1933 Harmsworth Trophy
Miss America X Still Supreme
In many respects this year's battle for the British International (Harmsworth) Trophy held more drama than any we have ever witnessed. It was the known quantity against the unknown, Goliath vs David. Hubert Scott-Paine had guarded his "mystery boat" with a veil of secrecy which had never been completely lifted and the quiet confidence of the Britisher lent wings to the rumor that his radical departure from the conventional in boat design had produced a craft of such sensational speed that the long reign of Gar Wood was about to close.
So it was with a feeling of expectancy and an accelerated pulse that we awaited the first trial between the two champions. But the age-old legend of David and Goliath was not repeated. Miss America X. was too strong for David's pebbles, and won in impressive style.
But the defeat was no disgrace to the tiny challenger. Miss Britain III, under the gallant driving of Hubert Scott-Paine, was fighting all the way, and for the first time since 1920, a British boat finished two heats of a Harms-worth race.
Hubert Scott-Paine, designer, builder and driver of the little challenger, proved himself a worthy representative of a great sporting nation. Competing against terrific odds he showed himself a truly great driver with excellent judgment and absolute fearlessness. In the second heat his driving bordered on the sensational.
Unable to match power for power with Gar Wood, because of the withdrawal of Rolls-Royce engines from power boat racing after the pitiful showing of Miss England III in last year's race, Scott-Paine placed his faith in a single 12-cylinder Napier engine of only 1375 horsepower. To attain maximum speed with this engine he was forced to construct an extremely light and small hull. Clever designing and engineering produced his Miss Britain III, a little 24-footer with eight feet beam which complete with engine weighs only 3500 lbs., or about 2.5 lbs. to the horsepower. Her entire hull is made of Alclad metal, a specially formed metal sheeting consisting of a sheet of duralumin faced on either side with a thin layer of pure aluminum which is said to be impervious to the corrosive action of salt water. Her girders, engine supports and other interior parts are ultra modern examples of "flitching," a process of sandwiching a comparatively thin board of mahogany between two plates of Alclad metal, fastened with thousands of small duralumin bolts and nuts.
Theoretically such a boat should be as fast, or faster than, the world's champion Miss America X, despite her 6400 horsepower, because Miss America’s ratio of weight to horsepower runs somewhat higher. Racing, however, is not decided on theories and Gar Wood's champion easily defeated the challenger without once having to show the speed of which she is capable. After watching the two boats in competition we are inclined to think that it is physically impossible to drive a very light hull at a speed of much over 100 miles per hour and keep going. We are satisfied that Miss Britain showed better than 100 miles per hour, in spots, on the straightaways, but when she left the water in her characteristically long low bounds she lit so hard that it was impossible to regain control without slowing down, despite the super helmsmanship of Scott-Paine. On the other hand Miss America X ran steadily and easily without any apparent jumping or pounding. The biggest surprise of all, however, was that Miss America X consistently outturned Miss Britain at the stakes, a feature where the little British boat was expected to excel.
This year's race was held on the St. Clair River at Marine City, Mich. It was a wonderful setting for such an event and a colorful panorama with hundreds of boats of every imaginable size and type closely packed for the entire length of the course on the Canadian side and at both ends.
The first heat was scheduled for 3:30 on the afternoon of Sept. 2, but that hour found the river too rough for high speed racing and it was postponed until six o'clock.
Until just a few minutes before starting time it seemed certain that instead of a two-boat race it would be a three cornered affair with Horace E. Dodge's Delphine V forming part of the triangle. Delphine V had been out on the course in the early afternoon and apparently was ready. After the postponement was announced the Dodge boat had gone to Algonac to make some last minute adjustments.
It was just before starting time and the great crowd was milling around enjoying the thrill that always comes with the start of a big International event. Would the boats never come? Suddenly there was a flash of flame away down stream followed by billows of black smoke. Word went around that a boat was on fire. It was Delphine V and with it went Horace E. Dodge's hope for the Harms-worth trophy. It appears that there had been some trouble with the fuel tanks and some of the contents leaked into the bilge to be ignited by a stray spark. Commodore F. G. Ericson, helmsman, and Pat Gallagher, mechanic, did their best but were forced to jump for their lives. The boat was totally destroyed.
When the warning gun boomed at five minutes to the hour Miss America X was sighted coming up the river but Miss Britian had not appeared. Two minutes later the roar of herengine was heard and the little British flyer came tearing down the course from her boat well at Marine City. She circled about well below the judge's stand then came flying up stream to a perfectly timed start, leading Miss America across the line by a few feet which, however, melted away almost instantly when Orlin Johnson, Gar Wood's mechanic, opened the throttles. It was the first time that we had seen Miss America X at speed since the trophy race of 1932 and we were immediately impressed with the fact that she was trimmed better and running cleaner than ever before. It seems almost impossible to believe that this terrifically powerful craft, which is said to weigh approximately nine tons, can travel as cleanly as it does, but actually she seemed to be throwing less spray than the lighter and smaller Miss Britain III and left her as though that boat was anchored. At the first turn Miss America was leading by 200 yards and on the back stretch she was pulling away easily. Miss America finished the first lap in slightly over five minutes and 29 seconds, averaging 88.052 miles per hour. Miss Britain's time was 6:19.41 a speed of slightly better than 76 miles per hour. In the second lap Miss America kept increasing her lead and in the third lap must have been nearly three miles ahead of the Britisher. Miss America was taking it easy but Scott-Paine was going nicely and getting faster lap by lap. In the fifth, or final lap Miss Britain showed her best speed of the day and made 82.265 miles per hour to cut down Miss America’s lead to a little more than a minute and a half, or a distance of about two miles. Miss America X averaged 82.498 miles per hour for the entire distance of 35 knots, while Miss Britain III averaged 78.449 miles per hour for the course.
Immediately after the conclusion of the race, and while the two racing boats were circling back to return to their boat wells at Algonac, the spectator fleet, including at least 200 fast runabouts, started down the river. It was an amazing spectacle and one of the big thrills of the day for, in an instant it seemed, the hitherto placid river was covered with boats and churned into white foam as the speeding craft raced for home. We stood and watched as speedy runabouts weaved in and out between palatial yachts, express cruisers and excursion steamers, throwing white plumes of spray far out on either side. Soon they passed out of the picture and the river was left to the slower boats all plodding away down stream.
Those who stayed away from the second heat on the afternoon of Labor Day because of Gar Wood's easy victory in the first heat, or on account of the road congestion bugaboo or what have you, missed a real treat. Water conditions were much better than on the previous Saturday but the race officials were not completely satisfied and postponed the event until four o'clock. Both boats were ready and when the starting gun crashed they were close to the line and travelling at high speed. Miss Britain was on the inside and two or three boat lengths ahead. Up the river the two boats sped neck and neck and it was impossible to see which one was in the lead until they came to the upper turn which Miss America rounded first. Scott-Paine swung wide in an apparent effort to avoid Miss America’s wake and lost considerable distance
metal boat was holding her own until immediately opposite the judge's barge when she struck a wash and leaped clear of the water. For a moment her whole underbody flashed in the sunlight and it seemed as if she must do a Kaye Don but she didn't. Scott-Paine was giving a masterful exhibition and it didn't take the crowd long to realize it, judging by the roar that went up from the spectators as he straightened out his boat. Coming into the end of the first lap Miss America X had a lead of only 17 seconds. Miss America X had made a speed of 8 6.04 6 miles per hour and the challenger had shown 81.845 miles per hour.
In the second lap Scott-Paine apparently opened the throttle to the limit and held it there, for his time for each of the four remaining laps shows the most remarkable consistency ever displayed in a Harmsworth race. In these laps, each seven knots in length, the difference between his fastest and slowest time was only 2.75 seconds. The last lap, at the rate of 87.215 miles per hour, was his fastest.
Despite this sensation driving he was unable to get really close to the flying leader. Gar slowed down somewhat in the second lap, speeded her up in the third, slowed down again in the fourth and then, when Miss Britain threatened in the final lap, came through with a final burst of speed which kept about a quarter of a mile between the two boats. Miss America X won by just under 23 seconds.
Miss America averaged 86.937 miles per hour for the second heat, with 89.339 miles per hour as her best lap. Miss Britain averaged 85.789 for the heat with best lap time showing 87.215 miles per hour.
Interviewed after the race Scott-Paine expressed his complete satisfaction with his power plant stating that his Napier engine was the finest bit of mechanism he had operated in his 20 years or so of experience with engines. He stated that the river water bothered him, however, and that he never seemed able to get everything out of his boat. Our own idea of the subject is that the real trouble lies in the light weight of his boat. Years ago, in the early days of hydroplane racing, Chris Smith made no secret of the fact that his hulls were invariably heavier than those of his competitors yet they won with
(Reprinted from Power Boating, October 1933)
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