1908 Harmsworth Trophy
Huntington Bay, New York, July 27-28, 1908

The British International Trophy Race
W. P. Stephens

Challenger for the International Trophy
International Trophy Challenge
Nine Boats Ready to Defend the Trophy
International Trials Postponed Until July 27 and 28
Dixie II Will Help Defend Motor Cup
Waiting for Motorboats
English Motorboats Here
Motorboats Race To-Day
The International Cup
Motorboat Race Off
Predict Fast Time for Motorboats
The International Motor-Boat Cup
Crew in Collapse as Dixie II Wins Cup
International Motor Boat Race for the Harmsworth Trophy
The British International Trophy Race
British International Trophy Race
Preparations for the International
How Dixie II Defended the Harmsworth Trophy
International Trophy Race of 1908

Exceptionally brilliant and successful was the defense of the British International Cup for power boats by the Motor Boat Club of America, on Huntington Bay, Long Island Sound, Aug. 3, 1908. That the trophy, brought to this country last year by Dixie I, after a race of no great moment in British waters, was retained in such able manner, reflects the greatest possible credit upon all connected with the winning boat, Dixie II, and, incidentally, upon the club. The knowledge that the single victory of Dixie I, a three-year old boat, was rather a fluke, and that England, France, and even Italy, were building new boats with engines of double her horsepower caused much talk in this country last winter, and it was realized that new and faster boats were needed if the cup was to be kept here. The Motor Boat Club of America went so far as to discuss the question of a club or syndicate boat, but nothing came of it and the defense was left to chance and individual enterprise. The actual achievements of the new boats of the year at Monaco in April, in particular of the Wolseley-Siddeley, the immediate representative of the challenger, which in spite of the awful handicap of her name made new speed records, led many to believe that the trophy would make a quick return to its native land; but there was little real effort to prevent such a catastrophe.

Up to a recent date the defense looked very well on paper, with ten fast auto boats opposed to the two challengers; Dixie I was entered for the elimination races with her newer sister ship, and Chip III. Autowin II, Den, Simplex III, Elco-Craig, Sea Otter, Gray A.W.; nine in all. The elimination trials were set for July 10-11, thus giving three weeks for the final tuning up of the chosen boats, but as the time approached it was evident that none of the new boats were near to completion, so the test was postponed to July 27-28. Dixie II and Elco-Craig were under way for their first engine trials on July 26, the former having the advantage that her engine had run on the block in the shop, while that of Elco-Craig had never yet made an explosion. After a short trial about Newark Bay, Dixie was headed for Huntington, Long Island, late in the afternoon, while Elco-Craig showed the need for further trial at the works.

The course selected for the race was an admirable one, on Huntington Bay, Long Island, starting directly in front of the beautiful Chateaux des beaux Arts, a favorite resort with yachtsmen and motorists, and running straight out into the Sound, the first leg being N by E 1/4 E, 3 13/16 nautical miles; the second W 1/2 S, 1 7/8 miles; and the third S by S 3/4 E, 3 5/8 miles. Including the turns, wide sweeps marked by two boats each, the total distance was 10 nautical miles as nearly as such a course can be measured; it had one positive advantage of not being under length.

The race and the trial were in the hands of the race committee of the club, C. P. Tower, M. M. Whitaker and W. M. Bieling, and they were on hand Monday morning with a powerful tug. There were, however, only four out of the nine promised defenders. Dixie II was ready, with Mr. C. H. Crane at the wheel and Mr. H. M. Crane at the engine, and the well known Den was also ready. Autowin II, designed by Swasey, Raymond & Page, a new boat to the limit of the rules, was also present in the hands of her designers. She has 2 engines, 16 cylinders in all, and it was said that no two could be made to run at the same time; this may be an exaggeration, but the plain fact was, that she was towed about Huntington bay for a couple of days in a vain effort to make her run under her own power. The fourth defender, Gray A. W., was a 26-foot boat, designed and built by the Atkins-Wheeler Co. of Huntington, with a 40 horsepower Gray engine, and had no show whatever in such company as Dixie.

The first run was started at 3:30, Dixie going well and showing a speed of 29.65 miles, her time for the course being 1: 9:57 as compared with 1:24: 4 for Den; Gray A. W. running only two rounds. After the run Mr. Crane requested of the committee that Dixie be accepted without further trial in order to give as much time as possible for further tuning up. This was agreed to, so she ran back to Bayonne at once.

Next day Autowin II was still in tow of an old launch, her engines not running; Den and Gray A. W. were on hand, but nothing was heard from the other absentees. As Gray decided to withdraw, only Den was left. In this emergency, as Dixie II was after all a new boat and an unknown quantity, word was sent to John S. Sheppard of Essington, Pa., designer and builder of Irene, asking him to enter her. It was also decided to send one of the committee to Ogdensburg to examine the new Chip III. Mr. Bieling took the night express, and on his arrival in Ogdensburg Chip III was launched for the first time, and her twelve-cylinder engine started by Mr. Leighton, who built it. She showed evidences of speed but was not too far from completion to make it possible to race her in New York the following Saturday, so Mr. Bieling returned without her.

The challenging boats arrived in New York by steamer and were lowered in their crates to the deck of a floating derrick and taken to Huntington Bay, arriving on July 29. WolseleySiddeley was built by the Saunders Company on its well-known system, three skins of veneer, the inner strakes vertical, the middle diagonal and the outer longitudinal, sewn together with wire at close intervals. She has two engines, each of eight cylinders driving twin screws; the horsepower of each being given at about 200. Daimler has three engines driving triple screws, the center engine and screw being each well forward, the shaft leaving the keel near the middle of the boat. The side engines are staggered, the forward one to starboard. Each engine has eight cylinders, or 24 cylinders in all; practically six engines of four cylinders each, the horsepower being given as over 500.

The engines in the race offer a very interesting study, Dixie II having one, Wolseley-Siddeley two, and Daimler three, each with eight cylinders. All are of the same type, the V form, with each pair opposite and inclined at an angle of 45 degrees from the vertical. Dixie's cylinders are 7 x 7 1/4 inches, while the others are about 6 x 6 inches. Wolseley-Siddeley was in the hands of Mr. Noel M. Robins, who has run her since she was first launched, including her Monaco performances; Daimler is a new and untried boat; she was handled by Dr. Alfred George Fentiman.

Both of the Englishmen, while approving of the course, commented at first on the smooth water and expressed a preference for a little rough going, as at Monaco, to show their boats at the best advantage. On Saturday, Aug. 1, the long continued calm of this summer was broken by the tail of a West India hurricane which barely brushed New York, but with a blow from N.E. that tore up the waters of the Sound. A very large fleet of yachts lay in Huntington Harbor for the race, and the grounds of the Beaux Arts were packed with automobiles, the terraces being crowded with spectators. Everything was in readiness except the weather. In the afternoon the Englishmen with the crews of the defending boats went over the course in a steam yacht, and everybody decided that the water was too rough for a trophy race, as it would be impossible for the boats to attain anything like record speed.

On Monday there was no wind and the conditions were in every way favorable, so the start was set for 2:30. Five boats were ready at the line, Wolseley-Siddeley, with Mr. Robins at the wheel, and a man at each engine; Daimler, with Dr. Fentiman at the wheel and three engineers; Dixie, with her regular skipper, S. B. Pearce, and her engineer, Rappuhn; Den, steered by E. J. Sherman with an engineer; and Irene, under a new name, U.S.A., steered by Mr. Bieling, and with Mr. Sheppard in charge of the engines.

The use of mufflers on racing boats in unknown in this country, but under the rules of the Marine Motor Association, which for the time govern the trophy races, the exhaust must be "silenced" by some means. After much uncertainty and several letters and cables it was determined by the committee that in order to be safely within the rules the defending boats should carry mufflers, and these were consequently fitted on all boats.

As the hour for the start approached some small boats ran on the course and the way could not be cleared in time. Following a custom which is all right on the Sound in starting a fleet of a hundred sailing yachts on fixed intervals, the start was postponed by the committee for half an hour, no notice being given to the contestants, so that they were at a loss to know what to do. The matter was straightened out, and after a wearying wait for men whose nerves were already on edge, the start was given at 3:00 P.M.

Dixie crossed the line within 14 seconds, Den followed at 17 seconds, and the two English boats came next. U.S.A.-Irene blew out a petcock just at the start and was delayed, being 41 seconds after the whistle. Daimler had already put her clutch out of business during the week and before she had run far on the first leg one of hr engines gave out and she withdrew. Dixie held her lead for the first round, her time being 21:35, with Wolseley-Siddeley 22:12; U.S.A. 25:16 and Den 26:55. On the second round Wolseley-Siddeley showed a gain and at times proved that she had made up 21 seconds; Dixie 21:35; Wolseley-Siddeley 22:12; U.S.A. 24:59, Den 27:01. Captain pearce was trying to do nothing more than to keep a safe lead on his opponent, the engine not running to the full number of turns. On the last round the two ran very evenly until the second mark was reached, when Dixie jumped ahead and opened more between her stern and the other's bow. As they came rushing for the line Captain Pearce was seen with one hand on the wheel and the other shaking his shipmate, who had fallen down, overcome by the fumes from the exhaust pipes. This had happened at the turn, Rappuhn involuntarily opening the throttle. Dixie II crossed the line with a lead of 49 seconds on Wolseley-Siddeley and the trophy was safe, but for the moment everything else was forgotten in the curiosity and anxiety over her crew. She had run nearly a mile toward Northport Harbor before Captain Pearce was able to stop her; but by this time other launches were at hand and Rappuhn was lifted aboard one and taken foe a run in the fresh salt air while a doctor worked over him.

No sooner was his work done than Captain pearce collapsed completely, from the anxiety, excitement and intense strain of the whole race, accentuated in the last few minutes when the whole control of the boat was thrown on him. While it left no serious effects, it was some hours before he was fully revived. The collapse of her engineer in the trophy race was in all probability caused by the mufflers, which drove a portion of the exhaust down into the engineer's cockpit just abaft of the engines. Captain Pearce also coming in for a smaller share.

The times of the last round were: Dixie 21:06; Wolseley-Siddeley 21:39; U.S.A. 24:56; Den 26:51. For the entire course of 30 nautical miles the times were

Average Speed


Elapsed time


Statute miles

Dixie II
















During the race Dixie's engine turned up from 750 to 800 revolutions; from such trials as her builders have made she is good for at least 900 if needed.

On the day before the race Dixie was run over the measured mile at Hempstead Harbor, an accurately surveyed and marked course, with times stationed at each end. The average of four trials, two with and two against the tide, was 36.049 statute miles or 31.34 knots. In this trial she was handled by Messrs. Crane and the son of Capt. Pearce.

Dixie II is a noticeable exception to the happy-go-lucky methods which have characterized the auto boat and motor boat game in this country, and her success in her first race, and with a minimum of trial and preparation, reflects the greatest possible credit to all connected with her. Both hull and engine represent careful, deliberate, scientific designing, planning everything in advance and leaving nothing to chance. She is in no sense a freak and she has none of the extreme features which have disfigured so many aspirants for speed honors. In both hull and engine the designers had little reliable data to go on. Clinton H. Crane had the experience derived from Vingt-et-Un II, a smaller but fast boat, Challenger and Dixie I; but none of these had approached the speed deemed necessary for the successful defense of the trophy.

In designing the engines, H. M. Crane had still less data in such a size of engine, eight cylinders each 7 x 7 1/4 inches. In the case of the hull, the model-testing station at the Washington navy yard was utilized, and several proposed models were towed in comparison with a model of Dixie I. This great tank is opened to private tests at cost, the expense running up from a minimum of $200 or $300. In this case the models were 10 feet long, or one-quarter full size, and the carriage was run at its maximum limit of speed, which corresponds to 34 knots for a 40-foot vessel, the record covers only a few seconds, as the retarding mechanism must be put on almost as soon as the speed is reached, because the total length of the run is only about 360 feet. The data thus obtained was incomplete and inadequate as to the highest speeds, but in comparison with that derived from the Dixie I model and the known performances of the older boat, it was of material assistance.

Dixie II is of the same general type as Challenger and Dixie I, different from other American speed launches and notably opposed to the "torpedo stern" craze; There is no radical departure and no effort at freak features or freak effects to the eye, but a cleanly designed hull with a long straight entrance, good freeboard, topsides flared forward and well rolled in to a point at the transom. The construction, carefully planned by Mr. Crane, is on the single-skin, ribband-carvel system, with the engine hung from two transverse bulkheads. The building was done by B. F. Woos, of City Island, who stands unexcelled in this country as an artist in both wood and metal yacht building.

The engine, designed by H. M. Crane, was built in the shops of Crane & Whitman Co., at Bayonne, N.J., a small and as yet comparatively unknown plant that is engaged in the highest class of machine work in the construction of the Crane automobile. In this car only the highest grade of material, Krupp and nickel steels and the finest bronzes are used, with the most advanced methods of finishing and fitting. The engine was built under the hands of Mr. Crane, and every detail bears evidence of the care and thought expended both on the planning and actual construction. The base is a single casting of phosphor bronze, of complicated form and with some careful machining for the many parts fitted to it. The cylinders are cast with integral heads and jackets, but the latter are made up in part by two large brass plates, one on each side, fitted with screws to make a joint that will stand a pressure test; in this way a large portion of the cast jacket is open for inspection and finishing.

The exhaust is mainly through an auxiliary valve at the bottom of each cylinder, an ingenious system of double opposed springs being fitted to balance this valve. The ordinary exhaust valve in the head is called on for but a small portion of the work. The interior of the head is semi-spherical and it is machined in all parts, while the bearing surface for the piston is lap finished. There are no valve chambers, the intake and exhaust pipes going directly into the head.

The two cylinders of each pair are placed directly opposite and are slightly staggered, one connecting rod being forked, with its bearings in the big end of the wide bearing of the sister rod. The lubrication is through the hollow crank shaft. A make-and-break ignition system of ingenious construction is used. Every portion of the engine down to the smallest detail is built of that material, Krupp steel, nickel steel, hard or soft bronze, which has proved best adapted to the special purpose; most of the members being milled out of the solid blank. The crank shaft was made in the shops. Though the work has been hurried as much as possible from the start, time was found to put many parts to a practical test, replacing those which showed any signs of weakness.

When finally completed the engine was tested on the block in the shop with a turbine break, a full length of shafting of the actual length for the boat being set up on the angle which it would have in the boat, with all bearings and fittings, the engine of course being on its natural angle and not level as on ordinary testing blocks. In this natural position the engine was run for a long time and fully tested before installation in the hull. When finally started on the afternoon preceding the first elimination trial the engine ran smoothly and without a hitch and the boat showed a very high speed. So well was everything working that after less than an hour under way on Newark Bay, Messrs. Crane and Capt. Pearce and Rappuhn started off to run the 50 miles to Huntington Harbor that evening. The clutch is of the planetary type but small and compact and of course light in weight. The water circulation is effected by eight small individual pumps, each with an independent discharge outboard over the side. The ignition is by magneto. The weight of the engine has been reduced to the lowest practicable point, and in addition the center of gravity is very low compared with vertical cylinders as in Dixie I and Challenger. The total displacement of Dixie II is given at 4,700 pounds compared with 8,000 pounds for Wolseley-Siddeley not including the weight of the name. In these days when freak designing has even fuller sway in power than in sail yachting, it is grateful to discover such evidence as Dixie offers that there is something more than mere daring and brute force in the problem of the racing launch. In her case a very high speed has been obtained by perfectly legitimate methods of designing and construction in both hull and engines, and she gives welcome proof that even in this game the established laws of naval architecture and marine engineering as to the relationship of power and resistance have not been repealed.

(Transcribed from Power Boating, Oct. 1908, pp. 453-458. )

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

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