1921 Fisher Trophy
Biscayne Bay, Miami FL, February 10-12, 1920

The Mid-Winter Regatta at Miami
A Stirring Series of Races for the Fisher Trophy, Which Stands for Speed Plus Consistency
Many Records Broken
Photos by M. Rosenfeld [Photos not yet available —LF]

bullet The Adieu Wins Fisher Trophy Race at Miami
bullet The Mid-Winter Regatta at Miami

As a general proposition it may be stated that February is not much of a month to run off a series of races between high speed displacement runabouts in a contest that stands for reliability as well as speed, especially when one heat of the series was to be held on the open ocean. This statement will be absolutely true as regards almost every place in the United States. But down in southern Florida, at the northern end of beautiful Biscayne Bay, such a series of races was run from February 10 to 12 that shot the aforementioned general proposition full of holes and brought out one of the most spectacular, record-breaking struggles for supremacy that has been seen for many days. Conditions were ideal for power boat racing at Miami those eventful days, no matter what they were elsewhere in the country.

It was not only conditions that were ideal, but three little boats that faced the starting line that first day for a long grind of 150 miles, showed, before the three days were over, that they, also, were equal to the task they were set to and were about as perfect as it is possible to get machines made by man. For, be it known, the conditions governing this contest for the Fisher Trophy are the most exacting and strenuous ever devised for power boats. For the benefit of those not familiar with them, they may be stated briefly.

The trophy is a $5,000 gold cup presented by Mr. Carl G. Fisher, through the A. P. B. A.. for a speed and consistency race between runabouts of over 35 miles speed, the underlying motive for the cup being to encourage the building of reliable stock marine motors and to develop a hull able to stand the strain of continuous driving. To that end the race must be run in three heats of 50 miles each, on consecutive days, or a total of 150 miles in all. Immediately after each heat is finished, an observer is placed aboard each boat, the engine hoods are sealed and no work can be done on engine or boat until the seals are broken 15 minutes before the start of the next day's race, just time enough to get out to the line again. The only exception to this is that if a boat is damaged by some obstacle floating on the course, the damage may be with the consent of the technical committee repaired before the next race. These are hard conditions to fulfill, as anyone who is familiar with motor boat racing knows, and as any contestant who came through the three long races reflects great credit on these who built and handled the engine and on those who drove the boat.

The Boats and Engines

Four boats were entered for this foremost event on the program of the Miami Mid-Winter Regatta.

They were: Rainbow, owned by H. B. Greening, a 32-footer which won a leg on the cup at Detroit in September (it has to be won three times by one owner to become his property). She is powered with one 6-cylinder model G. R., 5¾ inch bore by 6¾ inch stroke, Sterling Engine, the same power plant that carried her to success before.

Adieu, owned by Webb Jay, of the Chicago Yacht Club, the dark horse of the entries, inasmuch as she was a brand new boat and her capabilities were not known before-hand. She was a beautiful piece of work of, V-Bottom design, 32 feet long by 6½ feet beam, lightly, yet strongly built. Her power plant is a model L. M. 6 cylinder, Hall-Scott motor, 5 inch by 7 inch bore and stroke, of 200 H. P.

Orlo II, a big new sea-sled of the type developed by Albert Hickman and owned be Geo. Leary, jr. This boat was 32½ feet on the water, 37½ feet overall, and she was equipped with two model G. R. dual valve Sterlings, 5¾ inch by 6¾ inch. The boat was heavy and the whole outfit weighed close to 5½ tons.

The fourth boat was Miss Miami, a big 37-foot by 9 foot, round bilged runabout owned by Carl Fisher and powered with a 12-cylinder V-type Alison aero-marine engine, of which very little was known except that it had lots of power. Unfortunately this boat burned out a bearing while tuning up the morning before the race and could not be repaired in time to start. So her capabilities are still unknown.

The First Race

There was a large crowd of spectators on hand at the start of the first day’s race and interest ran high to see how the three contestants which appeared at the line stacked up against each other. Conditions were good for a race, though a strong southerly wind made the surface of the water choppy and a little rough for very fast time. The course was oval, 2 miles around, or 25 laps to a race. This made steering difficult, as everyone who has driven such a course knows.

The three boats were lined up back of the line, with engines purring contentedly and clutches out, the start being a standing one. At the crack of the gun at 3 P.M. Adieu shot away as if the devil were after her and was first over the line, ten seconds after the gun and 2 seconds ahead of Rainbow. Orlo II was slower gathering speed, due to her weight, and was last over, some 15 seconds behind the leader — a handicap she was never able to overcome. Adieu pulled away at first until she was some three or four lengths ahead of Rainbow, and as she rounded the buoys at the upper turn, she swung in close and Rainbow had to take her wash as she rounded, just astern. The sled found the turn rather sharp and hard to take for such a large boat, and consequently Hickman, who was driving, had to slow her down a little so that she lost some distance. The lower turn was easier and not so sharp. As they finished the first lap the boats held the same order but were spread out a little, and four seconds separated Rainbow from Adieu, the leader, while Orlo was 12 seconds behind Rainbow. It was still anybody's race, and the helmsmen and mechanicians settled down to the long grind.

There followed in the next hour and a quarter one of the most consistent performances ever seen on the water. Not once did any boat falter and not once did they change positions. At one time Rainbow crept to Adieu's quarter, but could not pass her on the turns, though she seemed to turn a little closer to the buoys than Adieu. The sled gained on every straightaway but had to slow on the turns or take them wide and thus lost what she had gained. Each contender was making the laps with clock-like regularity. For the last 19 laps Adieu only varied one second on any lap, her figures being 3 minutes and 6 seconds or 3 minutes and 7 seconds for each two miles.

And so the end came as it started, with Adieu first, amid a tooting of whistles, Rainbow second only 12 seconds later and Orlo II third, 6 seconds behind the leader.

The time: were: Adieu, 1 h. 18 m. 1 s., Rainbow 1 h. 18 m. 13 s., Orlo II 1 h. 18 m. 47 s.

The average time for the 50 miles was 38.545 for Adieu, which was better than the record made at Detroit by 1.3 miles. Then hatches were sealed and all was over until the next day.

The Second Race

The second day found the same three waiting impatiently for the gun, and just to show that it was still anyone's race, things began to happen soon after the start.

Adieu again jumped away in the lead (it was remarkable how this little craft got going from a standing start when the clutch was thrown in) followed by Rainbow and Orlo II as on the day before, but with the sled not so far in the ruck as previously. Adieu went like a scared cat and it was evident that Hoyt, her mechanician, had let her out a peg, for she did the first lap in 3 minutes 3 seconds and the second in 3 min. 1 sec. actual. Rainbow was opened up too and slid the second lap in 3 min. 4 sec, while Orlo did the laps in 3 min. 2 sec. and 3 min. 4 sec. It was some hot pace.

On the third lap. Rainbow had hard luck when her propeller struck piece of driftwood and bent the blade so that Greening had to slow her down. After ascertaining the extent of the damage, he went on gamely to finish the race (though he could only drive with safety at some 20 miles speed without tearing things all to pieces), being greeted with cheers and whistles as he completed his third lap.

Adieu and Orlo then settled lawn to a long, hard duel. Hickman, realizing he must take chances, took the turns at full speed, and cut his boat in as sharply as he could, with the result that he soon began to gain on the flying Adieu. Still he did not catch her until the 17th lap, when Adieu was seen to slow down and then stop. The trouble was a spark plug that had let go. It was quickly replaced by Hoyt, and the little boat was off again, but not before the big sled had thundered by and the positions were reversed. Webb Jay went after Orlo II now, but could not catch her. Orlo II did one lap in 3 minutes flat, or at the rate of 40 miles per hour, and Adieu did several in 3 min. 1 sec. but it was no use. The sled crossed ahead of the little boat by over half a lap, as Adieu lad to replace another plug in the last round. It is too bad spark slugs will not stand up under high compression. The boats finished as follows:

Orlo II 1 h. 17 m. 35 s.,
Adieu 1 h. 21 m. 28 sec.,
Rainbow 2 h. 12 n., 28 s.

Average of winner 38.8 miles, bettering the record of the day before by .3 of a mile.

The Third Race

The scene of the third race was shifted from the inside course, on the bay, to one outside on the open ocean, the first contest between boats of this type to be held outside of headlands. It was something of a risk to hold such a race on open water, irrespective of conditions; for open runabouts with a speed of 40 miles an hour are not designed for such waters as one is apt to meet outside a good percentage of the time. Luckily, in this instance, the wind shifted during the night to west and blew off shore, so that except for a slop of old sea, the water was smooth.

The boats had some little distance to go to reach the outside course, and at 3 o'clock Orlo II had not appeared and only Adieu and Rainbow were sent away at the gun. The former jumped into the lead as usual at the crack of the gun and was over the line just 4 seconds later. While these boats were on their first lap, Orlo II showed up, but did not start, as her owner explained that in coming out the exhaust line had broken at the manifold, letting one of the engines exhaust into the boat and he did not think it wise to start.

The two little boats were finding it pretty lumpy going and at times one or the other would jump almost clear of the water as she lifted on a sea. But they kept at it, cutting the single buoy that marked each end of the two-mile course as closely as they could. It was nip and tuck throughout the whole 50 miles. In the last ten laps, Harry Greening gave a wonderful exhibition of driving. He was behind then, and it was sink or swim with him, so he cut loose and took Rainbow around the turns in a way that brought the spectators to their feet with cheers. Slowly he crept up on the flying leader, but Webb Jay had Adieu going in a groove and never let Rainbow pass him. Down the straightaway they came the last time, almost lapped, but the game Toronto boat could not quite catch her fleet rival. And Adieu, without missing an explosion during the entire race, lashed across the line just 3 seconds in the lead. Three seconds apart after 150 miles of racing! That was ''going some"!

The time was a little slower on account of the single buoy turn, making the actual distance traveled longer. But Adieu did it in 1 h. 19 in. 50 s., while Rainbow's time was 1 h. 19 m. 53 s.

On points, the boats stood as follows:


1st race

2nd race













Orlo II





The Express Cruisers Races

The Fisher Trophy was not by any means the only event of the regatta, and a great deal of interest centered in the express cruisers' races, which were scheduled for February 11th and 12th, with a run to Palm Beach and back the 14th. Among the new boats at Miami for this event were the Cigarette, owned by L. Gordon Hamersley, with two 350 horse power motors, and the Gar Jr. II owned by Mr. Garfield A. Wood, a 50-footer, powered with two 400 horse power Liberty Aero Motors. In addition to these two boats, Shadow V, owned by Carl Fisher, with two Speedways, was entered, but as she was an older boat she was considered outclassed.

The race the first day was over a ten-mile course on Biscayne Bay, where the turns were too sharp to allow these larger boats to make very fast time. The boats were sent away to a flag start. The Cigarette pulled out ahead and was around the upper turn, the Gar Jr. having to take it wide as she could not turn quickly. The latter boat, however, caught the Cigarette on the next straightaway and kept the lead thereafter, Shadow V was out-classed. The boats finished in the following order :


Elapsed Time

Gar Jr. II

18m. 36 4/5s.*


18m. 58s.

Shadow V

23m 58s.

*Average for 10 miles 32.2.

The next day the express cruiser ace was held outside, over the same .course as that for the Fisher Trophy lace, the boats being started as on he previous day. Gar Jr. got to he lower turn first, but as she turned wide, Hamerslev, at the wheel of Cigarette, threw his boat around he buoy in a wonderfully close turn and drew ahead. The Gar Jr., being a lighter boat with greater horsepower, caught her, however, on the straightaway, and although Hamersley gained on each turn Gar Jr. could draw away when straightened out and the latter never lost the lead, winning by 42 4/5 seconds for the ten miles. The time was: Gar Jr. 19m. 29 1/5s.; Cigarette, 20m.12s.; Shadow V, 25m 17s.

The race to Palm Beach and back outside was also won by Gar Jr. II, the time being 3h. 55m. 51 2/5s. for the 129 miles.

The Fisherman's Race

One of the most interesting races of the whole series was one held the first day for local fishermen, and a big fleet turned out to battle for cash prizes. There were three classes, one for boats under 6 horsepower, one for boats from 6 to 12 horsepower, and one for boats 12 horsepower and over.

The Auto Go III annexed the $50.00 prize in class A. the J. E. Forster got the bacon in class B, while in class C. over 12 horse power with a $100.00 prize offered by Mr. William Bruns, of New York, and a cup, the fishing boat Virginia came in first by a wide margin, much to the delight of the spectators. The Virginia was powered with a 16 horse power Frisbie Motor. As Mr. W. E. Gibb of the Frisbie Company was on the dock watching the event, he received many congratulations.

The Mile Trials

Following the races. a series of mile trials were held on a mile straightaway, with and against the current. In these trials, Rainbow, driven by Harry Greening averaged 41.87 miles per hour, which bettered her record made at Detroit last September by nearly two miles. Gar Jr. II made 41.4, and Orlo II made 47 miles flat the average of 6 trials.

There was a galaxy of talent on hand to run the races and everyone who was anyone in the poker boating world or the trade was on hand. Here are a few of them:

Race Committee: C. F. Chapman, Com. C. W. Kotcher, R. W. Wadman, Carl G. Fisher.
Judges: Com. A. I. McLeod (Chairman), Huston Wyeth, J. A. Allison.
Judges of Course: Com. A. A. Schantz (Chairman), W. C. Morehead, Milwaukee, Com. Roberts.
Timers: G. T. White, H. L. Stone, Corn. H. A. Parsons, Arthur Utz, W. E. Gibb, W. H. Moreton.
Technical Committee: G. A. Wood (Chairman), Worth Hall.
In Charge of Patrol: Mr. Sawyer.
Entertainment and Publicity: Guy W. Livingston, Miami Chamber of Commerce
Official Photographer, M. Rosenfeld, of New York.

A goodly array, we will say.

(Reprinted from Yachting, March 1921, pp. 109-112, 134+)

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