1926 Detroit Regatta
Detroit River, Detroit MI, September 4-7, 1926

Harmsworth Trophy, 150 Mile Sweepstakes and Junior Gold Cup


Detroit Keeps the British International Trophy
Fine Regatta on the Detroit River and a Big Fleet for the Sweepstakes

While the feature event scheduled for Detroit's Tenth Annual Regatta, the best supported and most hotly contested power boat meet of the year, was the international race for the Harmsworth Cup, the actual running of this event was eclipsed by the spectacular 150-mile Sweepstakes, which brought to the line the finest fleet of high speed fliers ever gathered on one course, and the race for the Junior Gold Cup, to say nothing of the many other events on a most attractive Program. This was largely due to the inhibition of the French challenger, Excelsior-France, which failed dismally to "come through," and left the event to the three American defenders, Miss America III, IV, and V, owned by various members of the Wood family. Robbed of any real competition, and with no incentive for showing the speed they really had, the performance of these boats was impressive but lacked the thrill of a hard, driving race, from gun to gun.

It may be said right at the start that the French challenger was not in the same class with the three American boats. She is the same craft which was entered last year for this event but was not ready in time. The wait of a whole year did not help her much in this respect, for she was still far from ready when J. W. Sackrider gave the class the gun on September 7th at 3:30 a.m., after a postponement of two whole days. She is a large, heavily built boat, with two Brequet engines of 16 cylinders each. The engines never were tuned up properly after the challenger arrived in this country, and the hull had been warped somewhat in transportation from France so that one of the shafts was bound.

There must have been over 150,000 spectators lining the course of five nautical miles on the Detroit River that last day, waiting to see the international event run off. They waited patiently for over two hours while the crew of the French boat, under T. A. Clarke, her helmsman, tried to get her engines turning over. Finally, a power boat was sent to her and at the end of a line she was towed around the course in the hope that her direct-connected shafts and propellers, turning as she was towed, would start them. At last there was a roar from her exhausts, a cheer from the spectators and the Excelsior-France jumped away from her tow and was off.

Five minutes later they were sent away on the first 30-mile heat, the three Miss Americas in the lead, running beautifully, as they always do, well balanced and with a lot up their sleeves. Excelsior-France was close up but was apparently poorly balanced, as she was "hobby-horsing" in a way that must have loosened the teeth of her crew of three.

Miss America IV, driven by George Wood, was the first to complete the lap, which she did at better than 68 m.p.h. The V, driven by "Gar" himself, was next, 17 seconds behind. The French craft pounded around one lap of the course, being clocked at 41 miles per hour, and then drew into the pit and quit. At this time only one engine was functioning properly. When her skipper was asked why he quit, he merely shrugged his shoulders and said, "What's the use?" Watching the Wood boats perform for one lap was enough for him.

The three Miss Americas, running, like clockwork, completed the course. Miss America V finished first.

She is a new boat, built this year, with two Liberty Motors. Her average was 61.118 m.p.h. for the course. With only America left in the contest, but two laps of the next heat were run when the boats were flagged off the course. Miss America V cut loose on the last lap, just to show what she could do, and hung up figures of 72.7 for the five miles. Probably nothing afloat could have beaten her that day. So the cup stays here, in the custody of the Yachtsmen's Association of America.

But to get back to the real racing of the meet, of which there was plenty. The principal event was the Sweepstakes, a speed and endurance race of 150 miles 50 times around the 3-mile course. Nine boats started, in spite of a very rough sea rolling up the course, kicked up by a strong west wind blowing against the current. Water conditions could hardly have been worse.

After a paced lap to get the boats squared away they were given the gun as they were lined up coming down the stretch. Cigarette, Gordon Hamersley's new duralumin flier, got a shade the best of the start and immediately shot into the lead, going like a scared cat. She is a beautiful craft, designed by F. K. Lord, and is the first metal boat to be seen in one of these events. Miss Syndicate, driven by Horace E. Dodge, was on Cigarette's stern, and hung there like grim death as the fleet tore around the course, throwing water that drenched the crews. Before the first turn was reached Watercar Detroit, driven by J. H. R. Cromwell, turned turtle as she struck the wash from the leaders and hove her crew into the chilly waters of the Detroit River. Neither of them was hurt. Nuisance, driven by Mrs. Delphine Cromwell, started, but wisely gave up on account of the rough water.

Rowdy, driven by "Vic" Kliesrath, fresh from her triumph at Manhasset Bay, set an even pace of approximately 49 m.p.h. and maintained it, her driver wisely refraining from killing her in the rough water. Cigarette led for some nine or ten laps, and showed the best speed of the race, doing 58.868 m.p.h. on the third lap. Then Miss Syndicate, running beautifully in the rough going, drew up on her and passed her on the 10th lap as the Cigarette began to slow down. Miss Syndicate was designed by George Crouch, of the Dodge Company. She is a remarkably balanced boat, taking more kindly to the seas than any other boat in the fleet.

With the race half run Cigarette began to slow down and on the 31st lap was forced out owing to broken and leaky gasoline tanks and connections, as the result of the shaking up she had received. Miss Syndicate then kept the lead until forced into the pit for fuel. Continuing, she ran several very fast laps at some 58 m.p.h., but then her fuel pumps began to fail and she was finally forced out by low gasoline pressure on the 49th lap, with only three miles to go to finish. This gave Rowdy, who was then leading, her chance, and though she was slowing up, she flashed across the line at the end of 50 laps in the lead and took a great race at an average of 48.25 m.p.h. Miss Indianapolis, driven by her owner, F. L. Sanford, running most consistently, was second only 4 minutes, 32 seconds behind. Rascal, owned and driven by Caleb Bragg, was third, the only other survivor of the long grind.

The summary:

Boat

Owner And Driver

Elap. Time

M.P.H

Rowdy

C. G. Fisher, V. Kleisrath

3:06:31.6

48.250

Miss Indianapolis

F. L. Sanford

3:11:04.4

47.102

Rascal

Caleb Bragg

3:25:02.

43.895

Miss Syndicate

Dodge Bros. Ass'n., H. E. Dodge

Out on 49th lap

 

Cigarette

L.G. Hammersley

Out on 31st lap

 

Baby Gar VI

Gar Wood

Out in 24th lap, broken valve

 

Water Car Detroit.

H. E. Dodge, J. H. R. Cromwell

Capsized, 1st lap

 

Horace

H. C. Dillman, F. G. Ericson

Out on 11th lap

 

Nuisance

Mrs. D. D. Cromwell

Withdrew 1st lap

 

The race for the Junior Gold Cup was run in three heats of 21 miles each on September 4. It brought six fine little racers to the line, but most of them were out-classed by the two fliers of Aaron DeRoy, Lady Helen II and Lady Helen I. Seldom have two more consistent performers been seen. Lady Helen II finished first in every heat and rolled up the highest possible score of 1200 points. In each heat she was only a few seconds ahead of Lady Helen I, in the second heat the margin being only a split second in a finish that brought the immense crowd of spectators to their feet. Dick Locke drove the winner and S. D. McCreedy the Lady Helen I.

Here is the point score:

Boat

Owner

Total Points

Average Best

Lady Helen II

Aaron DeRoy

1200

39.769

Lady Helen I

Aaron DeRoy

1083

39.690

Baby Shadow

Fisher & Chrysler

942

38.243

Tampa Baby II

Carroll Hall

801

34.340

Tampa Baby I

F. E. Palmer

706

35.235

Baby Frolic

W. P. Chrysler

578

37.663

The other events on the program all brought out large fleets and were keenly contested. The results in these classes were as follows:

Sallan Trophy 3 Heats; 25 starters

1.

Escapade

H. R. Esling

67 points

2.

Edith C II

H. E. Blood

65 points

(Excerpted from Yachting, October 1926, pp.27-29, 108+)


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