1928 Detroit Regatta
Harmsworth Trophy, Mile Trials and North American Trophy
United States Retains British International Trophy
With England making a determined effort to win back the British International Trophy this year, and with several new boats built here especially to see that the time-honored cup which has done so much to promote speed on the water did not leave its present moorings, everything was set to make the Twelfth Annual Regatta at Detroit, September 1st to 3rd, the most interesting in years. But, due apparently to certain inhibitions inherent in high speed craft, it was not to be, and the same old story was again repeated. Before the first lap was run, accidents had robbed the principal event on the varied program of all its punch, and the result of months of effort on the part of Miss Betty Carstairs, the plucky challenger, lay at the bottom of the Detroit River.
And yet it might have been so different. Four boats faced the starter's flag late in the afternoon of September 1st, after a delay due to waiting for smoother water on the river. These were Miss America VII, a new boat built by Gar Wood in the short space of three weeks after his Miss America VI had cracked up in a trial spin; Miss America V, also owned by Gar Wood and entered under the name of Gar Wood, Jr.; Miss Los Angeles, a Hacker-designed craft owned by James Talbot, Jr., of the California Yacht Club; and the challenger, Estelle II, the smallest boat in the race and a single-step hydroplane only 21 feet long, with a single 900 h.p. Napier Lyons engine. The seconds before the starting flag fell were tense ones. Miss Carstairs, at the wheel of her own boat, edged close up to the starting line, and easing in her clutch, opened up the throttle and shot across the line almost with the gun and was away down the course with a good lead on the veteran Gar Wood, to the cheers of the crowd of over 100,000 spectators lining both banks of the river. It was a clever piece of boat handling and the crowd was all with her.
Estelle II led around the first turn, but on the back stretch Gar Wood opened up Miss America VII and with a roar from the exhausts of her two 12-cylinder engines, passed Estelle just before the bridge was reached, the little English challenger looking very tiny as the larger boat shot by her. Taking Miss America's wash is no easy matter for any boat, and as Wood made the lower turn, followed by Estelle, Miss Carstairs had trouble keeping her little boat in the water. She made the turn, however, and then was seen to broach clear of the water and plunge, nose first, beneath the wash of the flying leader. Miss Carstairs and her mechanic, Joe Harris, were both dumped into the river and were picked up by a patrol boat. Harris was seen to be badly hurt and later was rushed to the hospital with several broken ribs. Miss Carstairs was shaken up and bruised, but not seriously hurt.
This accident robbed the race of any great interest thereafter. Miss America V, handled by George Wood, went into second place, and these two made the racing for the remainder of the six laps, with Miss Los Angeles quite a distance astern, and evidently not running at her best. Although the older Miss America apparently pressed the newer boat at the finish, it was evident that Gar Wood had a lot of speed up his sleeve which it was not necessary to show in order to win. Miss America VII’s average for the 30 nautical course was 51.594 nautical or 59.411 statute miles per hour, by no means a measure of her real speed, as subsequent events showed.
The second heat for the International Trophy, run September 3rd, was also disastrous. With only three boats left, Miss Los Angeles proceeded to duplicate Estelle's performance of the first day and turned over on the first lap hardly a mile from the starting line. She was, however, towed in before she sank. She was leading at the time. This left only the two Wood entries in the race. Not so very exciting, and the Miss America VII was jogged over the course at an average of 52.544 statute miles per hour. It was fast enough to give her the cup for another year, however.
Records Broken in Mile Trials
This new boat of Gar Wood's is quite a craft, it should be explained here. When extended she is easily the fastest boat in America today. With her two Packard motors, salvaged from the wreck of the No. VI, she made an average speed of 92.838 statute miles per hour in six runs over a mile course, with and against the current. This is over 12 miles better than the previous record of 80.567, made by Miss America at Detroit in 1921.
Another speed record was broken in the mile trials when Baby Ruth, entered in the 2½ Litre Hydroplane Class, averaged over the six runs 48.489 miles per hour, beating Captain Barnato's record of 35.927 statute miles per hour. Baby Ruth is owned by Otto Schnering and was driven by Stanley Reed.
Rainbow VII Wins North American Trophy
Next in interest on the program to the International Trophy event was the race for the championship of North America. This also had an international flavor, for Harry Greening, after an absence of two years, came over from Hamilton with the latest of the Rainbow family. (They reach seven now.) This new craft of Harry's is "some boat," and for her size is the fastest -thing afloat, or so it seems. Built for utility and for commuting rather than for racing, Rainbow VII is over 9 feet wide, will carry a dozen or so passengers, and then get up and take you there at some "sixty per." It is a beautiful job of building, as are all of Greening's boats, and her power plant consists of a trifle of 1000 h.p., furnished by two 12-cylinder Gar Wood marine engines.
For competitors, Rainbow VII had only Alex Johnson's much tailed Scorpion in the first 30-mile heat. Scorpion threw a lot of spray but her sting did not amount to much, for just after completing the first lap in the wake of the Canadian boat, she threw one of her surface propellers, tore a hole in her bottom and was turned off the course. And that was the last appearance of the boat that was going to smash all records.
For the second heat, the next day, they had rushed in some new "shock troops" in Curtis Wilgold III, Baby Gar and Skylark. But as far as furnishing a contest, they didn't have the goods, and Rainbow romped around at some fifty odd miles without being extended — as they say at the race track. This gave the trophy to Greening, irrespective of the result of the third heat, which was run on September 3rd. Gar Wood sent in his two fast boats to stop the Rainbow, and Miss America VII was opened up just enough to beat Miss America V by a few seconds.
"Rainbow, with the cup won, was jogged around the course. She averaged some 49 miles, whereas she can and has made better than 60.
No matter what happens to the other entries in a regatta the outboards can always be counted on to furnish keen competition and plenty of thrills. So it proved at Detroit. Unfortunately, there were many times when the Detroit River was too rough for comfort or safety. But the hardy skippers pounded around the course just the same, though air cushions were at a premium, and the patrol boats were kept busy picking up those that couldn't keep right side up. There were surprisingly few casualties; however, considering that on the back stretch, where the course was roughest, the boats would frequently broach clear of the water. However, the rough water affected the speeds and few, if any, records were broken.
Orange Blossom, owned by Genevieve Atwood, won the De Roy trophy in Class B Free-for-All, with Non Pareil second. The Main Sheet Trophy, Class B Amateur, was taken by Wade Inu, owned and driven by H. W. Hoffman.
(Reprinted from Yachting, October 1928, pp. 41-42, 118+)
History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at email@example.com
© Leslie Field, 2006