1929 International Race Meet, Venice, Italy
Prince of Piedmont's Cup and Count Volpi Trophy
Miss England Wins at Venice
The recent International race meet held at Venice, Italy, was one of the most important that has ever been held in Europe, as it brought together the most interesting gathering of fast boats which have ever met in European waters. With Miss England, owned and driven by Major H. O. D. Segrave of London, and Commodore Wood's Miss America V and Miss America VII, the three fastest craft in the world with the possible exception of Miss America VIII, Commodore Wood's Harmsworth Trophy winner, were brought together for the first time in motor boating history.
There were ten important events. Prizes were offered on a very liberal scale, totaling many thousands of dollars. Quite naturally the greatest interest centered on the three high speed racers which competed for the Prince of Piedmont's Cup offered in the mile speed trials and the race for the Count Volpi Trophy.
In addition to Miss England and the two Miss Americas, the new Italian boat, Savoia, owned and piloted by Prince Ruspoli was entered but unfortunately this boat on which the Italians based such great hopes, was damaged in one of the earlier events so she had no opportunity of demonstrating her capabilities. This boat is powered with two Fiat motors, each of about 1.500 horsepower which had been specially constructed by the Fiat Company, with the hope of attaining the world's speed record.
The races were scheduled for six days, from September 10 to September 15, indicating that the race meet was one of the most ambitious ever held. The speed trials were held over a measured mile in the lagoon where the water is arrays calm, while day to have the races in the lagoon owing to the water being too rough.
The entries totalled about 75, although the number of starters in some of the classes were disappointing. In most of the events, there were two heats. As already mentioned, the most important event was the race for supremacy between Miss England, Miss America V and Miss America VII and Savoia. Commodore Gar Wood had announced that he would ship Miss America VIII to Venice but at the last minute, he changed his plans and sent Miss America VII, in charge of his brother Phil Wood as helmsman and Orlin Johnson at the throttles.
In the race for the Prince of Piedmont's Cup for the highest speed obtained over one nautical mile, the speed being computed by the mean of six runs, three in each direction, Miss England made her runs on Thursday, September 12, her mean speed being 92.847 miles per hour and her best speed in any one run, being the third run north to south, at 93.647 miles per hour.
Miss America VII and Miss America V did not run on this day. However, they ran on Saturday, September 14, which was the last day on which competing boats were allowed to attempt their maximum speeds for the Prince of Piedmontís Trophy. Miss America VII completed only four of the required six runs in these trials, her maximum speed being 91.08 miles per hour and her mean speed for the four runs being 90.008 miles per hour.
On Saturday afternoon, September 14, the first heat for the Count Volpi Cup for the Championship of Europe was held. This heat was run over a distance of 20 kilometers, namely four laps of five kilometers each. Miss America VII made a perfect start, crossing the line at full speed followed at a distance of 20 yards by Miss America V. Next came the Italian boat Cabac, equipped with two Isotta-Fraschini motors, 8 cylinder in line, which was about five yards, or a length behind Miss America V. Then came Miss England which made a very bad start and crossed the line fourth. Before a quarter of a mile had been covered, Miss England caught and passed Miss America V, then caught and passed Miss America VII on a straightaway before the first turn had been reached. On reaching the first turning mark, the order was as follows: First Miss England, then Miss America VII 150 cards behind, then Miss America V about 200 yards astern of Miss America VII. Then the two Italian boats trailing still further astern.
The back stretch of this course consisted of a straightaway of about one mile and a quarter in length and Miss England drew steadily away and opened up on all of the boats on this straightaway. After another quarter of a mile had been covered, Miss America VII struck a wave at full speed and bounced 15 feet in the air, throwing Orlin Johnson and Phil Wood at least 30 feet in the air then came down wit a tremendous crash, with the side planking and bottom smashed in shot off to starboard, off the course and foundered. The crew of Miss America VII was picked out of the water by Vance Smith, a member of the crew of Miss America V which immediately retired from the race and went to the assistance of number VII. This race was declared void owing to the International ruling prevailing in Europe which states that in the event of an accident and in the event of any boat leaving the course to go to the assistance of the damaged boat, the race must be run again. Accordingly two heats were run off on the following day, one in the morning at eleven and the finals at four o'clock in the afternoon. Miss England won the first from Miss America V at an average speed of 63.040 miles per hour over the 20 kilometers and in the afternoon she also won at an average speed of 70.64 miles per hour, over 30 kilometers over which distance the final was run. Miss America V lost her starboard wheel and shaft in the afternoon's race.
The fastest lap made by Miss England was at the rate of 79.14 miles per hour in the morning's race.
The water during the two heats was considerably rougher than that at Detroit or Miami Beach where Miss America was previously run. There was a long ground swell running in from the Adriatic which caused the boats to leave the water for many feet at a stretch and jump into the air in a most uncomfortable manner.
In the Venice races, Miss England proved that she was a faster craft than Miss America VII, by averaging a higher speed in the nautical mile trials, as well as passing Miss America VII on a straightaway when both boats were reported to be running at their maximum. Miss England proved she was a seaworthy boat and was able to turn at full speed in a manner which has never been witnessed before.
Miss England was powered with one 950 horsepower Napier motor, the motor being taken from Major Segrave's racing car, Golden Arrow. The hull is the same one which was raced last winter at Miami Beach and while it is comparatively lightly built, yet it is properly designed and has demonstrated that a single screw motor in a light, yet properly designed hull can give a heavier boat with twice the power a real race.
(Reprinted from Motor Boating, September 1929, pp. 32-33, 78+)
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