1910 Championship of the Great Lakes
Fast Ones At Buffalo
With the danger of losing her laurels lessened a lot by the disabling of four of the fastest contenders in the field of seven, F. K. Burnham’s Dixie II, invading western waters for the first time, won the so-called Championship of the Great Lakes on the Niagara River, at Buffalo, on September 3d, and incidentally got one leg on the $2,000 E. R. Thomas Trophy.
To tell it in race track lingo, Dixie, with Burnham in the saddle, romped home an easy winner with her nose on the chin strap. Her average time for the 35 miles was 32.14 miles an hour. She finished with a good two and one-half miles of open green water between her well-ironed-out stern wave and the second boat, La Truda, which covered the distance at the rate of 29.75 miles an hour. Courier III finished third—10 miles behind Dixie. Courier’s performance was disappointing. She had been heralded as a 35-mile boat.
This race for the Thomas Trophy, under the auspices of the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo, was easily the greatest gathering of sure-enough fast ones. There were nine entries for this race, all but one of them known to be capable of 31 real miles an hour. Seven of these boats started. To Rear-Commodore Frank H. Bliss must be given credit for succeeding in gathering to Buffalo this unequaled field. More than that, getting this first grip on the Thomas Trophy was absolutely the last race of Dixie II—Burnham himself says so decisively—and Bliss was the lucky man to stage this big "farewell" attraction for his club.
From Buffalo, Burnham took Dixie to Toronto to treat the Canadians at the Toronto Exposition to a few exhibition miles. Then he will take that splendid engine out of the vigorous mahogany hull, replacing it with lesser power to turn the Dixie into a runabout. But cheer up, Burnham has by no means quit racing; he is just getting into it. He saw the Pioneer run away from him in the race for the Harmsworth Cup until she broke down, and he has come to the conclusion that a hydroplane is the real thing. Therefore, in an effort to keep that Harmsworth Cup here next year, he, too, is going to get a hydroplane hull. Into it he will put that Dixie engine. One of his followers says that he will have a duplicate of the Dixie engine built and that the hydroplane, which he will call Dixie IV, will have two such engines. But Burnham will not confirm the fact that he is figuring on two engines for his new hydroplane.
The race for the Thomas Trophy was run over a double triangle on the broad Niagara River, starting and finishing in front of the Motor Boat Club. The total of the six sides of the two triangles was five miles and the race was seven times around, 35 miles in all. There were four 90-degree turns to each round and it was but a fraction more than a mile from the starting line to the first turn. With the big, fast field this threatened disaster at the first turn, but Davy Jones was off the job and luck prevailed.
The race was open to boats flying the burgee of any club along the Great Lakes and the waters tributary thereto. The length was restricted to not less than 30 nor more than 40 feet. It was under this ruling that Elbridge-Secret, L. J. Seely’s 28-footer representing the Rochester Yacht Club, was barred.
The race had been ably press-agented and while only a chosen few could get on the little island which is the home of the Motor Boat Club, at least 10,000 of the public massed on the shore of the mainland to see the distant foam spots scoot around the course. It is safe to say that never before had so many boats, ranging from dinghies to steam yachts, clustered around a race course on the Niagara.
The real sensation of the race, one far greater than the winning of Dixie, was the fight to crowd Dixie out of first place put up by Cero II, Robert Deming’s steam-powered 32-footer from Cleveland. She gave Dixie a long, game stern chase that crossed the gap between the two in a way that was wonderful. Cero forced Dixie to run the fourth round in 8 minutes and 28 seconds, at the rate of 35.64 miles an hour. But Cero herself covered that round in 8 minutes and 7 seconds, 21 seconds faster than Dixie and at the rate of 37.11 miles an hour. Then, at the twenty-third mile, Cero broke down.
It is to be guessed that Deming, knowing something of the speed of his boat, had laid a well-calculated plan to beat the Dixie. He did not crowd Cero for the first five miles. At the end of the first five miles he was 1 minute and 13 seconds behind Dixie and fourth in the race. At the end of ten miles Cero had cut down this lead only one second. Evidently she was still saving steam. In the third round Cero began to open up, and when the boats finished 15 miles, Cero was second in the race and had cut down Dixie’s lead to 55 seconds. In the fourth round Cero ran the five miles at the record-breaking rate of 37.11 miles an hour, doing the distance in 8 minutes and 7 seconds, which was 21 seconds faster than Dixie could make the same five miles. Cero crossd the line at the end of 20 miles but 34 seconds astern of Dixie. The crowd held fast to its breath and strained its eyeballs.
On the back stretch of the fifth round Cero was still gaining. Then she slowed. The main steam line had started to leak under the forced pressure of her highest speed. The crew went into the scalding steam with emergency collars and clamps to effect temporary repairs, and Cero picked up speed, lifted her nose, gave her shrill whistle as before and was off again after Dixie with a loss of less than a minute. Two miles further Cero’s weakened steam pipe split its brass for a gap of ten inches. The little Cleveland fighter was out of it. Dixie was safe.
Seven boats maneuvered to the starting line. The Hurry, the Whitaker-designed, Buffalo-powered hydroplane, which Burnham feared more than any other entry, failed to start. She had been shipped to Buffalo at the last minute in bad condition and it was found impossible to get new stringers in her engine bed in time.
The Dixie needs no description. Burnham was at the wheel, and Rappuhn and Knaber, that top-notch pair of maechanics who have been with Dixie as long as we remember her, handled the motor. Burnham’s other entry, Intruder, with Gillespie at the wheel, was running faster than on the St. Lawrence. Once before they had moved her engine back 42 inches and just before the race they had shifted the engine 16 inches more toward the stern. Moreover, they had put 400 pounds of ballast in her stern. This had overcome her tendency to plow down at the bow and helped her chances a lot. La Truda, Commodore Vars’ 32-footer, had been tuned up to at least a mile faster than last year, and many were betting on her for second place. She got it, too. Cero II, loaded to the gunwales with boilers, and assorted machinery crowded into her 31 feet 5 inches, looked little, but dangerous. The H. S. was there, black and piratical. A day before she had cracked a cylinder but it had been welded over night and to the surprise of the committee she got to the start in time. W. J. Conners’ Courier III put in an appearance for the first time this year. She seemed to run in fast, easy fashion before the race, but during the race she dragged like a sea anchor. The seventh boat to line up for the gun was Van Blerck, a lean-lined 40-footer from Detroit. She carried twelve cylinders, two six-cylinder motors coupled tandem. But Van Blerck had a bad magneto that only shot a spark about once in six times, and Haggerty, her owner, was unable to replace it with another before the race. This was regrettable, as Van Blerck had been doped as the fastest of the visitors, with the exception of Dixie.
Out of this splendid field four broke down before the finish and on the event of Dixie’sfirst stacking up against Middle Western boats no one knows whether the race really went to the swiftest.
The little La Truda got across the line first. Dixie was but a half boat length behind. Van Blerck came next, with Intruder, Courier and H. S. in the order named, and Cero got away last. Dixie jumped into the lead. They got around the two upper turns and came downstream on the back stretch with Dixie ahead, Intruder in second place, La Truda third, H. S. fourth, Courier fifth and Cero last. Van Blerck had been forced to fall back on her coils and the coils couldn’t deliver. She dropped out at the third mile.
At the finish of the first round it was Dixie, Intruder and La Truda, in the order named, but Cero had worked up from last to fourth and had passed Courier and H. S. It was anybody’s race. At the first turn of the second round H. S. broke her steering gear and crawled back to the dock, using a paddle. This left Courier last and she stayed there to the end.
At the end of the second round Cero had crawled into third place and was rapidly leaving La Truda astern. Dixie still led, with Intruder second. At 12 ½ miles Intruder suddenly left the course and ran back to the dock. It was reported at the judges’ stand that she had broken a rocker arm. This left Cero in second place and she immediately let more steam into her cylinders and started to close up the gap between herself and Dixie.
At the end of the third round it was Dixie, Cero, La Truda and Courier. They kept this position through the fourth round with Cero cutting down Dixie’s lead and the two leaders running away from La Truda, while La Truda was running away from the tortoise-like Courier.
At the 23rd mile Cero, after cutting down Dixie’s lead from 1 minute and 13 seconds in the first round to but 34 seconds at the end of the 20th mile, split her steam main and the battle was off. The trhee remaining boats finished the remaining twelve miles with never a chance to head off Dixie and with no chance of La Truda losing second place. Dixie lapped Courier twice and was half a round ahead of La Truda.
It must be mentioned that one thing that prevented Dixie from making better time, had she wanted to, was the breaking of a trip rod on the mechanical make-and-break igniter on No. 8 cylinder. But Rappuhn kept Dixie running along on seven cylinders for a part of a round and replaced the broken rod in short order.
COURSE, 35 MILES, 7 ROUNDS OF 5 MILES EACH. START 4 P.M.
Crossed start line 5 miles 10 miles 15 miles 20 miles 25 miles 30 miles 35 miles avg speed
Dixie II 2 4:09:11 4:18:25 4:28:56 4:37:24 4:46:43 4:55:58 5:05:13 32.14
Intruder 4 4:09:44 4:10:00 dropped out at 12 ½ miles
La Truda 1 4:10:17 4:20:21 4:30:24 4:40:29 4:50:34 5:00:40 5:10:46 29.73
Cero II 7 4:10:24 4:19:37 4:29:51 4:37:58 dropped out at 23 miles
H. S. 6 4:10:36 dropped out at 6 miles
Courier III 5 4:11:13 4:22:39 4:38:49 4:45:27 4:56:36 5:08:30 5:21:00 25.89
Van Blerck 3 dropped out at 3 miles
Hurry did not start
Elbruidge-Secret disqualified before start because less than 30 feet over all
Fastest round Cero III, 5 miles in 8 minutes and 7 seconds, at 37.11 miles an hour
Second fastest round, Dixie II ion 8 minutes and 28 seconds, at 35.64 miles an hour
Dixie II finished 2 ½ miles ahead of La Truda, the second boat, and 10 miles ahead of Courier III, the third boat.
(Transcribed from MotorBoat, September 10, 1910, pp. 42-44.)
* * *
Winning the Thomas Trophy
Dixie II, World Champion, still undefeated in American waters, annexed the E. R. Thomas Trophy and the Championship of the Great Lakes, at Buffalo, September 3rd, in one of the most exciting and hotly contested races ever run. Owned by Mr. Frederick K. Burnham, of New York, member of the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo, the Dixie was a hot favorite, and this being the first appearance of this speed marvel in these waters, an enormous crowd turned out to see the race. It is estimated that 25, 000 people lined up along the banks of the beautiful Niagara.
While Dixie II had apparently an easy victory, she never came so near to being defeated, and that by a steam-propelled craft, the Cero II, owned by Mr. Robert Deming, of Cleveland. Cero II ran a magnificent race up to the time she broke a steam pipe, and just before this unfortunate accident she was gaining so fast on the Dixie II that it looked as though she would have caught and passed the favorite in another round, but Dixie’s marvelous reliability stood by her, and after Cero II dropped out it was Dixie II all alone.
That staunch little boat LaTruda, owned by Mr. Henry Thorpe Vars, of the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo, finished second, and only that she was away out of her class in this race, there is no doubt that she would have been the winner, for the reason that she stood up to her work better than any other boat in the race. Every boat entered had trouble at one time or other with the single exception of the LaTruda, but being less than half the power of her opponents, she hardly had a look-in.
Courier III, owned by William J. Conners, also of the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo, finished fourth.
Despite the threatening weather the greatest crowd that ever witnessed a race for the Championship of the Great Lakes or any other water sport in this vicinity, gathered at Motor Island and at every place of vantage along the banks of the Niagara River, from Black Rock to Tonawanda. The river itself presented a most beautiful sight, being almost entirely covered for miles with small boats all gaily decorated. Almost every type of craft was represented, from the canoe to the magnificent steam yacht Mary Alice, owned by Wm. J. Conners.
Motor Island itself proved one of the most attractive places, gaily trimmed with flags and bunting and graced by a crowd of visitors that has never been equaled before in the history of the Motor Boat Club. Before the start the greatest interest centered in the magnificent array of speed boats waiting for the race. On account of the fact that Dixie and Cero II had never before been seen here, more attention was given to them than to the other boats, all of which had raced here before.
Nine boats were scheduled to race for the Edwin Ross Thomas Trophy, one of the handsomest ever awarded, and valued at $2,000, but it was announced before the start that Hurry, a hydroplane from New York City, could not be put in shape in time for the race, much to the disappointment of those who had heard it was to start. Another withdrawal was that of the Elbridge-Secret, of Rochester. This latter boat was found to be only 28 feet in length, while the conditions called for boats of 30 feet length and not over 40 feet.
The first signal gun was fired at 3:30, which warned all contestants to get ready, and to clear the course. Great excitement prevailed as the engines began to exhaust. The start was made at exactly 4 o’clock, and the seven boats dashed over the line with LaTruda in the lead, Dixie II next and Van Blerck and Intruder in the order named. Then came Courier III, H. S. and Cero II last of all.
At the first turn Dixie took the lead and led the bunch down on the back stretch. Intruder passed LaTruda, which was ahead of H. S., Courier and Cero II, while Van Blerck struggled along hopelessly beaten, and as she passed the judges’ stand stopped and withdrew, having failed to finish the first lap.
Dixie finished the first lap with a lead of 100 yards over Intruder and LaTruda, while Cero II was just beginning to show some speed, and it was predicted that she would be heard from before the finish. H. S. was fifth, and Courier III last, struggling along but hanging on gamely.
Mr. Frederick K. Burnham, owner and pilot of Dixie, evidently opened her up, for on the second lap she showed about 300 yards lead on the others, and it was at this time that the expectations for the speed of Cero II was realized. She suddenly seemed to fairly fly through the water, passing LaTruda on her way to catch Intruder and Dixie, while the others trailed along away in the rear. At the end of the second lap the order was Dixie, Cero, Intruder, LaTruda and Courier. H. S., in the meantime was seen to stop and it was learned later that she had lost her rudder.
Enthusiasm knew no bounds, and every boat with a whistle had it going, and although Dixie was well in the lead, it was evident that most of the applause was intended for Cero II, who was now second. Cero seemed now to be running her race and she gained perceptively on Dixie. Robert Deming, of Cleveland, owner of the Cero, was heartily cheered, and the great crowd was pulling for him and his wonderful little craft. LaTruda with Frank Neuse at the wheel, was keeping her steady gait and again showing herself to be a wonderful boat, and although far outclassed in both length and power she made it interesting for the others, and everyone present was willing to bet that she would finish the race at the same pace she was then going, although it was not expected that she could beat Dixie, Cero or Intruder. However, Intruder faltered and came to her dock, where it was found she had a broken rocker arm, and so she withdrew from the race. This left LaTruda third and Courier fourth.
On they came and as they passed the judges’ stand, Cero rushing along like a demon, was apparently catching Dixie. Burnham looked over his shoulder, and, Evidently becoming alarmed over the fact that Cero was gaining rapidly, opened up another notch on Dixie, and almost immediately she increased speed, but so too did Cero. (Mr. Burnham after the race, told the writer that he had been having trouble with Dixie, and that for two laps he feared that he would have to drop out of it, as one of Dixie’s cylinders refused to work, But Rappuhn, the reliable engineer, kept at it until he got her fixed.) At this time Dixie was running at a speed of about 37 ½ miles an hour, but Cero was tearing along close to 40 miles an hour, and it was during this lap that the fastest time of the race was made by Cero, five miles in eight minutes and seven seconds.
But alas! Cero met with an accident just when the excitement was keenest. The tension that was keeping the crowd together snapped suddenly, s she was seen to stop almost in front of the judges’ stand. It was only for a moment or two, but Dixie, taking advantage of this sudden stop, opened up a big lead. The crowd yelled, "Cero’s off again." However, she only lasted long enough to go a hundred yards or so, and came to a standstill, and then it was Dixie alone, if she could last through the race, and she never faltered. It was learned later that Cero II had burst a steam pipe; it was hastily repaired, but again broke beyond repair.
LaTruda, faithfully racing along at her steady clip, rapidly gained second place, while Courier still plugging came into third place, all the others having dropped out. "Dixie alone," proved to be right, and as she crossed the line a winner, the ovation given to Mr. Burnham was great.
No less grand was the performance of LaTruda, and Mr. Vars came in for hearty congratulations from scores, but none more earnest than Mr. Burnham, who tried to give all the credit to Mr. Vars, and considering the fact that Dixie is 40 feet long and has 250 horsepower, and LaTruda but 32 feet long with only 100 horsepower, she showed up wonderfully well.
Dixie covered the thirty-five miles in one hour 5 minutes and 13 seconds, an average speed of 32 ½ miles per hour, which proved that she was not pushed throughout the race, as she can easily do 35 miles an hour.
The storm that had been threatening for some time broke out before Courier had finished, and the crowd hurried to places for shelter. The boats that thronged the river were at the mercy of the wind and rain and, weighing anchor, they hastily made for Buffalo and other points along the banks and in a few minutes every place which a moment before had been full of life was deserted, with the exception of the Motor Boat Club House which was packed to the doors.
An evening program had been arranged for club members and their guests. Starting with a dinner it comcluded with the presentation of the trophy to Mr. Burnham. Mr. Edwin Ross Thomas, donor of the trophy, made the presentation amid deafening and prolonged applause, and Mr. Burnham responded in a cheerful vein, complimenting the Motor Boat Club upon the success of its efforts in producing one of the most notable racing events that we have held.
By the terms of the deed of gift of the E. R. Thomas trophy the management of the Great Lakes championship race is permanently in the hands of the board of governors of the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo, who will act as an executive committee and appoint all sub-committees. The following named men made the arrangements for the meet:
Board of Governors—Commodore Harry Thorp Vars, Vice-Commodore Edward F. Dold, Rear-Commodore Fred H. Bliss, Treasurer Edward M. Wilkes, Secretary Phillip Gerst, Ulysses L. Caudell, William J. Gunnell, Thomas M. Moffat, E. M. Statler, Ulysses S. Thomas.
Mr. Burnham told the writer after the race that it was the most exciting event he had ever been in, and that it was the grandest race he had ever witnessed. He also made the startling announcement that Dixie had run her last race, and that she would never be seen in competition again. Now that Mr. Burnham has once won the Thomas Trophy he will have to win it again next year to retain it, or failing that will then have to win it three times not in succession. This in accordance with the deed of gift. Therefore, Mr. Burnham sees the necessity of having a boat of greater speed, as he will again probably be a contender for the Harmsworth and other events next year, and the probabilities are that he will take the Dixie’s engine out and put it and a duplicate in a hydroplane.
The race for this trophy next year will be helkd again under the auspices of the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo, and it is to be hoped that it will be as successful and as exciting as the one just passed.
(Transcribed from MotorBoating, October, 1910, pp.3-5.)
* * *
The Inter-Lake Motor Boat Championship
Heralded but little, and witnessed by a crowd that was small compared to other less worthy event, the outcome of the E. R. Thomas Trophy race, which took place at Buffalo on the afternoon of Saturday, September 3, burst as a surprise on lovers of power boating, for it not only eclipsed all events on the Niagara River, but probably surpassed anything that has been pulled off recently on fresh water.
It was not until a few days before the race that the public began to notice that the field was an unusual one, that it included some of the fastest power boats, and that great things might be expected. The entries included Dixie III, owned by Frederick K. Burnham, and sailed under the colors of the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo, powered with an 8-cylinder, 240-horsepower Crane engine; Intruder, also owned by Mr. Burnham, with 8-cylinder Sterling engines, 240 horsepower; La Truda, a 32 footer, owned by Commodore Harry T. Vars, of the Motor Boat Club, equipped with 8-cylinder Sterling engines; Courier II, William J. Conner’s 40-footer, also equipped with Sterling engines and raced under Buffalo Yacht Club colors; Cero II, owned by Robert Deming, Cleveland Motor Boat Club, 31 feet 5 inches, and equipped with two White steam engines; H. S., entered by E. O. Spillman, Buffalo Launch Club, 8 cylinders, 200 horsepower; Van Blerck, entered by J. S. Hagerty, 40-footer, 210 horsepower, 12-cylinder Van Blerck engines, Detroit Motor Boat Club; Hurry, a hydroplane, 32 feet 2 inches, with 8-cylinder Buffalo engines, 200-horsepower, entered by Charles Francis, of New York, and sailed under the colors of the Buffalo Launch Club; and Elbridge, owned by L. J. Seeley, of the Rochester Yacht Club, a 28-footer, with 6-cylinder Elbridge engines, 100 horse-power.
The last two boats did not start, the Elbridge not being up to the required length and the Hurry, being shipped to Buffalo from New York on short notice, was not ready in time, thereby causing considerable disappointment, for great things had been expected from the hydroplane, which was designed originally with a view to the defense of the British International Trophy, but was not completed in time for that event.
Thousands of people gathered along the river front and on Motor Island to watch the race, and the course was lined with pleasure craft. It was four o’clock when the starting gun was fired and the seven boats shot over the line. La Treuda was first, with Dixie second and Van Blerck third, followed by Intruder, Courier, H. S. and Cero. A moment later Dixie, with her owner at the wheel, made her customary spurt, took the lead, and held it throughout the race.
The course was a double triangle, the total of the six sides being five miles, and the race seven times around, or 35 miles. At the end of the second lap Intruder was in second place, with Cero and La Truda struggling behind her; but in the twelfth mile the new Burnham boat broke her rocker arm and was out of the race. The Van Blerck had dropped out on the third turn, having trouble with ignition. With two boats out Cero moved up to second place, and then began the stern chase of the little steamer which will go down into river history. For a time she was pulling right up on Dixie, then one of hr pipes began to leak and she lost ground while it was being patched up; then she jumped forward and began to shorten the distance again. The fastest round was the fourth, made by Cero in 8:07 and by Dixie in 8:28.
It looked as if Cero would give Dixie a hard fight, but just when she had attained wonderful speed the accident happened which put her out of the race. Her main steam line burst, and it was all over. This happened in the 23rd mile.
This left but three boats in the race, for H. S. had lost her rudder in the earlier stages. They ran in this order for the rest of the race: Dixie, La Truda, Courier, the latter having been running lame all the way, and finished in the same positions.
(Excerpts transcribed from Yachting, October, 1910, pp. 284-285)
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page —LF]
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