1908 Harmsworth Trophy
How Dixie II Defended the Harmsworth Trophy
A STORY OF THE GREATEST MOTORBOAT RACE THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN
This is a story of the greatest motorboat race the world has ever known, of a contest that was won by sheer pluck of brave men; it is a story that will survive forever in the history of marine sports--a well-thumbed chapter. We are living in a latter day, and it pleases us to consider ourselves Moderns, but I could not but liken the events of Monday, August third, in the year of Christ, nineteen hundred and eight, to some of the marvelous exploits of ancient times, such as those of which Homer snag. Two thousand years and more have left man unchanged at heart. Since the world began we have loved the thrill of an exciting contest of speed, and those who were fortunate enough to have been in Huntington Bay, Long Island Sound, on that memorable afternoon, will never forget the occasion.
We, the crew of the gallant Astacus, left the harbor of New Rochelle at noon and made our way merrily towards Huntington Bay, a score of mile away. There was just a ripple on the water, and the sun shone from a clear sky. As we flew along, we sighted many boats--boats of every size and every shape--all of them headed for the race. There, over our bow, was a motor yacht, well groomed in white paint, and with her bright work glistening in the sun. As we overhauled her, we could see the jolly party on board, of men and women. There, on our port side, skipped a dory, a saucy little fellow. As we cam nearer, boats loomed up in all directions with their bows all pointed toward the bay. Just to remind us that some of the world was at work, a somber tug puffed lazily up the Sound with six lighters in tow, and bound in the opposite direction we made out a wrecking steamer towing some unfortunate, wounded craft.
As we came into the bay, about two o'clock, accompanied by half a dozen other craft, we could see that all was in readiness for the race. The center of it all was the committee boat, the tug C. P. Raymond. In the triangle of the course, the apex of which was formed by the Raymond, lay a hundred boats or more, herded there by the officers of he two revenue cutters that had come to keep the course clear. These cutters were the Mohawk, in charge of Lt. Brockway, and the Manhattan, commanded by Lt. Winram. Fully as many more boats were circled about, headed in all directions, so that in a short time the scene began to take definite shape, and the lines of boats formed a regular lane which showed the line of the course.
It was an ideal day for the race, and the beautiful bay of Huntington never showed forth its glories more effectively. A gentle breeze caressed the seas, and the bluff shores of the bay showed many hues of green in blended grass and foliage above a shoreline of sandy beach. To the southward stood the Casino of the Chateau des beaux Arts, of classic Italian architecture, and the piazzas were crowded with sight-seers. Scattered along the shore wherever a vantage point could be found were crowds of people, come from here, there and everywhere, to see the great event. There were automobiles, carriages and conveyances of all sort.
We boarded the Raymond. Upon her lower deck were the photographers and the newspaper reporters who had come to get pictures and to tell the story, that the world at large might see and hear of how the two great Anglo-Saxon nations battled in friendly spirit for the motorboat championship. Upon the upper deck were the officials and many of the most prominent figures of the motorboat world. The Regatta Committee of the Motor Boat Club of America, holder of the International Trophy, or Harmsworth Cup, is composed of Charles P. Tower, chairman; Morris M. Whitaker and Walter Murray Bieling. Mr. Bieling, however, had volunteered to steer the U.S.A., so that Mr. Tower and Mr. Whitaker handled the details of the race.
The start was to have been at 2:30 o'clock, and at that hour the racers were under way, circling about and awaiting the signal. Just at the time the start should have been made, a number of small boats were scattered about the starting line, and in order that there might be no confusion, the start was postponed for half an hour to enable the revinue officers, in motorboats that had been impressed into service, to clear the course. As no arrangements had been made for signaling this information, those who were on the racers began to wonder what had occurred, as the reason for the delay, while perfectly apparent from the higher position on the tug's deck, could not be observed by those low down in the racing boats. Noel M. Robins, skipper of the Wolseley-Siddeley, came along side the Raymond and asked why the boats had not been sent off. he was informed of the reason for the delay and made off to gain a position for the start.
Captain S. Bartley Pearce, of the Dixie II, came aboard the Raymond to set his watch with the official chronometer. it was he who steered the Dixie I to victory in England last year. captain Pearce is of that type which has made America famous on the seas. he is just about 5 feet 8 inches of brain and brawn and nerve. As he stepped back into the Dixie and adjusted his life belt, hundreds of admiring eyes looked upon him; but he did not know it, nor would he have turned his head. he had work to do, and every move showed that his nerves were at high tension. Every motion exhibited determination. As we shook his hand, it was a feeling that America's honor was in good keeping. In the Dixie, never leaving the engine for a moment except to help Capt. Pearce out of his rubber poncho, was Albert Rappuhn, the engineer. He, too, was in the old Dixie when she won the cup.
Pearce! Rappuhn! Here's to you the honor which belongs to brave men!
An incident had occurred while Captain Pearce was aboard the tug is of note; it shows the deep patriotism of the man. he was asked what flag he would fly, that the Dixie might be recognized easily. "An American flag, sir," he replied. "I flew it in England and I'll fly it here."
Somewhere I have seen a picture, and the scene now broke through the fibres of memory and revealed that painting clearly. "The Night Before the Battle" it is called, I think, a picture of armor-clad knights leaning upon their lances, ready, waiting--anxious for the moment of action.
There was the beautiful Dixie II, with her bright varnished mahogany marred by two hideous mufflers, temporarily attached to fulfill the regulations under which the race is held. At the wheel, Pearce; at the engine, Rappuhn. Nearby the Wolseley- Siddeley, with her powerful hull coated in blue-gray, and the Union Jack of Great Britain on the pole at her stern; at her wheel, Noel M. Robins; at her 400-hp. engines, Arthur Stapleton and George Fentiman. Not far off lay the Daimler II, blue-gray as the Wolseley, carrying the British man o' war flag, a wonderful bunch of power in a compact-looking hull. Her engines, three of them, each 175-hp., were looked after by H. Weallams, A. Grice and T. Thornaloa. At her helm was Dr. Alfred George Fentiman. The Den, our old friend, was there--the sprightly, sensational Den. She seemed little compared with the others, and indeed, her engines are of only 74-hp. At her wheel was E. J. Sherman, at the engine C. A. Hincks. The other boat was U.S.A., better known by her old name Irene. She was champion of America as she lay there, but was to lose her title within an hour. Walter M. Bieling held her wheel, and with him was her designer, builder and owner, John S. Sheppard, who builds boats at Essington, Pennsylvania.
A deep-tones, prolonged blast from the Raymond's whistle sounded the preparatory signal at 3 o'clock, and five minutes later the starting signal, a red ball, was run up to the masthead, accompanied by the whistle from the Raymond and a medley of sound that came from everything capable of producing noise. The moment had come.
Dixie was first across the line, 14 seconds after the signal. Behind her started Den, three seconds later. Then came Daimler II and Wolseley-Siddeley, close together, and finally the U.S.A., 41 seconds after the signal. Her delay was caused by the blowing out of two petcocks a few seconds before the starting signal, which obliged her engineer to keep her going and she was forced to cut a wide circle to reach the line. Mr. Sheppard endeavored to keep the petcocks closed by forcing a file into the opening, and in a moment the chilled steel melted like a stick of candy. After that the crew held screwdrivers over the opening and kept the engines going as best they could.
Now away they went, off toward the first mark, 3 13-16 miles N by E, 1-4 E, through the lane left by the spectators, along the sandy beach of Eaton's Neck, out into the open waters of Long Island Sound. Dixie had ten seconds the better of the Wolseley boat on the start. The motor cruiser Cactus II, owned by Rear Commodore Wilson Foss of M.B.C. of A., was at the first turn. The rules called for turns of not less than 120 degrees, so that two small stakeboats were necessary and from a distance these could not be made out; therefore the Cactus II was placed in such a position that she would make that point of the course plain to the racers.
It was a marvelous sight, those five boats off on a 30-knot race to decide the championship of the world's greatest nations. As they dashed away, they were five little dots dwindling in the distance, but a volume of white spray shooting yards to either side of the boats denoted their positions to the spectators.
On the deck of the Raymond, forward of the pilot house, stood E. J. Schroeder, the calmest man aboard, quietly smoking a cigar. We watched the specks of white fade away, then through the glasses we saw them turn the first mark and head W 1-2 S 1 7-8 miles for the second turn. At the second turn was anchored the revenue cutter Mohawk, with R. B. Clark, of the Riverton (N.J.) Yacht Club on board. From the second turn the course led to the starting point S by E, 3-4 E, a distance of 3 5-8 miles. Including the turns, the course measures as nearly ten knots as human ingenuity could determine. After the start the stakeboat was removed from the line, and this left the inner turn marked by the Raymond in the center, and a red ball on a mark boat on both sides.
Nearer, nearer still the racers came toward the finish of the first lap, Dixie in the lead. No one could tell which boat was ahead until the leader came opposite Target Rock. Then those who were familiar with her could tell it was Dixie by the character of her bow wave, as compared to the larger wave of the Wolseley. Straight as an arrow she flew, and gracefully rounded the mark, then swish, close by the Raymond. Her time was 21 m. 35 s. for the lap. As Dixie passed the committee boat amid cheers from the fleet, Rappuhn signaled to Mr. Schroeder by holding up eight fingers. "it's all right," said Mr. Schroeder,"he's not exceeding 800 revolutions. He can let her out if he has to."
The Wolseley-Siddeley, handled in masterful fashion by Mr. Robins, past master of the wheel, rushed by 47 seconds behind, running beautifully. Mr. Robins stood at the wheel in careless attitude., dressed in full yachting costume, spick and span, unconcerned, calm and cool. Then came U.S.A., 25:16 and then Den, 26:55. By the time Den passed the leaders were well off on the first leg of the second lap.
Just as everyone began to wonder what had become of the high powered Daimler II, she was sighted coming back over the first leg. She had been going very fast, it was afterwards learned, had passed the Wolseley, and was creeping up on Dixie, when her starboard engine stuck fast, and she was forced to give up. She ran into her moorings under the power of her two engines. It became apparent during the second lap that the Wolseley-Siddeley was reducing Dixie's lead, and an "audible shiver" was noticeable. Mr. Schroeder, however, calmly rolled his cigar first to port, then to starboard. "It's all right," said he. "Pearce is there and he knows what he's doing."
Again they came toward us. Again all eyes scanned the water. Dixie was still leading, but by a much smaller margin. On this round Dixie covered the course in 22:16, Wolseley in 21:55, and there was just 16 seconds between them as their time was taken as they dashed by the committee boat. Captain Pearce was watching his opponent. he would glance ahead and then aft. he watched the Wolseley as a cat watches a mouse; he held her there safe. Wolseley came marvelously close to the Raymond, handled by that master, Robins. She seemed almost to touch, and the heavy tug swayed perceptively by the mass of water displaced by the British racer. Afterward, Mr. Robins stated that it was only by a sudden fling of the wheel that he had been able to miss the tug's anchor cable. U.S.A. and Den were now away behind, but still going well, and ready to do their part, should anything happen to the leaders.
And now the last lap was on. As the boats rounded the first turn, Dixie was still leading by about the same distance as when she passed the Raymond. Suddenly, as the leaders neared the last turn, a cry went up from those who were watching with glasses.
"Great guns! The Dixie's jumping away from her. He's let her out! He's let her out!"
A moment it seemed and they were bearing down to the finish line, between the Raymond and the white cone that had been set up after the Den had finished her second lap. Dixie was now far in the lead. The trophy was safe unless some miracle happened, and no one knew then how nearly something did happen.
On came that glorious little boat. Our hearts were in her. Everyone crowded to the stern of the tug to see the finish. There was Pearce at the wheel; we could see the tense outline of his head and shoulders, even in the distance. As she came nearer, she seemed to swerve this way and that, as if reeling under a heavy strain. Mr. Davis and I were at the Raymond's stern on a line with the finish. Dixie came careening across, Pearce clutching the wheel with one hand. As he passed, the winner with all that meant, we saw Pearce shaking Rappuhn desperately.
Mr. Davis turned quickly and said, "He's sick, or hurt; we must get him." With one hand on the wheel and the other sinewy arm holding and shaking the unconscious Rappuhn, Pearce guided the Dixie safely through a row of boats. He could not stop the mad rush until he had her clear. He headed her for the open waters up towards Northport, and about a mile from the Raymond he managed to bring her to.
By this time we had jumped into the Astacus and were off. Tuna, Dixie's tender was ahead of us, and a fleet of other boats, rushing to the assistance of Dixie's crew. When we arrived, Tuna had taken the unconscious hero-engineer on board, where he received the attention of a physician. Captain Pearce, unstrung now that his work was done, was helped aboard the Astacus, and we ran at once to the float. With little assistance Captain Pearce walked to the Casino, not willing to have a show made of his condition, bearing up before the crowd, and even acknowledging the congratulations of hundreds. He was weak from the strain and from the excitement and sick from the gas from the improvised mufflers, which had completely overcome Rappuhn.
In a room in the basement of the Casino we sat Pearce down. His only words were, "Bring Rap to me boys. Is he all right? I want Rap. It was the mufflers." And then good sailorman that he is, he thought of his boat. "Be sure to get the boat in safe. Where is she? Is she all right?" he muttered. We assured him that she was then at her moorings, safe and sound. Then satisfied that the boat was safe, he called again and again for Rappuhn.
A run around the harbor in the Tuna revived Rappuhn in short order. he had been overcome by the carbon monoxide gas from the mufflers, and as soon as his lungs filled with the fresh salt air, aided by artificial respiration which was applied by the physician in charge, he recovered almost completely. The Tuna came to the float, and we rushed Rappuhn to his captain. I never hope to witness a more inspiring sight than the meeting of those two heroes. The captain was suffering when we brought Rappuhn to him. The engineer ran over and threw his arms about his captain.
Pearce threw back his head. "Old boy, we won the race, you and me, didn't we?" was all the captain could say.
Pearce and Rappuhn! May there never be a time when America is without such men as you!
When Rappuhn felt himself losing consciousness, just before the turn of the last mark, he instinctively opened the throttle to its limit. It was then that we saw Dixie jump ahead. For four miles or more Pearce ran that boat and held up the helpless man, shaking him and throwing water on his head. For four miles he held Dixie on her course, half senseless himself, with one great thought on his mind--to cross the line. it was the work of a courageous soul.
For Dixie we have all praise. She is the fastest motorboat in the world, and won the race with her engine turning 750 r.p.m. whereas it is capable of turning her propeller at 950. She is only of half the power of the Wolseley and went into the race with her 200-hp. against the Wolseley with 400, and the Daimler with 525. Rappuhn, asked why he had kept Dixie down, replied, "If we'd let her out, we'd have felt lonesome."
The story is told. No, not at all, for the nation owes a tribute to all who were concerned in the splendid boat. Here is the honor roll: E. J. Schroeder, owner; Clinton H. Crane, designer; H. M. Crane and Allen E. Whitman, builders of the engine; Captain S. Bartley Pearce, helmsman; Albert Rappuhn, engineer; B. Frank Wood, builder.
(Transcribed from MotorBoat, Aug. 10, 1908, pp.1-8. )
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page LF]
History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at email@example.com
© Leslie Field, 2001