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

Preparations for the International

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

In response to invitations extended by the Regatta Committee of the Motor Boat Club of America, nine boats were entered for the trial races planned by the club as a means of selecting three defenders of the British International Trophy. These boats were: Dixie II, the original Dixie which won the cup last year, Simplex III, owned by W. C. Whitehead; Elco Craig, built by Messrs. H. R. Sutphen and James Craig Jr.; Chip III, built by Senator Hawkins and the Wainwright Estate to defend the Gold Cup now held by the Chippewa Bay Yacht Club; Den, owned by Commodore J. H. Hoadley; Gray A. W., built by Aitkin-Wheeler, of Halesite, L.I.; Autowin II, designed by Swasey, Raymond & Page, for E. S. Webster, of Boston; and Sea Otter, owned by W. J. Snedecki. Of these nine none were really ready for trial on the days originally set, July 10 and 11, excepting the original Dixie and Den, and about July 7 the owners of several boats requested a postponement, and notices were hastily sent out naming July 27 and 28 as trial days.

The matter of silencing the exhaust was one that had not been considered by either the Regatta Committee or the builders of the cup defenders until close on to the day originally set for the trials. The copy of the conditions under the deed of gift and the rules pursuant thereto, which had been sent by the Motor Yacht Club, the challenging party, to the Motor Boat Club of America, said nothing whatever about mufflers. They did mention, however, that the race for the trophy should be held under the rules of the Marine Motor Association of Great Britain "for the time being," and then outlined the course of procedure necessary to modify the rules, stipulating, however, that no change could be made after a challenge had been received and accepted. The American reading of the phrase "for the time being" was that it referred to the time of the adoption of the conditions. It seems, however, that the phrase was intended to mean for the time being of any race, provided modifications had not been made.

Some time in June the question of silencing the exhaust was raised by the Regatta Committee, and a letter making inquiry was sent to Secretary Fernie of the Motor Yacht Club of England. The reply received was a copy of the Marine Motor Association Rules with Rule XVI marked in blue pencil. The rule read as follows: "Every vessel racing under the Association's rules is to be fitted with an efficient exhaust silencer." This was hardly a direct answer, and the secretary of the Motor Boat Club of America cabled on July 13 to the secretary of the British International Commission, asking for a direct answer to the question whether or not mufflers were required in the International race. An answer was received three days later, signed by the Motor Yacht Club saying: "Exhaust must be silenced, though not necessarily by muffler." Notice of this fact was immediately sent by letter to the owners and designers of all the boats then entered for the trial contests.

Meantime such progress had been made with the new Dixie that ex-Commodore Schroeder concluded to withdraw the original Dixie. it also came to the notice of the committee that Chip III would not appear for the trial. Of Sea Otter nothing further was heard after the entry, excepting a request for a private trial in case she was not ready for the trial races. It also came to the knowledge of the committee in an indirect way that Mr. Whitehead had sold Simplex III and had departed for Europe. Of the five remaining boats four appeared in Huntington on July 27, Elco Craig being the one missing.

The day was perfectly suited for motorboat racing. The sky was clear and the water was very smooth. The boats were sent over the course as laid out for the International race and with the same signals, in order that the racers might become accustomed to International conditions. The start was made at 3:30 o'clock. Dixie II, with Clinton H. Crane, her designer, at the wheel, and his brother, H. M. Crane, in charge of the engine, crossed the line in six seconds; Den was 15 seconds after the signal, and Gray A.W. 26 seconds later. Gray, by the way, is a clean little racing boat with only 26 feet length and equipped with a Gray motor of only 40-hp. The owners showed very good courage indeed by entering her against boats of nearly twice her length and of many times her horsepower, and she made a splendid showing. Autowin II was not able to start her engines, the most powerful of any in the fleet. She was towed over the line some minutes after the start, and presently cast off her tow and ran for a mile or more, but then withdrew. To the great disappointment of her owner and designers, she was never able from that time on to get into condition for racing.

Dixie went out with a rush, obtaining a considerable lead of the rest of the fleet at once, and then settled down to a speed sufficient to keep others at a distance, but by no means up to the speed she was supposed to make. She made the first round in 22 m. 30 s., the second round slightly slower, and the third round in 23 m. 45 s., making a little spurt at the end, for the sake of an interesting finish. She completed the course of 30 nautical miles in 1h. 9m. 57s., an average speed of 25.07 nautical miles an hour, or, in statute miles, 29.65. Den finished the 30 miles in 1h. 21,. 4s., a good record for a boat of her size, 30 feet in length, with an engine of only 80 hp. Gray A.W. completed two rounds, but as there was something slightly amiss with one cylinder, withdrew. Immediately after the race Clinton Crane, the designer of Dixie, and H. M. Crane and Allen E. Whitman, the builders of hr engine, requested the regatta committee to excuse Dixie II from further trials. The argued that Dixie had shown that she could go the 30 miles without trouble, and gave assurance that she could make much higher speeds than she had shown in the race. They also urged that every moment of time was required to put the engines in still better fighting condition, and to equip the boat with mufflers. The request was rather irregular, but the committee took into consideration the fact that these three trial races constitute a series, or a regatta, and that they were held simply to enable the committee to select defenders for the cup, and after a few minutes' conference the committee decided to accept Dixie II as one of the defenders and to excuse her from further appearance.

Nothing had been heard from Elco Craig on the first day, but it was assumed that she would appear on Tuesday, July 28, and the regatta committee established the course in time for a trial on the forenoon of that day. But Elco Craig did not appear. Later in the week Messrs. Sutphen and Craig told the regatta committee that they had lost their opportunity of trial by failing to report on Monday, and therefore were of the impression that the committee would take no further cognizance of them. Den and Gray A.W. were in the harbor during the morning, while the regatta committee was endeavoring to get into communication with the owners of Elco Craig, but in the early afternoon Gray A.W. concluded to withdraw from further trials and make ready for the races of the Motor Boat Club, which were planned to follow the International contest. As Autowin's engines still refused to work, there was nothing to do but postpone further trials until Friday, July 31, and this was done in the hope that Elco Craig would then be ready to race. meantime a gentleman acting presumably in the interest of Chip III, approached the committee and urged that the boat be accepted as one of the defenders, saying that the owners were ready to send her from northern New York to Huntington Bay by express in order to have her on the spot. The committee was not inclined to accept the boat without knowing something of her speed, and it was decided to send Walter M. Bieling, secretary of the club, to Ogdensburg to see the boat under way. Mr. Bieling left at once, reaching Ogdensburg Wednesday morning and inspected the boat. She was put in the water and ran for some time, and proved to be wonderfully fast for a short distance, but her engine builder and Mr. Bieling were both of a mind that she was hardly good enough.

Up to Friday morning, therefore, the regatta committee had chosen only one boat as a defender, with Den as a possibility. On Friday the post entry was received of U.S.A., formerly known as Irene, a twin-screw boat equipped with Chadwick engines, owned by John S. Sheppard, of Essington, Pa. Irene had made a particularly good record in the Hudson races of 1907, and while she did not appear at first thought to be fast enough to hold the cup, the committee was glad to take her into consideration. On Friday afternoon she was sent over the course, or rather a part of it, and she was chosen as one of the defenders, and Den was added as a third.

Meantime the English boats, Wolseley-Siddeley and Daimler II, has arrived in Huntington Harbor and had been put in racing condition. They made the round of the course on Friday, in order that the helmsman might become familiar with the marks, but of course were not let out to their full speed. nevertheless they looked dangerous, and very few of those who saw them under way, other than perhaps the owner and designer of Dixie, had any hopes that the cup would be retained.

A glance at the weather vanes and the water on Saturday morning, August 1st, pretty well dashed the hopes of those interested in the race. A stiff northeast wind was blowing, and the sea, even in Huntington harbor, was rough. When the regatta committee set the marks, they found the water at the outer end of the course about as unsuitable for the racing of motorboats as water could possibly be. The sea rolled in from the eastward in huge lumps, and the little red-capped mark boat disappeared time and again beneath the swells from the view of the people on the regatta committee's boat. All during the morning there was a procession of steam yachts, sailing yachts, motorboats, and every available craft from the Sound into the Harbor. By 2:30 o'clock, the hour set for the race, there was a bid audience. While there was little chance of the sea falling, the regatta committee decided to take the last chance of holding the race on the day set for it. It was evident that nothing could be done unless the sea flattened down late in the afternoon as such seas sometimes do. At about four o'clock the helmsmen of the several boats went out of the harbor on Commodore Hoadley's steam yacht Nushka to take a look at things. When they returned, they were all of the mind that the water was entirely unsuitable for a race for 30-mile boats, but all were ready to go if the committee issued the order. One boat at least of the English contingent, Daimler II, was considered a heavy weather boat, while U.S.A., on the American side, looked to be able to stand most anything in the way of a sea. But the regatta committee considered that a race under such conditions would not be such a race as was contemplated by those most interested, so it was decided to postpone the contest until Monday, August 3.

(Transcribed from MotorBoat, Aug. 10, 1908, pp. 13-15. )

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

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Leslie Field, 2001