1908 Palm Beach Mid-Winter Carnival
Palm Beach Races
Florida in the Fall, Winter and early Spring is the scene every year of considerable power-boat cruising and racing that the general Northern public knows nothing about and probably cares less, but for those who can afford to enjoy the pastime in the off season the pleasure of yachting under a hot sun when the thermometer at the Northern home is flirting with zero, is a privilege eagerly looked forward to and when once experienced is hard to forget. One cannot go to Florida once, and Floriditis once contracted is hard to cure.
Many yachtsmen either cruise or ship their boats to the South for the Winter, and as nearly every little town has a local champion the race germ is propagated quickly. As a rule the Northerner expects to find his Southern cousin an easy mark on the speed question, but such is not the case. If we consider that the Southerner can yacht all year around, if he is so inclined, there is no reason in the world why, other things being equal, he could not be our equal in building and handling boats. As a matter of fact, there has appeared at the races for the past few years a chap who builds boats at Rockledge, Fla., when he isn't growing oranges and pineapples, who can design, build and handle a power boat as well as any man in the country.
Although there are races at all the more important resorts during the season, the principal event each year is the annual regatta of the Palm Beach Power Boat Association, which this year was held on March 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th. Palm Beach is located on Lake Worth, well down toward the end of the peninsula, and is purely a Winter colony of hotels, the place itself being located on a narrow strip of land with the Atlantic on one side and the lake on the other. The race course is ideal, with every facility and convenience for the care of the racing boats in a well-protected basin owned by one of the hotel companies. The only objection to the course being the fact that the crews of the competing boats forget they are racing boats and exhibit a strong tendency to loll under the palms or cavort in the surf, with racing as a distinct side issue. Slight traces of this same state of affairs were noticed among the ranks of the gentlemanly press representatives, the writer being the only one present who at all times was strictly on the job. The racing program called for four races on the first day of the regatta to be held under the rules of the American Power Boat Association, to determine the actual speed of the boats, and on the following days the boats were to be raced under handicaps based upon actual performance in previous races. Theoretically this system of handicapping should result in some very close finishes, a series of penalties preventing the contestants from jockeying.
The first race under the A.P.B.A. rules was for boats rating less than 80 and for a distance of 4½ nautical miles, or once around the course. Irene, Red Bird, Dolphin and Kitty Sparks started and Irene won easily, being over 8½m. ahead of Kitty Sparks, the scratch boat, at the finish. The second race at the same distance for boats of over 80 rating, brought out General, Trente Sept, Secret, Dixie and Bruiser. The interest centered in the race between these boats, as General came to the regatta from the West with a great reputation for speed; Dixie, well known for her previous performances, and Trente Sept admired for her beauty and ease of running. General, with her six-cylinder Smalley engine, rated the lowest, 88.29, as against 112.80 for Dixie. General got off first, directly on the line and half over as the gun went off, after a series of extraordinary maneuvers which caused the spectators to hold their breath. Instead of coming to the line in an orderly manner, as did his competitors, the driver of General tore about the fleet at top speed, going in and out among the yachts, and finally dashed over the line diagonally in a cloud of spray. Trente Sept, Secret, Bruiser and Dixie got off in good order, the latter setting sail after the others in good fashion; but although she gained 50s. on General, she couldn't overcome the handicap of 2m. 46s. allowed General and was beaten. Trente Sept finished 57s. behind General, the others dropping out. The third race was for boats of all ratings and was for a distance of 9 nautical miles. Eight boats started and all but one finished, the winner being Dolphin, with General second and Trente Sept third. The fourth and last race of the day was at 13½ nautical miles and also for boats of all ratings. This race was won by Irene, the limit boat, which craft had a handicap of 1h. 22m. 54s. over Dixie. Although Irene completed two rounds, or 9 nautical miles, of the course 5m. 34s. before Dixie started, she only beat Dixie by 1m. 14s. Dolphin got second place, 15s. behind Irene, and all 7 boats finished within a period of 74s.--rather a good performance for a mixed class of boats under the A.P.B.A. rule for a distance of 13½ nautical miles. The range of the boats rating in this race was 56.68, the rating of Irene, to 112.80, the rating of Dixie. The result of the day's racing seemed to show that under the rule Dolphin was practically an unbeatable proposition, for out of three starts she captured two first and one second prize.
On the second day of the regatta six races were held under the actual performance rule, the boats being divided into classes and handicapped on previous known speeds. The first race was for 4½ nautical miles and was won by Irene, with Dolphin second. Both boats made better time than their allowance and were penalized, which did not change the result. The second race at the same distance had but two starters, General and Dixie, the latter craft conceding 1m. 57s. to the former. General got a very poor start which, with a perfect start by Dixie, caused her to lose by just 2 seconds, Dixie passing her but a short distance from the finish. The third race of the day was for 9 nautical miles for all the boats, and Dolphin again exceeded her time, but won nevertheless, with Dixie second about a minute behind, which boat was 18s. ahead of Trente Sept, Irene being 14s. behind Trente Sept. With the exception of the first boat, this race was interesting and the finishes of the other boats very close. The fourth race was for the smaller boats at 4½ nautical miles and Trente Sept won with Dolphin, again a prize winner, second. The victory of Trente Sept was a popular one, as the boat is a very finished product, being beautifully proportioned and built, the work of a native of the State, and cleverly handled. In the race for larger boats but two competed, Bruiser and General, Dixie for some reason not starting. Bruiser, with a handicap of 1m. 14s., being beaten 18s. The final race of the day brought out a field of eight, three of the previous contestants, Kitty Sparks, Dolphin and Dixie, dropping out. General won this race by 35s. over Trente Sept, with Red Bird just 13s. behind and 2s. ahead of Ferro. During this race the "selfish spectator," who frequently brings down the wrath of regatta committees and the world at large upon his empty head, made his appearance upon the course and nearly broke up the party by maneuvering his tub all over the shop, apparently totally oblivious to the advice, suggestions and threats of the spectators.
The weather continued fair and the third day's races were held under as perfect conditions as were on the two previous days. As the regatta by this time had no end of data at its disposal, it was expected that the races would be interesting and the finishes close. Six races were run off under new handicaps, five at 4½ and one at 13½ nautical miles. Irene won the first race by only 6s. over Red Bird, with Kitty Sparks 3s. behind. The second race was won by Dolphin, with Trente Sept 2s. astern. Ferro won the third, with Kitty Sparks second; and Irene again won in the fourth race, leading Ferro over the line by 1m. 2s. The fifth race of the day was won by Trente Sept from Dolphin by only 6s., at 13½ nautical miles, resulted in an easy win for General, with Dolphin over a minute and a half behind. With this race ended the series racing of the meet, with the results as shown in the summaries elsewhere.
On the fourth day of the regatta, the mile trials for the Sir Thomas Dewar trophy were held under almost perfect conditions insofar as the weather was concerned. The level of the lake was lower than it had been in years and it was not expected that Dixie, which craft practically had a walkover for the trophy, would make any sort of fast time; but the Regatta Committee reported the time as 29.622 statute miles an hour, which is a record for the course. The Dewar Trophy, or rather Shield, was first raced for in 1906, when Mr. Herbert L. Bowden secured a leg to the trophy by winning with his Mercedes U.S.A. last year Dixie won and by again winning this year secures the trophy permanently.
As it was necessary to win the race in competition, Mr. George Gingras, owner of Trente Sept, kindly entered his craft and jogged over the course to make the race valid. Six runs were made in alternate directions over the mile and resulted as follows: 2:18 4-5, 2:20 2-5, 2:19 4-5, 2:19 3-5, 2:18 4-5 and 2:18 3-5, which works out as 29.622 statute miles per hour as stated above.
The endurance-reliability race at 18 nautical miles resulted in an easy win for Dixie, with Trente Sept second and Dolphin third. Dixie simply ran away from the fleet and won as she pleased. Although she had no competitor capable of giving her a race, Dixie was handled by Captain Pearce and Engineer Rappoon in a manner that excited genuine enthusiasm.
The last race of the day, and, as it afterward proved, the last of the regatta, was a 4¼ nautical mile contest for Florida-built boats, which was easily won by Trente Sept, with Bruiser second. It was proposed to hold a consolation race on the last day of the regatta for the boats which had not figured among the winners of the week, but the weather man decided otherwise and the race was called off by the Regatta Committee.
The long-distance race from Palm beach to Daytona for the Commodore Allen Trophy, which was to have been started shortly after the close of the Palm Beach Regatta, was postponed until next season, on account of the low stage of the water on the route of the course which, according to the oldest inhabitant, is the lowest recorded in years.
(Transcribed from The Rudder, April, 1908, pp. 373-378 )
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page. LF]
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