1910 Harmsworth Trophy
The British International Cup Race
WHEW! Yes, we still have the trophy and we’re awake all right, although we did have to pinch ourselves, and are still wiping the cold sweat from our brows. We hold the trophy but no one who saw the race would need two guesses to pick the fastest 40-footer in the world.
We had heard rumors of the phenomenal performances of Miranda IV and Zigorella, the Thornycroft sisters, and something of the possibilities of Maple Leaf, and, while we were not at all confident, we smiled when we read that Pioneer had reeled off a clip that would make the mighty Ursula green with envy. We had great respect for the challengers, but beyond a certain point we attributed several knots to the enthusiasm of our informers.
I say we respected the challengers, and we admired the spirit that brought such a team to this country, but we were unprepared utterly for such a pace as set by Pioneer, and that we still hold the trophy we must attribute to luck—luck and the reliability of Dixie’s wonderful engine, which never so much as missed a throb from starting gun to finish.
The race which was the fourth for the Harmsworth Trophy in which America has been represented, was held on Long Island Sound off the Larchmont Club House, and was run three times around a triangular course of ten nautical miles. The start was scheduled for 2:30 on the afternoon of August 20th. Maple Leaf was out of the running, having broken her back on Wednesday, probably due to the overpowering of her light hull. At the appointed time, however, Pioneer, the Duke of Westminster’s Fauber hydroplane, flying the colors of the Motor Yacht Club of Great Britain and piloted by Noel Robins; and Zigorella, Daniel Hanbury’s Thornycroft hydroplane, were at the line with engines running and just enough gasoline aboard to carry them over the course. Somebody, however was not "on the job and the start was postponed for an hour—while it was decided just who should defend the trophy. It was on Dixie II, the old reliable, that we banked out hopes, as the elimination trials failed to produce anything oc caliber; but whether Restless or Nameless, or both, would complete the team, nobody knew. The former, the only boat to face Dixie during the "week of elimination trials," had done nothing phenomenal, and Nameless, but just completed, was as yet untried. It was finally decided as the British team had been reduced to two boats by the accident to Maple Leaf, only two defenders would be entered, and Nameless was chosen as a running mate for Dixie.
The conditions were ideal. The choppy seas kicked up by the light easterly breeze being insignificant even for a hydroplane.
A preparatory signal was given five minutes before the start. Dixie and Nameless were already maneuvering behind the line, the English crews again started their engines and three of the boats shot back up the course for a mile or so and descended on the line at full speed.
Ten seconds after the starting gun, Zigorella crossed. She had been maneuvering close to the line and got the best of the start. Rising on her forward plane as she gathered headway, with ten feet of her twenty-six clear of the water and pointing skyward, she was soon lost in a trail of smoke, driving great spurts of spray far above her as she bucked the choppy waves.
Dixie, running in her usual form, her forefoot just awash, and cutting the water cleanly, crossed three seconds later, followed in another second by Pioneer, with Nameless somewhat astern.
In a flash, however, Pioneer, her throttle wide open, the hollow grumble of her four hundred horsepower motor plainly audible above the rest, had overtaken and passed both Dixie and Zigorella and was rapidly eliminating the two miles to the first stake boat. Dixie’s thirty-file mile clip paled to insignificance as the hydroplane shot past her and all were prepared to bid the Harmsworth a fond farewell.
It wasn’t hard either to lose to a boat like Pioneer. At full speed she rose bodily on her planes, shooting long low clouds of spray from either side of her V-shaped underbody. She ran with her two forward steps clear out of the water. Unlike Zigorella, however, she did not breast the waves, but rose above them, lifting, it seemed, on her own wash and remaining on an almost even keel.
Dixie II soon overtook Zigorella, but Nameless never reached the second leg of the course, having hit some obstruction which disabled her rudder. Meanwhile Pioneer was widening her lead and eating up the long second leg. In an incredibly short time she had rounded the three eastern stake boats and could be seen with her white wings extended, soaring down between the lines of yachts that marked the course.
And then suddenly, without the slightest warning, the wings dropped from her side and she stopped dead, and her crew could be seen by the aid of glasses working frantically to extinguish a flaming carbureter. It was reported later that seaweed had been drawn into her circulation system, clogging it and causing the engine to overheat, but whether this was the case or whether the heating was caused by running the engine at too great a speed, it is difficult to say.
National pride gave way to something more sportsmanlike, and there were few among the many that lined the course but wished the Englishmen good luck as Dixie II with the perseverance of the proverbial tortoise passed her, drifting helplessly, and shot down the lane of open water amid a din of screaming whistles, clanging bells and booming cannon.
Dixie II was well along on the second leg of the next round with a lead of about eight miles before Pioneer sprang into life as suddenly as she had stopped. When it was seen that she was again under way, every noise plant on the Sound broke loose to cheer her on her way as she tore past at forty miles an hour.
Zigorella had completed one round, but was soon overtaken by Pioneer and dropped out well along the second, leaving the fleet British hydroplane left to wait for a mechanical failure for Dixie. But nothing did happen. Not once throughout the course did her engine falter, and she crossed the line for the second time at 4:09:52, 12 minutes and 37 seconds ahead of Pioneer. She maintained about the same lead throughout the last round and finished at 4:29:44, having covered the thirty nautical miles in 59 minutes and 44 seconds, or at the rate of about 34.6 statute miles per hour.
Pioneer finished at 4:43:21. Due to her delay, her elapsed time was 13 minutes and 37 seconds greater than that of Dixie, but her actual running time was, of course, much better, and although beaten, it seemed hardly just that she should go back to England without another trial.
Reliability, of course, is a factor to be considered, and one of great importance, but too great a premium is placed upon it when Pioneer, capable, as shown by her second lap, of a speed of nearly forty-two miles per hour, could have been beaten by Dixie had the latter traveled but twenty-nine statute miles per hour instead of 34.6. There are so many possibilities of accident in a game of this kind—conditions frequently beyond the control of the operator—that it would seem fairer to run the race in a series of heats, rewarding the trophy to the boat making the best time in, say, two out of three or three out of five trials.
Weather conditions, too, would be fairer under such an arrangement, for, what we want to determine is the boat, not for a single set of conditions, but all reasonable conditions, and to do this the probability of chance should be reduced to a minimum.
Of course we know that the trophy is ours for another season on the American mantelpiece, but we are not making a great deal of noise about the victory. That we were woefully unprepared was fully evident, and we have to realize that we got the information without having to pay for it.
Of the elimination trials to select three defenders out of two possible entrants, perhaps the less said the better.
Results of the British International Cup Race
|Boat||Length||Motor||1st Rnd||2nd Rnd||3rd Rnd||Elapsed Time|
|Dixie II||39 ft. 11 in.||250 h.p. Crane||19:30||20:02||19:52||59:44|
|Pioneer||39 ft. 11 in.||400 h.p. Wolseley||35:28||17:31||20:22||1:13:31|
|Zigorella||26 ft.||120 h.p. Thornycroft||22:29||withdrew|
|Nameless||39 ft. 11 in.||four 140 h.p. Herreshoff||withdrew|
No race was held last year, but this season’s event made up for the fact as it is doubtful whether any motor boat race yet held was as widely heralded ands as much speculated on as this one. Ever since last fall there have been rumors of various challengers that were building and each report was read with the keenest interest.
Dixie II, the winner is still undoubtedly the fastest 40-footer in America. She has raced over one hundred times and has been beaten but once. This was in competition with the "unlimited" racers at Monaco in 1909, when she was beaten by the 50-footers Ursula and Panhard. She is equipped win an 8-cylinder Crane of 250 horse-power, but is too well known to need any extended description here.
Restless showed up well in the trials with Dixie II, but as she never approached Dixie’s speed, and as the latter’s reliability could be banked on, Nameless, the untried dark horse, owned by Commodores Melville and Heckscher, was entered in her stead at the last minute. She might have worried Dixie had she not been disabled, as she was equipped with motors of considerable greater power. However, Dixie seems to be about the ultimate in development along displacement lines, and, if we are to defend successfully the trophy which we so nearly lost, we must turn our attention to the hydroplane. Fauber, the originator of the hydroplane which bears his name, was formerly an American, and now that we see the necessity of it, there is no doubt but that, before it is time to bestir ourselves again for defenders, we too shall have 40-footers capable of a speed of forty miles or more an hour. God knows we’ll need `em.
[Excerpts Transcribed from Motor Boating, October supplement 1910, pp. 1-4.]
(Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page —LF)
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