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


International Trophy Race of 1908
W. P. Stephens

(Extracts from a paper read before the Society of Naval Architects)

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

The modern speed launch which, under various names more or less unscientific and ill-fitting ("canot-automobile," "canot-a-moteur," "auto-boat," and "motor-boat") has of late engaged the attention of sportsmen, yachtsmen and engineers, is essentially a French production, representing a certain stage in the development of the gas engine intermediate between the automobile and the airship. Its origin is due neither to the naval architect, the marine engineer nor the yachtsman; but to the restless and ambitious builders and owners of automobiles who, about 1900, transferred their lightest and most powerful of their new engines from their proper place in the car to an improvised setting in some sort of launch hull.

The "auto-boat" thus brought into existence, its development and improvement have rested largely in the hands of automobile engineers and automobile owners, and the management of the sport of "auto-boat" racing has been in the hands of automobile manufacturers and salesmen who, above all else, are not yachtsmen. While such experts as Yarrow and Thornycroft in England and Tellier in France have been called on at times to provide the hull, the true position of the naval architect as the supreme arbiter of the design as a whole has never been recognized, and the good old "rule-of- thumb" methods have prevailed even to the present day.

While care and study and unlimited money have been expended on the engine, as a rule both design and construction of hull have been left to any chance boat-builder, to experiment with his own theories of form and any crude adaption of shell-boat or canoe construction which promised a phenomenally light hull. When it came to the installation, the engine-builder, supreme in his knowledge of automobile construction, shoved the boat-builder on to the dock and when everything else was finishing and a steering wheel from a racing car installed on its raking post, a screw was found somewhere that would fit the shaft and swing clear of the hull and rudder.

The international auto-boat race of 1908 is noteworthy, in that it has established an authentic record of a higher speed than ever before made by vessels of under 40 feet extreme length; but what is of far greater importance is the fact that it has demonstrated beyond question the position of the naval architect as the one controlling power in the production of a perfect vessel, even the marine-engineer, essential as he is, being subordinate to him.

The auto-boat craze, then at its height in France, found its way across the English Channel in 1903, in the trail of dust that followed the auto-mobile racing of that year. The Gordon-Bennett cup, then second in importance as an international trophy in automobile racing, had been won in 1902 by England, and the race of 1903 was laid in Ireland. As a supplement to this important event, there was presented by Lord Northcliffe, then Sir Alfred Harmsworth, to the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, a special trophy for an international race of launches not over 40 feet in length, to be run in Queenstown Harbor.

The first race, run on July 18, 1903, over a course of 30 nautical miles, was won by Napier, a steel launch, the hull designed by Mr. Linton Hope, driven by a Napier automobile engine of about 80 H.P., the average speed being about 21.77 knots.

Originally known as "The Alfred Harmsworth International Cup," in December, 1903, the name was changed by the donor to "The British International Cup;" but the trophy is still popularly known as "The Harmsworth Cup." Far from being a "cup," it is a copper piece representing the race of two speed launches in broken water.

The second race, on July 30, 1904, on the Solent, was a run in heats, one American launch, Challenger, competing. A dispute arose over the arrangement of the heats, and though Napier Minor, a 35-foot launch, was first announced as the winner, the trophy was ultimately awarded to the French representative, Trefle-a-Quatre, named from the trademark of her Richard-Brasier engine.

The third race, of Arachon Bay, on the west coast of France, was run on September 11, 1905, four rounds of a course of 14.3 kilometers (30 nautical miles). There was no American entry, and the French speed launches ignored the race, only one cruising launch entering against the three English competitors. The winner, Napier II, covered the course at an average of 22.4 knots. The fourth race, on the Solent, on August 9, 1906, found no foreign entry to face the three British defenders, and Yarrow-Napier won.

In the winter of 1906-7 a challenge was tendered by the Motor Boat Club of America in behalf of its commodore, Mr. E. J. Schroeder, owner of the launch Dixie. The race was run on Southampton water, on August 2, 1907. The French yachtsmen again ignored the trophy, and only two defenders, Daimler I and Daimler II, appeared. The elimination trials proved that neither Yarrow-Napier, masquerading under the new name of Flying Fish, nor a new Daimler III, with a six-cylinder engine of 90 H.P., were worthy of a place in the final race.

Dixie, with her professional skipper Capt. S. B. Pearce at the wheel, and a skilful engineer, Albert Rappuhn, at the throttle, won easily from Daimler II, being officially timed with an average speed of 27.6 knots as compared with 27.1 knots for Daimler II and 23.3 knots for Daimler I. As this is at least 1 knots of Dixie's best performance in American waters in 1905, 1906 and 1907, and equally high for Daimler II, there is no reasonable doubt that the course was incorrect.

Such is the history of the "Harmsworth Trophy," but brief and recent as it is, much difficulty was encountered in tracing it, owing to the conditions which have thus far attended the development of the auto-boat. Of the three interests concerned, the technical, sporting and trade, the latter predominates to a most undesirable degree as is particularly evident in the naming of the boats. The confusion which has long existed in the sailing branch of the sport through the use of such series names as Valkyrie, Shamrock, Sally and Chewink, is now even worse confounded in the case of power craft by the endless multiplication of trade names, used solely for advertising purposes. Such names as Mercedes, Simplex, Napier, Panhard and Daimler, with affixed numerals, and in varying and complicated combinations, have long since ceased to have any meaning to yachtsmen in distinguishing one yacht from another. The Napier family, to name one instance, figures in the Trophy history as Napier I, Napier II, Yarrow-Napier and Napier-Minor, besides Napier-Major and many others not connected with the Trophy.

It would not only add to the interest of the racing and to the value of all technical data, but it would put the sport of launch racing on a far higher plane if such leading clubs as The Motor Boat Club of America and The Motor Yacht Club of Great Britain would positively refuse to accept the entry of any yacht bearing a purely trade name; just as in the sailing branch of the sport, a yacht with an advertisement of pills, soap or beer on her mainsail would be barred from the fleet.

The Marine Motor Association, an English organization for the promotion of power yachting, established in 1903, was associated with the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland in the management of the race of that year and subsequently; but when the Motor Yacht Club was established in 1905 as the marine branch of the Royal Automobile Club, the trophy was placed in the care of its trustees. Following the loss of the trophy in 1907, this club challenged, naming two representatives, Daimler II, owned by Lord Howard de Walden, and Wolseley-Siddeley, owned by the Duke of Westminster.

But few reliable particulars are available concerning these two boats; the measurements never having been made public. Both were designed and built by S. E. Saunders & Co., of Cowes, the construction being that patented some years ago since by the head of the company. The planking is of three thicknesses of veneer, an inner skin of oak in vertical strakes, a middle skin of oak laid diagonally, and an outer skin of mahogany in fore-and-aft strakes; between each two layers is cloth laid in varnish, and the whole fabric is sewn together, through and through, with wire.

Daimler I, I believe, is not the launch which raced under that name and number at Monaco in the spring of 1907, but a later boat specially built to defend the Trophy against Dixie in that year. She is 39 feet 4 inches over all, with a breadth of about 6 feet. Her power plant is most interesting, including three engines built by the Daimler Motor Company (1904), Limited, the center engine being placed well forward, with the propeller well under the middle of the hull, with two wing engines, one forward of the other, their propellers being in the normal position for twin-screw boats. The engines, of which a general design is given, are of the V-type, described more fully in detail in connection with the Dixie II. The original plant included three engines, each with six cylinders 5 x 5 7/8 inches (134 x 150 m/m), giving 75 to 80 H.P. each, at 1,000 R.P.M. Last winter a new set of engines was built, eight-cylinder, with the same stroke, by the diameter enlarged to 6 inches (154 m/m), and giving 140 H.P. each, at 1,200 R.P.M. These engines were very lightly built, the pistons were turned up from blanks of pressed steel, and weigh with wrist-pins and rings complete only 7 pounds; the hollow crankshaft, 2 inches on the diameter, is about one-quarter inch thick in the bearings. The clutches are of the metal-to-metal cone type, with external spring.

Wolseley-Siddeley is 39 feet 4 inches long and about 6 feet in breadth, with a total draft of 2 feet 8 inches over her propellers. She follows the model of Daimler II and other Saunders launches, a sharp straight entrance with V-sections forward flaring strongly at the deck, U-section amidships, and a very wide flat run over the screws, the topsides tumbling in aft until they meet at the point of the V-transom. In both boats the load water-line plane closely approximates an isosceles triangle, the greatest breadth of the hull being at the lower edge of the transom where it touches the surface of the water. The hull is stiffened by a keelson in the form of a truss, about 2 feet deep under the engines, the lower member being of Oregon pine and the upper of mahogany, of the full length of the boat. This truss keelson serves as the inboard bearer for each of the twin engines.

On the acceptance of the challenge the defense of the trophy was taken up with much enthusiasm by American yachtsmen, no less than nine entries being promised for the elimination trials arranged for the selection of the three representatives which, under the conditions, were allowed to the defense. Among others, Mr. Schroeder determined on a new boat, and the order was placed with Messrs. Tams, Lemoine & Crane, designers of Dixie, as well as the earlier Vingt-et-Un II and the Challenger.

In the search for high speed in small launches American builders have followed from the outset a single type of torpedo-boat, that with a flat or concave bottom over the screw, and a round stern above water. To this practice, for which there seems to be no good ground, especially when wood and not steel is the material, the exceptions are so few as to be readily noted. In the fast XPDNC and several other launches Mr. N. G. Herreshoff has followed a different type, all the transverse sections of the bottom being a flat V-form, while the water lines of the afterbody run to a point. Another type, Normand, is found in the fast Standard and in the work of Mr. Clinton H. Crane, the designer of the firm just mentioned.

In marked distinction from nearly all other launches of the day, both Vingt-et-Un II and Challenger (1904) showed an appreciable depth of body at the transom, with all sections of V-shape, and no wide, flat plane or inverted spoon over the screw. The same general form was followed in the first Dixie (1905), with merely an improvement of detail. In replacing Dixie with a still faster boat, the designer was unhampered by the owner, beyond the fact that he was working under a guarantee of a speed of not less than 35 statute miles.

As a preliminary step, a model 10 feet long (one fourth full size) was made of Dixie and tested in the Washington basin, with the model of the proposed new boat, afterwards named Dixie II. In spite of the fact that one of the two challenging boats was fitted with three engines of 140 H.P. each, and the other with two engines of 200 H.P. each, while the result of the tank tests led Mr. Crane to believe that a 40-foot hull of light displacement and construction could be driven at a speed of 35 miles per hour with not more than 200 H.P., with a total weight of not over 10 pounds pe H.P., was made with the Crane & Whitman Company, of Bayonne, N.J.. Mr. Henry M. Crane, brother of the designer, being the president of the company.

The history of the auto-boat racing shows that the most ambitious attempts at high speed, the boats with the most powerful engines and which, on exceptional occasions have made very fast spurts, have as a class shown great irregularity and unreliability in their running, frequently breaking down when the time came for an important race. It is greatly to the credit of the designer and builder of her engine that, with practically no tuning up after the engine was installed in the hull, Dixie II has started promptly on time in each of the 10 races for which she has entered and has finished in good running condition, with no delay through any fault of her machinery.

It is expected that the Motor Yacht Club will challenge again for 1909, and it is to be hoped that France will once more take part in what is now an international contest under fair and open conditions. In one sense the task of the challenger is a simple one, in that he may know exactly what he will always have to meet. Though Mr. Crane has set a very high standard in the record of 31 knots within a week of the launching, there have been none of the usual attempts at deep secrecy as to either hull or engine, and very full particulars of both have been made public by the designers. it is now a question on the one hand of how much faster Dixie II can be driven on further trial, and on the other od what rival designers are capable in producing a faster boat?

Considering the large number of boats built and races run within the past eight years, the amount of reliable and definite data now on record is comparatively small. In many cases the courses over which extreme speeds are recorded are at least suspect to suspicion, if not known to be appreciably short; some important races, notably at Monaco, have been run in water so rough that a fair test of speed was impossible. In far too many cases the general management of the races has been under such auspices as to cast suspicion on the widely advertised results. The international race of 1908 is of especial value in that all conditions were favorable to the development of the highest speed, while all requisite data as to hulls, engines and speeds is fully known. While it is most unfortunate that Daimler III was prevented from making a record over such a course and in such company, this deficiency had been supplied in a measure by her mile trials in England. As a measure of progress to date as well as a definite point of departure for future improvement, we may write in ink the record of Dixie II: Length, 39 feet 3 inches; displacement, 4,500 pounds; horse power, 220; speed, 31 knots.

The very large proportion of failures which mark the progress of the auto-boat to date, the 30-knot boats whose official records place them at best in the 25-mile class, emphasizes the success of Dixie II, and invites an inquiry as to the reasons for it.

In the first place, the work was, from first to last, in the hands of men who were thoroughly in earnest; the designer of the boat and the designer and builder of the engine are young men who have chosen their respective professions from love of the work, and who have devoted themselves to the attainment of the highest possible ideal. The builder of the hull has long been noted for the exceptionally high class of work turned out in the yachts of many types and sizes. The captain and engineer, masters of their respective branches, have in many previous races demonstrated alike their skill and their devotion to their boat. All of these men have worked together harmoniously for a single end -- the holding of the trophy.

While the result is due in part to the character of the individual units of the combination, the fact that concerns up most to-day is that the master mind was that of the naval architect, the others, each doing his own work in his own place, being subordinate to him. It was not the case, too common in all lines of marine work, of owner, skipper or engineer in sole control, with the naval architect -- if not dispensed with entirely in favor of the rule-o'-thumb builder -- merely tolerated as a necessary evil. It cannot be too strongly emphasized, that what has brought success in this instance is not the mere refinement of lines through tank experiments nor the discovery of any new principle that will make possible a higher speed; it is only that, for once at least, the naval architect has been free to exercise the proper functions of his office, to determine from his knowledge of the rules and conditions of this special case the type and general dimensions best suited to them, to select freely, according to his knowledge of the laws of naval architecture and his personal experience with vessels in service the vital elements of the design, the displacement, freeboard, location of the centers and distribution of the weights, to draw upon his general knowledge of marine engineering for a horse power fitted to his hull, and then to utilize his special knowledge in the drafting of the lines.

As thus far conducted, auto-boat racing has done but little for the advancement of technical knowledge or the promotion of sport, but the labor and money expended on it will not have been wasted if, through this race, there is brought home a lesson that is applicable to the whole field of maritime work -- that the production of a thoroughly successful vessel is possible only to the man whose business it is to know a vessel as a whole; the trained naval architect with his own special knowledge of the science of naval architecture and the art of naval construction broadened and strengthened by practical experience afloat, and supplemented by such general knowledge of marine engineering and kindred subjects as will enable him to co-opererate intelligently and effectively with the specialists in these branches.

(Transcribed from The Rudder, December 1908, pp. 325-327)

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


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