1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Regatta
Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Speed Boat Regatta
For some reason or other the speed boat races of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition failed to attract the list of entries which the generous list of prizes offered by the Exposition management should have brought out, but what the races lacked in quantity they certainly made up in quality, and when the season of 1909 draws to a close, it will no doubt, be found that the Pacific Coast can lay claim to some records for speed which have hitherto been confined to the East and foreign countries.
A year ago last June the Exposition management was approached and requested to make motor boat racing on Lake Washington one of the features of the amusements held in connection with the exhibits. At first they demurred, but when the number of motor boat owners and the increased popularity of motor boating as a sport was demonstrated they consented to appropriate a liberal fund for prizes and gave authority to a committee appointed from the Pacific International Power Boat Association to go ahead and arrange the races. This committee was made up of business men, each of whom sacrificed a large amount of time and energy without return for the sake of making the races attractive. Notices of the same were sent broadcast throughout the press of the country and the boating journals. Special invitations were issued to every organized yacht and motor boat club in the United States and Canada, and personal requests for entries were forwarded to any addresses handed in to the committee. Considerable interest was manifested in the announcement of the events, and it looked for a time as if the largest fleet of crack racers ever gathered together for the event would be assembled on Lake Washington. But one by one the prospective entries dwindles away until only four boats showed for the 12-metre, free-for-all race, which opened the program of events on the afternoon of July 3rd. It was the desire of the committee that every class of boat should find on Lake Washington an opportunity for meeting a competitor on even terms. That fast boats were expected and desired was natural, but that all boats, regardless of speed, should have an opportunity to contest was equally the aim of those in charge. The results would seem to indicate that so far as motor boat racing in the smaller and less heavily powered classes is concerned the Pacific Coast is not yet ripe. In Seattle alone, on a most conservative estimate, there are 100 boats which might have been taken to Lake Washington and entered in the endurance, handicap and feature events with a good show of pulling down prizes. Such a lack of interest on the part of the owners is a serious menace to the systematic promotion of speed racing. In this specific instance local pride should have been sufficient to have warranted the entry of a large number of Seattle-owned boats, as much as for its effect on public opinion as from the standpoint of racing itself. So far as lake Washington is concerned, there seems to be a general apathy amongst the motor boat owners which prevents the promotion of any live interests along the lines of racing, cruising and general club activity, which shows that, as compared with the Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and other cities less bountifully supplied by nature with opportunities for carrying on this game, the city of Seattle is very slow in availing itself of its natural advantages. Apart from this, however, the cost of shipping a boat to Seattle and back from outside was in many instances prohibitive, which kept owners away.
This makes all the creditable, however, the entry of the Wolff II, which was brought up from Portland at the personal expense of her owner, Johnny Wolff, for the sake of entering these races. The Wolff II was built by her owner during his moments of leisyre from his occupation as mechanical engineer of a big foundary; in fact, most of her construction was accomplished by candle light. Although she was entered from Portland, only a very small Portland contingent came over to witness this performance. By capturing the three consecutive heats of 30 miles, the Wolff II wind the Pacific Coast championship cup or trophy offered for the 12-metre class, with the record of the fastest time ever made by any boat west of the Rocky Mountains. On Saturday, July 10th, the closing day of the races, the Wolff II completed its sixty-mile endurance run without once stopping, in the remarkable time of two hours two minutes and forty-three seconds. When Capt. E. W. Spencer, who presided over the wheel of the Wolff II, stepped from the boat at the end of this remarkable run, it was with a dazed expression of a man who has jut been through a railroad wreck, while Wolff, whose ear had been close to the unmuffled exhaust of the big Smalley engine every minute of the time, was shivering like a rat and unable to hear a word that was spoken to him. "I would not go through that experience again," said Capt. Spencer at the termination of the race, "for $5,000," but after a few hours’ rest it was evident that he had recovered his equanimity, and undoubtedly if any sporting proposition arises the Captain will easily be persuaded to reconsider his resolution.
Much credit should be given to the Pacer. Entered by Messrs. Cox & Slattery of Portland, and handled by the Roesch Bros. Of Seattle, both of whom are well-known over the country as exponents of the Leighton engine. By winning the 10-metre class championship and making a record of 30 miles in 58 minutes, the Pacer has at least established the preliminary ground for her contention of a world’s record in this class. Owing to an unfortunate misunderstanding as to whom belonged the responsibility of correctly establishing the buoys, this record cannot be authentically established until the course is measured and accurately determined, but even with a considerable margin of allowance for a shortage in the distance the Pacer has unquestionably exceeded the speed of any other 32-ft. boat hitherto built. Furthermore, her performance on the last day during the first two 10-mile laps of the long distance race was such as to warrant a belief on the part of her owners that with further tuning and alteration she might successfully contend with the Wolff II. Up to the time when every blade of her propeller was stripped from the shaft by contact with some sunken obstacle while revolving at high speed, she was to all appearances holding the Wolff II on even terms, or better. No doubt the two boats will try out conclusions at Portland some time in the near future.
Still more noteworthy in certain respects was the performance of the Lawana, owned by J. B. Brown, formerly of the Buffalo Launch Club. The Lawana won the handicap race by a comfortable margin with Mr. Brown at the engine and Mr. E. Hemmber at the wheel. When one takes into consideration that the power plant of this 30 ft. boat is a Roberts engine, rated at 40 to 60, and that she was in competition with boats developing in the neighborhood of 120 horsepower, it is a performance of which to be proud. Nor is this performance discredited by her actual time, which over a 20-mile course amounted to 42 minutes 58 4-5 seconds, indicating a speed from 25 to 26 miles an hour.
The most disappointing performance of the race from a local standpoint was the inability of the Seattle Spirit, a 10-metre entry, to complete the course. Here, again, lack of preparation was manifestly responsible for her poor showing. The Seattle Spirit on the first day and was sent away with the rest, but did not succeed in making any showing owing to the stiffness of her bearings.
In the 26 ft. calss the Lady Jane Grey was the only competitor, entered by S. V. B. Miller of the Motor Boat Club of Seattle. In the 22 ft. class the Pokey of Olympia, entered by A. G. Hildebrand, ran over the course alone, as did also the Ayacanora of Vancouver, which her owner, A. Stanley White, ran over a 10-mile course alone in the 18 ft. class.
(Transcribed from Pacific Motor Boat, August 1909, pp. 17, 18.)
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page LF]
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