1907 Palm Beach Mid-Winter Regatta
The Palm Beach Races
In pleasing contrast to the Ormond automobile race meet, which was an admitted failure, the third annual mid-Winter Motorboat Carnival, held at Palm Beach on January 29, 30, 31 and February 1, immediately following the Ormond events, was a distinct success. The races, taken altogether, were the best yet held, although it was conclusively shown that a three-day program is plenty long enough, and at that a fourth day usually will be required to clean up postponed and delayed events. The same course was used as last year, the only serious objection to which is that only the start and finish of the races can be seen from the hotel dock, because of projecting buildings. The first day the handicapping was according to the rating rules of the American Power Boat Association, but after that the basis was the actual performances of the boats themselves. The weather the first two days was clear and warm, about 5,000 spectators being out Tuesday, and somewhat fewer Wednesday. Thursday was cloudy throughout the morning, and it rained more or less during the afternoon, which dampened all ardor. Monday night a strong wind suggested the postponement of the opening contest, but Aeolus was considerate, and the first three days found Lake Worth with an ideal surface. The entries totaled 33, but about a dozen of the Florida boats did not appear at all. Evidently they were frightened by the presence of several fast craft from the North.
The star of the meeting, especially after the accident to the Katherine, was the Dixie, which naturally outclassed all the others. The first day she lost a morning race because her bearings became heated on the last quarter, when the contest was practically in her grasp. Spectators began to wonder if she was not to prove another Mercedes -- very fast, but mighty uncertain. But thereafter she showed herself dependable, as is her wont. The Simplex twins positively refused to be separated, seldom being more than a length apart on five-mile laps. With them the lead was usually a case of jockeying at the lees. Once Simplex VIII led Simplex IX by four or five lengths, whereat the crowd rubbed its eyes. The Simplexes, too, attracted widespread comment for their easy quality of going. The Katherine, in the day and a half before the collision occurred, had won universal attention, and next to the Dixie may be said to have been the central attraction. Another remarkable creation was the Swallow, owned by E. H. Godshalk, of Camden, N.J., which did not arrive until Thursday night. In ease of movement she is in the front rank. The Gray Wolf, while of rakish lines, which strike the eye less pleasantly, proved fast and smooth. No woman actually held the wheel, as last year, but C. J. Coggin, of Rockledge, owner of the Blanche II, boasts 74 years, and one or two of the handlers had never been guilty of going to a barber shop for anything except a haircut.
The chief interest Tuesday morning was a ten-mile race for Class B boats, rating 80 and over. The winner was the Katherine. The Dixie at scratch, had climbed into third place long before the first half was over. When the race was three-quarters over, however, her bearings became heated and she was forced to stop. That slickest of Florida boatmen, Geo. Gingres, who handled the Katherine, admitted that the Dixie would have won but for the accident. The other morning race, five miles, Class A, rating 80 and below, went to the Simplex VIII, which was the second off. The second to finish was the Hotstuff IV, B. J. Southall, Miami, which lashed the lake into foam most picturesquely, with bow high in the air. No other boat cut such a figure, although the Errand Boy proved very noisy.
Tuesday afternoon the five-mile race, Class A, rating 80 or below, brought out seven starters, who got away in this order: Baby Bullet, Errand Boy, Simplex VIII, Mera, Hot Stuff IV, Blanche II and `Possum. The order at the finish was: Simplex VIII, `Possum, Hot Stuff IV, baby Bullet, Blanche II, Errand Boy and Mera. Only three boats started in the five-mile race, Class B, rating 80 and above. The order of getaway was Gray Wolf, Katherine and `Possum, and the finish was the same, although the Katherine had cut down the Gray Wolf's big handicap lead to a speaking distance. A protest was filed against the Gray Wolf on the charge of cutting a corner in turning a buoy, and the Katherine was ultimately awarded the contest.
The most exciting race of the day was the ten miles, Class C, all ratings. The order of start was Baby Bullet, Errand Boy, Simplex VIII, Mera, `Possum, Blanche II, Gray Wolf, Katherine and Bruiser. The Gray Wolf lost about two minutes by a dead stop at the start. On the five-mile turn the order was: Simplex VIII, Errand Boy, Blanche II, Gray Wolf, `Possum, Katherine, Mera and Bruiser. An interesting incident was at the very end of the first half of this race when Hugh L. Willoughby, Jr., son, in the Gray Wolf, passed Lieut. Hugh L. Willoughby, father, in the `Possum. The performance seemed to stir up the older man, for he lost place thereafter rapidly. The finish order was Simplex VIII, Katherine, Gray Wolf, Baby Bullet, Bruiser, Blanche II, Errand Boy, Mera and `Possum.
On Wednesday, for the first time in the history of motorboating on Lake Worth, there was a dangerous accident, following the second race of the day. No one was hurt, but Mrs. James K. Clarke of Philadelphia, had her skirt so wound up on a revolving shaft that a sheath knife had to be used promptly to set her free, while her husband's boat, the Bruiser, was so damaged that it is not likely to go into commission again this season. The other racer in the collision, the Katherine, owned by J. Middleby, Jr., of Boston, while harmed as badly, if not as picturesquely as the Bruiser, was put through a quick course of treatment that enabled her to be seen again on the last day of the contest. The collision was caused by taking chances in close to the big boats anchored in the middle of the lake. The Katherine attempted to pass the Alcora at one side, when Clarke, who was at the wheel of the Bruiser, tried to shoot under the bow of the Alcora. Both boats were going at a high rate of speed, altogether too fast, considering the crowd of craft upon the lake. The result was that the Katherine crashed into the Bruiser amidship, crushed in one side and might have gone clear through her had not the engine offered resistance. A hole was torn in the Bruiser large enough for a St. Bernard dog to walk through, and she was at the bottom of the lake within a couple of minutes. When the crash came, Mrs. Clarke, who had been in the Bruiser during the race just finished, was thrown forward head first upon the exposed machinery, when a shaft caught her skirt and began winding it up. The boat mechanic had a sheath knife in his belt which he whipped out and used to free Mrs. Clarke; but before she was safely aboard another boat the Bruiser was half full of water. It soon sank and had to be raised by the davits of Clarke's big yacht, the Iris. The Katherine, while apparently not so badly damaged as the Bruiser, was buckled along the whole side and offered more of a problem for the repair men than the Bruiser, but escaped without a scratch. There was not more than 12 or 15 feet of water when the boats went down, for the whole lake is extremely shallow, but that depth was sufficient to make the accident very dangerous.
The opening race Wednesday morning was Class 4, 5 miles, for craft 30 feet and under. Six started in this order: Planet, Baby Bullet, Mera, Hot Stuff IV, Blanche II and `Possum. The finish was exciting, the Mera passing the Planet within a few feet of the last buoy. The order of the others was: Blanche II, baby Bullet and `Possum. The other morning race went to Dixie, in spite of heavy handicap. It was Class 9, ten miles, for boats 30 feet long or over. The order at the five-mile turn was the same except that the Katherine had wrested third place from the Bruiser, while the Gray Wolf had gained decidedly on the Simplex VIII. At the finish, the Katherine was second, Gray Wolf third, Simplex VIII fourth and Bruiser last.
The first afternoon race was Class X, ten miles, for boats 30 feet and under. The order of start was: Baby Bullet, Mera, Errand Boy, Blanche II and `Possum. The order at the turn was: Baby Bullet, Errand Boy, Mera, Blanche II, and `Possum. The Baby Bullet won, with the Errand Boy, Mera, Blanche II and `Possum following in that order.
The second afternoon race was Class Y, ten miles, finally cut to five to save time, for craft 30 feet and over. Simplex VIII and Simplex IX were away first together, jockeying for the pole at the turn. Then, after long intervals, the Gray Wolf and Dixie started. The Dixie won by a lead too great to be thrilling, while the Gray Wolf was an easy second. Simplex VIII beat Simplex IX by four or five lengths.
The third and last race of the afternoon, which turned out the best of the day, did not finish until almost dark. It was Class Z, fifteen miles, open to all. Eight started, in this order: Baby Bullet, Mera, Errand Boy, Blanche II, Simplex VIII and Simplex IX (together) Gray Wolf and Dixie. Three laps were necessary. Gray Wolf was handicapped a full lap on Baby Bullet, while the Simplexes had almost a lap start on the Dixie. At five miles there was no change in position, nor at ten miles, while the Simplexes at both turns had been "side by each," to use Weberfeldian philosophy. Their shifting depended entirely on the turns. The declared winner was Dixie, although the Errand Boy came in first with the Mera second. The Dixie finished third, wresting that place form the Gray Wolf close to the finish buoy. The remaining order was: Blanche II, Baby Bullet, Simplex VIII and Simplex IX. The two Simplexes were only two lengths apart. The corrected times of the Mera and Errand Boy showed they both exceeded their three per cent allowance.
Thursday morning opened with Class X, five miles, for craft of less than 18 miles speed an hour, which was won by Planet. The order of the others was: Simplex VIII, Errand Boy, Baby Bullet, `Possum and Mera. The order of the start was: Planet, baby Bullet, Mera, Errand Boy, `Possum, and Simplex VIII. The next, Class Y, for boats of more than 18 miles an hour speed, five miles, went to the Dixie, which had a walkover, as the Gray Wolf did not finish. The third and last morning event was Class Z, five miles, open to all. The winner was the Planet, which beat the Dixie by only a few seconds after receiving a handicap allowance of 25 minutes. The order at the start was: Planet, Blanche II, `Possum, Simplex VIII, Grey Wolf and Dixie. The order from third on at the finish was: Blanche II, Simplex VIII, Gray Wolf, Mera and `Possum.
The Thursday afternoon program began with Class X, five miles, for boats of 18 miles speed an hour or less. It was won by the Dixie, the Gray Wolf falling out so soon that it was a time trial rather than a race. In Class Y, for boats of more than 18 miles an hour speed, five miles, the `Possum won. The order of the others was: Errand Boy, Baby Bullet, Mera and Simplex VIII. The order at the start was: Baby Bullet, Mera, Errand Boy, `Possum and Simplex VIII.
The last race of the afternoon brought a tangle. It was Class Z, for all boats, fifteen miles. The work of the handicappers was made as difficult as it proved misleading by the sudden arrival of the Swallow, owned by E. H. Godshalk, of Camden, N.J. One or two members of the committee took a short ride in her. Near the end of the first five-mile lap she ostensibly had trouble with her engine, and came to a dead stop, causing about five minutes delay. Nevertheless she was able to finish five or six lengths ahead of the Meteor. The Dixie also started, but as she got over the line ahead of time, withdrew, a proceeding which was misinterpreted on shore. The committee finally issued this bulletin: "The Swallow's time over one round (4½ nautical miles), 19 minutes 40 seconds, was handed to the committee with the request that she be allowed to race in Class Z and to be handicapped on that time. On one lap of that race she exceeded that time by 9.4 per cent, covering it in 17 minutes 49 seconds. Five per cent was sufficient for disqualification. She further disqualified herself by not carrying a race number." A protest was also filed against the Meteor for not carrying a reversing gear by the Blanche II. in this race there was a general dropping out, the Blanche II ended third and the Simplex VIII fourth.
The fourth and last day of the races, Friday, was as fine as Tuesday and Wednesday, and the crowd was larger than since the opening day, but the difficulty of keeping tab on the miscellaneous events from the shore, coupled with the unprecedented delay in official announcements, materially lessened the interest. Although the mile trials were over before noon, no one outside two or three officials knew until the following day whether the world's record for a nautical mile under admiralty conditions made by Standard on the Hudson last September had been broken. It was even said on Friday night that there was a possibility that the trials might be run over again on Saturday. Finally, on Saturday it was announced that the record had been broken and that Dixie's mean average time for the six trials was 2 m. 21 s., or at the rate of 25.532 nautical miles, 29.396 statute miles, per hour, Standard's record being 25.4525 nautical miles, or 29.308 statute miles, per hour. Dixie's fastest mile with the wind, there being practically no tide in Lake Worth, was said to be 2 m. 19 s., and against the wind, 2 m. 21 1-5 s.
Friday afternoon the crowd came out in force, there being at least 5,000 spectators. The first event, the consolation race, 5 miles, was a walkover for the Gray Wolf, as the Errand Boy did not finish. Then came an extra event arranged as a sop, following the differences in open class Z, Thursday afternoon. It was at 5 miles, and proved about the most exciting of the series. The Dixie beat the Swallow by hardly three lengths. The Gray Wolf was third and the Katherine fourth. The latter, after hasty repairs, following Wednesday's collision, was not in the form of Tuesday. The endurance race proved a close squeak for the Dixie over the Gray Wolf, there being only 19 seconds between them. Blanche II was third and Swallow fourth.
The Venetian Carnival, with which the affair closed Friday night, was a gorgeous celebration, the greatest thing of its kind ever attempted in Florida. The lake was covered for miles with gliding, gaily-lighted craft, the Poinciana Gardens were ablaze with lights, all the walks and flower-beds being electrically outlined, and every window in the largest hotel in the world was open and sending out a flood of illumination. The climax came with the finest display of fireworks that can be recalled in the Peninsular State.
(Transcribed from The Motor Boat, Feb. 10, 1907, pp. 1-7.)
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page LF]
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