1931 President's Cup
Potomac River, Washington, DC, August 28 & 29, 1931

Hoover Cup Racer Killed on Potomac

WASHINGTON, Sept 19 [1931] (AP).--A veteran boatman lost his life in the Potomac River today in the sudden spill of his racer that brought an abrupt close to the annual contest for the President's gold cup.

William Freitag of Westville, NJ was killed when his boat, the Miss Philadelphia, struck a side wash in the second lap of a fifteen-mile heat, turned over and rose out of the water to rest on her stern. The body was recovered.

William H. Wagner, mechanic was thrown clear of the boat and came to the surface immediately. He said he never saw Freitag after the speedboat overturned.

Thousands of horror-stricken spectators, gathered for the final day of the regatta, watched rescue boats work fifty minutes to recover Freitag's body, while five other entries were led across the finish line by the El Lagarto, owned by George Reiss of Lake George, NY.

By voluntary consent of all the drivers, the last heat of the cup race was canceled, giving El Lagarto, winner in the first two heats and in the national sweepstakes at Red Bank, NJ, the trophy.

The accident occurred in the second lap of the race as Miss Philadelphia came into the straight-away for the judge's boat after a wide turn. Observers, nearest the scene said the speeding racer, timed at 47 miles an hour in the first lap, spun around twice, and turned a complete somersault before  settleing down on its stern, with the bow protruding twelve feet out of the water.

Officials crowding to the side of the judge's boat could see Wagner floating on the surface, as Coast Guard, police and Red Cross life-saving boats sped to the scene. John Shibe, baseball magnate and owner of the boat, was taken to the point from his stand at the naval air station adjoinging Bolling Field.

Wagner's only comment was "Just the luck of the game."

Fellow-boatmen said Freitag was a driver of great experience, though he could not swim. His life preserver was picked up on the surface, torn into three parts.

He drove Miss Philadelphia in the gold cup races both at Montauk Point, NY and Red Bank.

The accident brought a sudden quiet over the crowds lining the banks near Bolling Field and the war college. Officials immediately postponed all races and silence the staccato explosions of darting outboard speedsters warming up for other events. The Miss Philadelphia was towed to the Navy Yard, where [it was observed that] her side was crushed as a heavy crane lifted her clear of the water.

Freitag's face and head were badly bruised and his shoulders dislocated. A post mortem showed he died of a fractured skull.

(Associated Press, September 19, 1931)

*  *  *

El Lagarto Victor in Speed-Boat Race

Captures Second Heat of the President’s Cup to Gain Trophy on Potomac

Washington, D.C., September 19, [1931] — George Reis’s El Lagarto sped to victory again today in the second heat of the President’s Cup race on the Potomac River, repeating its victory of yesterday.

An accident which resulted in the death of William Freitag, who drove Miss Philadelphia, owned by John Shibe of Philadelphia, caused the cancellation of the third heat and automatically made El Lagarto the winner of the President’s Cup.

The Lake George N.Y. entry was far ahead of its nearest rival, Californian, piloted by Richard Loynes of Long Beach, Cal. Third place was captured by John Wanamaker Jr.’s Louisa.

Miss Philadelphia turned over on the third lap. Bill Wanger was Freitag’s mechanic.

Averages 50.27 Miles Per Hour

El Lagarto averaged 50.27 miles an hour in repeating its victory of yesterday. Only five boats finished the race. Miss Columbia, piloted by Theodore E. Hall of Red Bank, N.J., captured fourth place, with Victor Kliesrath’s Hotsy Totsy limping across the finish line in last place.

The winning boat of last year dropped out of the race on the third lap with engine trouble, but with the advaice of the judges, Hotsy Totsy finally completed the three remaining laps with mechanics constantly at work on her engines.

By taking second and fifth on alternate days, Hotsy Totsy and Californian tied for second place on points in the two President’s Cup heats. Judges awarded second honors to Loynes, however, on the basis of a total elapsed time of 38:04 as compared with 41:50 for Kliesrath’s Hotsy Totsy.

President Hoover, who did not attend the races, will present the gold cup sponsored by President Coolidge in 1926 to Reiss, the victor, on Wednesday.

President’s Cup, Second Heat


El Lagarto

G. Reiss

Lake George, N.Y.



Dick Loynes




John Wanamaker, Jr.



Miss Columbia

Theodore E. Hall

Red Bank, N.J.


Hotsy Totsy

Victor Kliesrath

Port Washington, N.Y.

Time — 17:54.02; Speed — 50.728 mph

(Reprinted from the Associated Press, September 19, 1931)

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