1933 Harmsworth Trophy, APBA Gold Cup & Dodge Memorial

The High Lights and the Low Downs of the Detroit Regatta
Photographs by M. Rosenfeld

Harmsworth Trophy

bullet Motor Boating: Gar Wood's Challenger Sails
bullet America Retains Harmsworth Trophy
bullet The High Lights and the Low Downs of the Detroit Regatta
bullet Miss America X Still Supreme

We're foot—slog—slog—slog—slogging over Michigan! Foot—foot—foot—foot-slogging over Michigan—(Boats—boats—boats—boats, waitin' for the race to start) And there's no reward for us guys!

'Tain't so bad for the first long hour or so. But time brings strings of forty thousand million Hungry—tired—folks—yellin' for some action quick. And there's no reward for such guys!

Song of Marine City,
With apologies to Kipling.

It’s the style now to have theme songs about everything from a new radio program about Doc Slickem's Dumb Dope for Dizzy Doras to the latest, and smuttiest, of movie moronatics (sure we know there is no such word but there should be). And if theme songs go with everything else why not hitch the above on the noble attempt of Hubert Scott-Paine to "wrest the crown of speed-dom from the gray head of King Gar." Gosh, we've got to stop reading the hectic dailies before we get the headline virus in our blood to the extent that we are liable to go home to the "patient little woman" (Hell, there we go again) with the momentous announcement,

Magazine Suspends for Lack of Black Ink to Smear-Headlines

Where were we? Oh, yes. We were at Marine City, Michigan, waiting hours and hours and hours for the roar of two high-powered speed destroyers to settle again the old, old question of whether a good little man—or boat—can beat a good big man. And, blamed idiots that we were, we sat on stringpieces and old logs and fence rails and damp grass and shifted our rapidly decreasing weight—the lord knows how long it was between meals—from one sore section of our more or less streamlined anatomy to another sore spot of the same unit.

Hopefully we glanced at the officials on Aaron De Roy's yacht with the hope that we would see them doing something more exciting than lighting a new cigar or disappearing every so often into the cabin to see whether it was the barometer or another drink that was going down.

But hark! From far off there comes a dull roar which certainly sounds like many gallons of gasoline being kicked in the gizzard by an electric spark. "Here they come!" the cry is taken up by thousands who drag themselves to a creaking erectness and gaze hopefully in the direction of the noise. But it is not to be. The commotion was simply caused by one more newspaper airplane—charted at a bonanza figure—dropping to earth, out of gasoline.

Reader, did you ever hear profanity that reached the very zenith of the art? No? Well you missed it. Just listen in an a newspaper man who has traveled from New York, robbed the baby's bank to charter a plane to fly over the racers, and then run out of gas waiting for the jockeys of something like eight thousand horsepower to decide that the river is in smooth enough shape to run their chariots.

"Came the dawn." No, not exactly, we are a little ahead of the truth. So we'll change it to came the time when the noise wasn't a falling airplane, or a runabout or an irate Detroiter complaining over having to pay four bits for a hot dog that wasn't so hot but was mighty doggy.

Outboards and runabouts scuttled to cover. Officials wiggled flags, downed the last drink at a gulp, grabbed for stopwatches, pencils, paper, push buttons and the other paraphernalia of brass-hatdom. Radio announcers promptly forgot all they had been told about boats and began all over again to spill into the circumambient ether the fact that Gar Wood had a big boat with 6,400 equine equivalents and that the craft from the tight little isle was a wee bit of a boat with just a mere stableful—say 1,400 or so—of horsepower. The way those radio announcers talked about horsepower you would believe that any craft that used less than a gallon of gasoline to prime a cylinder didn't have power enough to pull off father's slippers.

"They're off!" screamed the multitudes. Black smoke—spray—noise.

Miss America X

Length over all

38 feet, 0 inches


10 feet, 0 inches


14,000 pounds


Two Packards, 6400 hp.

Gear box ratio

1 to 2.95


Federal Mogul


Monel Metal



Spark plugs


A big mahogany boat leaping madly up the course followed by a shining aluminum hull looking for all the world like the tail of Gar's kite.

A respite during which the self-appointed hydro designer supreme discoursed wrongly on the relationship of power and resulting speed. Then Miss America came by on the first lap of the 35 nautical mile trek with a speed that figured out almost exactly ten miles an hour faster than Scott-Paine in Miss Britain III.

But let's not take it lap for lap. Gar won, and won by a big margin. He could have won by an even bigger one if he had turned that stable loose. As it was be only promised the 6,400 a bit of hay when they got home and they wanted oats if they were to let themselves out. When it was all over it was found that the British boat had gradually increased her speed right on through the race so that her best lap was 71.441 nautical miles as against Gar's best of 76.466 of the same sort of miles. Translated into statute miles it gave Gar better than 88 miles for his best round and Scott-Paine 82 and a fraction. And if you don't believe 82 miles is going some for that amount of horsepower (about 1,400) then you are welcome to collect some old lumber and go to work on a boat that will beat it.

In our very humble opinion—we have only been designing, building and racing hydros since thirty miles an hour was a dream—Scott-Paine showed us the fastest boat of its power that has ever been floated. Not only that, but, still humble, we believe that with a different bow and a few minor changes in design the British boat would—But let's talk about the price of onions in North-eastern Siberia. It’s a safer topic.

Miss Britain III

Length over all

24 feet, 6 inches


8 feet, 0 inches


8,000 pounds


One Napier of 1375 hp.

Gear box ratio

1 to 2.5





Spark plugs

K.L. G.


Aluminum alloy and wood

Well, anyway, the race was over, the American eagle and the Blue Eagle had screamed their screamiest—and were our dogs screaming!—and it was time to begin the weary fifty-mile trek back to Detroit and to the warm hospitality of Commander Hower and Com. Steve Drakeley at the Duplex Oil sanctum tucked away in the ramifications of the Whittier Hotel. There oil, or sumpin', was poured on troubled waters—or words to that effect—and it was necessary to seek the sanctuary of sleep to prepare for the final heat of the "race of the century." There, we're lapsing back into the headline stuff again.

Between races Scott-Paine changed engines, thus giving the man on the street the opinion that a racing engine can be run for thirty-five miles before John the Junkman is called in to appraise it for old metal. But the new engine, or a bit less stage fright, or just a well-I-gotta-die-sometime sort of desperation, certainly improved the performance of the pride of John Bull and when she went over the line for the second race Gar looked ahead and saw the strange sight of something ahead of him.

It was just about that time that Grandpa Wood's most famous son murmured something about oats and his steel steeds pricked up their 12,800 ears and kicked up their 25,600 heels and decided to go places. Scott-Paine hunched down further in his cubby-hole cockpit, muttered a few selected beefeater cusses and stepped down hard on the tail of that Napier. But there wasn't enough tail, or enough pressure in the English foot, for Miss America calmly ate up that lead and then stretched herself a bit and opened more and more and more water between them.

And when the timers had gotten through with it all the startling figures showed that Miss Britain had averaged 85.789 miles for the 35 nautical miles and had done one lap at 87.215 statute miles. Which, dear little children, is just going like hell. But, on the other hand, Gar had averaged nearly 87 miles and had just skinned under ninety for one lap. Which, dear children, is going just a bit faster than hell.

And thus, finis. And they lived happily everafter. And what was the use of it all? Plenty. For the first time in years American designers have received a jolt. If 1,375 hp. can really get close to 90 miles an hour there is something radically wrong with the run of hydroplanes in this country. That we got Scott-Paine to spend his pounds, shillings and pence to teach us the lesson was a blamed fine streak of luck for us. The only thing that would have made the lesson even more pronounced would have been for those 1,375 English hosses to have won. As it is we have the lesson free and the Harmsworth trophy remains in Detroit for another year at least. But we'll rise right now on our hind legs and tell the astigmatic universe that, unless something is done between now and the next time the genial Briton comes over, an ocean ex-press company is going to transport a box labelled, "Handle with care—H.S.P.—England."

APBA Gold Cup

bullet Gold Cup Goes to Lake George
bullet The High Lights and the Low Downs of the Detroit Regatta
bullet El Lagarto Wins Gold Cup
bullet Gold Cup Goes Back East

But the Detroit regatta wasn't all international race. The Gold Cup was an even more interesting event as far as spectator interest, for there were more entries and the struggle was held right down in Detroit where you could get up after a bad night and still go to the course in time to see the fun.

And who won the Gold Cup? Surely one of the new boats. Oh, yeah! Well El Lagarto is pretty near old enough to thaw terbaccer or marry Mahatma Gandhi, and she romped home first in the first two thirty-mile heats with her 335 hp. Packard turning her Hyde propeller just as if eleven years hadn't passed since John Hacker designed and built her; and Ed. Grimm named her Miss Mary. We'll agree that George Reis has done a lot of things to her since those dear old decadent days but just the same, she's lost the blush of youth—whatever that is—and her old bones creak, and its about time her horses were turned out to pasture. Perhaps George will do the humane thing so that when we got up to Lake George—no, it wasn't named for him—next summer for the 'steenth running of the Gold Cup events, we will find a new Lagarto, and the old one on the lawn of the Old Men's Home. Somebody told us that Lagarto means lizard. Somebody else tells us that lizards live for years and years and years. It sure looks it.

In the final heat for the gilt mug Reis slowed up a bit and Bill Horn brought Delphine IV in first to collect a total of 1,122 points for the series as against Lagarto's 1,161 points. But just the same the race, as well as the honor of breaking the Gold Cup record, goes to the ancient and honorable El Lagarto. Delphine IV is one of the lord-only-knows-how-many boats entered by Horace Dodge. She is a Crouch-design, built by Dodge, powered by Packard and swinging a Michigan wheel. As far as that is concerned, Michigan wheels were on all of the Dodge Memorial trophy boats that finished. If you are interested in post mortems the general opinion seems to be that Vic Kliesrath's Hotsy-Totsy was probably the fastest Gold Cup boat of the fleet, but a series of engine failures of various kinds put the South Bend driver out of it. Just before we leave the Gold Cup, let's pause just long enough to remark that Hotsy-Totsy is another old-timer. It was a rotten race meet for us youngsters.

If no other record had been set, the one representing hard luck would go to Horace Dodge. He had little boats, big boats, wide boats, skinny boats and boats that defied other descriptions, lined up for the various Detroit affairs. He drove a boat, he had friends, relatives, young, old, male and female driving the rest of his herd of spray-fingers. He had American-designed boats and craft created by Fred Cooper, the famous British architect. And, one by one, they fell by the wayside as far as covering themselves with glory is concerned.

His broken dates with Lady Luck even extended to the Harmsworth, for which he had Delphine V primed to help Gar Wood beat Scott-Paine. On the way to the course a backfire set fire to the boat and she was completely destroyed. While she wasn't a veteran, her driver "Fritz" Ericson and her mechanic, Pat Gallagher, are old-timers. Both of the crew got singed a little in the fire but it takes more than a slight toasting to really cook a race boat driver.

Of course the loss of Delphine V made no difference in the final outcome of the Harmsworth race, but if Gar had broken down, and the Dodge boat had not caused some of the Detroit river to boil, there might have been a race that would have been a hummer as it was claimed that the Dodge craft was good for ninety whenever everything was rolling along nicely.

Dodge Memorial Trophy

bullet 1933 Dodge Memorial Trophy (1)
bullet 1933 Dodge Memorial Trophy (2)
bullet The High Lights and the Low Downs of the Detroit Regatta

But, in the end, Horace Dodge didn't have to go home entirely skunked. If he couldn't win anything else he was darned if he would let the magnificent trophy, which he gave the American Power Boat Association in memory of his father, go to alien racing families. So in the three heats for the Dodge Memorial Trophy, he sent out Delphine IV and Delphine VII against Hotsy-Totsy and personally drove "Seven" to garner 1,161 points. "Four" was second on points and Hotsy-Totsy failed to start in the final heat.

There has been considerable in the newspapers in regard to the fact that George Reis could not start El Lagarto in the Dodge Memorial. Some say Dodge protested the Lake George boat and required the measurers to tear down the lizard's engine. At any rate Dodge's spokesmen deny that the Reis boat was put out of the running due to any action of Dodge. We do not feel qualified to pass on the merits of the different charges and counter-charges. All we know is that El Lagarto's engine was torn down by the officials at such a time that she couldn't race for the Dodge Memorial.

It is a surprising thing that more boats did not compete for the Dodge trophy. While the cup has not the historical background of the Gold Cup, nor the international aspect of the Harmsworth, it is probably the most beautiful, as well as the most valuable from an intrinsic standpoint, of any boating trophy in the world. The Harmsworth Trophy—the very modern call it the British International Trophy and thus display their youth—is an ugly thing of bronze depicting a couple of open launches sliding over a sea that would whelm any present-day hydroplane in one gulp.

But the answer lies in the fact that the bit of bronze given originally by Alfred, Lord Harmsworth, of England, goes back to the dim, dark ages of motor boating when a speed boat was a long, splintery craft with a couple of barrel-sized cylinders sticking up out of it. In those times twenty miles was going so fast that the very, very progressive thinkers gave it out that, given time and plenty of research, a speed of thirty miles an hour would someday be reached. At which the conservatives poohjoohed and retorted with the ancient equivalent of "So's your old man."

The Gold Cup, the pride and joy of the American Power Boat Association is beautiful in inverse ratio to its historical significance. At one time the prize for unlimited speed boats in this country, the trophy has undergone several rule changes since the grand days when Stuart Blackton, Count Mankowski, Fred Burnham, Carl Riotte, Alfred Miles and "Fingy" Connors raced for it. Carl Riotte won it the first time, back in 1904, with the famous Standard at the breathtaking rate of 23.6 miles an hour. In 1908 Dixie II was the first boat to crack the 30-mile-an-hour speed for the event. In those days Dixie was owned by E. J. Schroeder and driven by Capt. Bartley Pierce. Which calls to mind that Bart Pierce is still alive, although he no longer tools racing boats.

Up to 1921 the race was open to anything that could go fast enough and the record went up until it took a boat faster than Miss America I with her 70-mile speed to win. Then the salons changed the rules so displacement runabouts with engines of less than 625 cubic inches were the only eligibles. This rule continued in force until very recent years when a minor change was made allowing the underbody of hydroplane form as long as other hull restrictions were fulfilled.

But let us return to Detroit after this historical interlude. We believe we have seen the last of the conventional hydroplane, just as years ago we saw the last of the conventional displacement racing boat. We also believe we have seen the last of racing at Marine City, or any other point as far removed from a big city. As far as that is concerned, the only reason the race is held at Detroit is because Gar Wood holds the trophy and is naturally going to see to it that his home city gets the race. But suppose the trophy goes elsewhere in this country. Vincent Benda is talking of building an unlimited hydroplane of Harmsworth calibre. He hails from South Bend, Ind., and it is doubtful if there is a suitable course there. Miami has been suggested, but it is a question whether a foreigner would challenge for a race in the winter. It would mean he would have to make his own test runs in some southern European waters instead of in English territory.

Chicago is out of it for there is no space large enough for such a race outside of Lake Michigan itself, and that is too big, and too bumpy. New York has several locations that might do. With some minor modifications the Hudson River off Riverside Drive would make an ideal course. This in spite of the driftwood menace which could be obviated by a well-organized patrol. Riverside Drive and the Palisades form two perfect grandstands. Long Island Sound, or any of its harbors, is hardly suitable. Harbors that are smooth enough are too narrow. Lake George, or other similar lakes throughout the East, might be all right from the racing standpoint but the success of the Harmsworth race cannot be measured in terms of suiting only the drivers and officials.

No sporting event of the magnitude of the international boat race can be held without the public's cooperation in mind. Detroit didn't know that, or the authorities thought that the crowds would travel fifty miles to see the race. Some did, a tiny fraction of those who wanted to see the events. But after they had made the trip, spent their money for parking spaces or grandstand seats, they were more or less ignored. And, in return, the second day of the event saw empty grandstands and parking places being hawked for whatever you were wiling to pay. Disgruntled at the delays of the first day, unable to understand the technicalities of the game sufficiently to enjoy and marvel at the performance of the English boat, they found themselves fifty miles from home with dark coming on and a narrow, rural road leading back to the city.

Perhaps the conditions would not have been so disheartening for Mr and Mrs John Q. Public if the rest of the regatta had been held at Marine City. If, during the long wait, other classes; outboards, runabouts, Gold Cuppers could have raced it would have been all right. But when you ask a man to drive a car fifty miles, wait three hours for an event to be staged and then finish the whole business in less than half an hour there is bound to be a bit of grousing. As a fitting finale we can do no better than quote a tired motorist at a filling station near Detroit "Yep," he said, "I seen it. We drove four hours in traffic, we waited three hours on the shore, we saw some smoke; zip, biff; race over. We drove back again.

(Reprinted from Motor Boat, October 1933, pp.5-9)

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