder working limped to a finish of the second round and retired. This left Skedaddle to finish the course alone which she did, averaging twenty-eight statute miles per hour in the last lap.

The first leg for the National Championship was run on Wednesday with C. L. Seabury's Speedway, Jacob Siegel's 60-horsepower Xpdnc and Skedaddle as the starters. Xpdnc was the winner, finishing ten minutes ahead of Skedaddle and won on corrected time by nearly five minutes. Skedaddle came out the victor on the two following days and she therefore retained the title of National Champion, which she has held for the past year.

The races for the International World's Championship were run on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. In the first day's racing Den II scored a hollow victory over Dixie, the only other craft to compete. In the first round Dixie had carburetor troubles, and was obliged to withdraw leaving Den II a walkover. The Hoadley boat did not relax her speed, however, and finished in one hour fifteen minutes and fifty-two seconds, thus averaging 23.6 knots or nearly 27 miles per hour. The following day Den II did not start and Dixie being put out of the running by a cracked cylinder, J. F. Anderson's 200-horsepower Irene secured a runaway. With one race each to their credit, Den II and Irene had an exciting race on friday, the last of the series for the International Championship. Irene was the victor, winning by nearly four minutes on corrected time. The weather conditions were so ideal for speed on Friday that it was decided to run off the one-mile championship, which had developed into a farce on Tuesday through mis-timing by the timers. Den II and Skedaddle were the only starters and their start was a flying one. Den II won in handy style. She averaged 25.626 knots, equal to 29.504 statute miles.

There was a comparatively large list of entries for the Interstate Championship, the first leg of which was run on Wednesday. Sparrow was successful in showing her heels to the field in all three legs which were run on successive days and Artful took second place.

In the Class L event with seven entries, Idler winning and being accorded twenty-one points. The Motor Yacht Championship series had four entrants while the cabin launch championship series had three. Neither of the last two events had been decided on going to press, but it is believed that E. J. Steiner's Wanderlust won the motor yacht series.

The most exciting contest of the week was one of the most remarkable ever run from closeness of finish was the long-distance race to Poughkeepsie on Saturday, in which the co-rivals Den II and Skedaddle participated. Over a course of 116.3 miles from off 108th Street, N.Y., to Poughkeepsie and return they finished 59 seconds apart, Den II in the lead. The difference will be seen was but one-half a second a mile. Through time allowance Skedaddle won. The average time over the entire course was more than 22 knots or something over 26 miles per hour. Both boats were close together all the way and turned the stake boat at Poughkeepsie two minutes apart. Of the four other boats competing, Speedway broke down on the way up and Durno II, Sparrow and Fairbanks were left so far in the rear that they had no chance to win even with their time allowance.

A long distance race for cruising boats to Peekskill and back, a distance of 75 miles, was also run on this day. Fourteen boats started, all crossing the line.

While waiting for the finish of the long distance races, Irene tried her hand at breaking the mile speed record of the U.S. She succeeded. With the aid of a favorable tide she told off a mile at the rate of 25.905 knots or 29.828 miles per hour, beating Standard's record of last year of 29.172 miles and Den's best on Friday for the mile championship of 28.989 miles per hour.

It has been said there is no sport in motor boat racing; that it lacks the excitement and thrill of the contest where personal effort and ingenuity count. Such a statement never came from anyone who had witnessed a contest between such flying fish as Skedaddle and Xpdnc. As they dashed over the course, covered with flying spray, engines vibrant with motion, to the click and rattle and pant of the engines, the boats throbbed with life and action and seemed like living things. The illusion was furthered bu the tenseness of the crew who bent feverishly to the task of annihilating distance.

Let us suppose we were on the outer stake boat on Friday afternoon, the deciding day of the national championship. Xpdnc and Skedaddle have both won a leg on their respective trophies. it gets to be the starting time. We wait, speculating on the probable winner and amusing ourselves watching the revenue cutter whistling impatiently at river craft which have the temerity to venture on the course, or warning others that they must not take the middle of the river. Suddenly away in the distance we see two dark specks surrounded by foam. They seem a long distance away and we expect to wait for some time, but they grow rapidly in proportion and before we realize it they are nearly abreast of us.

Xpdnc with her stern apparently completely immersed, resembling some fabled monster coming from the depths is hotly pursued by the giant Skedaddle. You shiver for the smaller craft but do not remember that here is the turn. Xpdnc steers almost straight for the mark, dashes around it and is off. Skedaddle, by reason of her length, sweeps around in a wide circle, rushing through the water, pushing, tearing her way like a thing possessed, but as she turns, encounters a wall of water on the leeward side.

The crew with grim resolution written on their faces lean far out over the rail to shift the center of gravity and unconsciously stretch forward as if to accelerate the speed, but she will not take the turn quickly. Her engines are slowed and gradually she comes about, impatiently enough. This is the penalty of length and brute built. When the straightaway is again reached Xpdnc has made good her escape, but she knows there is a long stretch before the next turn and Skedaddle is in hot pursuit. No greater contrast can be imagined between these flyers of the sea and the staid and dignified cruising yachts.

Taking it as a whole the motor boat regatta was a successful meet in the interest aroused, number of entrants ad results achieved. As a spectacular event, however, speaking from the attendance and enthusiasm of spectators, it was a most disappointing affair. Here in the very hearts of the greatest metropolis in the country, the course along Riverside Drive from which could be witnessed with bird's-eye accuracy and comprehensiveness the entire contest, no crowds were there to cheer on the contestants, no puffing tugs or gaily decked excursion boats lined the course.

A few club members and their friends at the clubhouse opposite the finish line, a lonely stake boat and a business-like revenue cutter at the turn was the only fleet that did honor to the event. Perhaps the weather had something to do with it for it was for the most part unpropitious -- perhaps. But in my opinion, this was not the cause. The fault was with the season. it was too late. Cold September weather had robbed boating of its interest and enthusiasm was stowed away for the winter. The most important regatta of the year held at the tail end of the summer! Interest can never be gained by such an arrangement. What is necessary is the same sort of arrangement that characterizes our wind jamming contests. Frequent regattas should be held throughout the season. This would not only arouse greater interest in the sport through continuality of events, but the season would be more auspicious, and it would be a fairer way to decide championship.

Obviously, in motor yacht racing, championships should not be decided on the results of a single week. It is different with sailing craft for with them no internal trouble is likely to occur. In the other, an engine breaks down, some floating debris in the water put a propeller out of running and the chances of that contestant are gone. A case in point is the Dixie. This invincible winner of the International Cup, through the mishap of a cracked cylinder forfeits her entire chances of winning the international trophy, whereas had this been only one leg of a series, the handicap would have been offset by a similar misfortune on the part of other competing craft, or through good work in the other events shoe would have had the opportunity of creeping up on her rivals.

The Motor Boat Club has come to recognize the truth of this and is planning to hold its regatta in the first week of August of next year with successive events during the remainder of the summer. This regatta, by the way, will not be held on the Hudson River as formerly. This course, while very convenient is unsatisfactory on account of the quantity of drift which is encountered in those waters. The place selected is Huntington Harbor on the North Shore of Long Island, where the Motor Boat Club of America has recently established a station, and the time set is coincident with the cruise of the New York Yacht Club, the first night's anchorage of which was there this summer, and it is expected that this port will remain on the Club's itinerary. It is planned to run then, during the visit of the New York Yacht Club squadron, the races for the Harmsworth Cup which the peerless Dixie brought to this country a few months ago. This international contest will give a stimulus to motor boat racing which it has never had and give to the sport a recognition that should benefit it to a very marked degree. Then motor boat racing will, in a measure acquire a recognition in the public mind that other events in the world of sport have obtained. Moreover, now that the America's Cup will not be contested for in 1908, attention will be focussed on this international trophy for motor boats. Already five or six members of the Motor Boat Club of America have announced their intention of building high powered boats to compete for the honor of defending the cup. With the fine balance which has finally been struck in the racing rule for speed boats and these Harmsworth races, together with the revision of the regatta plans by the Motor Boat Club of America so that events may be run throughout the summer, the season of 1908 will mark a new epoch in motor boat racing.

(Excerpts transcribed from Yachting, November 1907, pp. 255-258, 296-300. )

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

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