1933 President's Cup
El Lagarto Makes a Grand Slam
An Ode to El Lagarto
Old El Lagarto is a very agile boat, The old leaping lizard dodges like a mountain goat, She jumps and dives, she's got nine lives, She takes the turns so neat, She's the ace of the Gold Cup Fleet.
(With apologies to John Brown's Body)
With this vocal tribute to the prowess of El Lagarto and her owner-driver, George Reis, the curtain was run down on the 1933 Gold Cup season in the Press Club at Washington, D. C., at 2 a.m., Sunday, October 1.
It was a fitting finale and a well deserved token for the combination of man and boat which had made a clean sweep of the 625 cubic inch class prizes during the summer. Reis had just succeeded in driving El Lagarto to her second victory in the President's Cup, adding this triumph to the National Sweepstakes and the Gold Cup championships which he had previously won during the season.
Far from an uneventful victory, it was, that the veteran Lake George craft won on the choppy waters of the narrow-channeled Potomac river. The race was packed with thrills and heartbreaks and when that "Leaping Lena" of the fleet, Delphine IV, went berserk with two of the grandest guys aboard that ever sat in a speedboat, there was many a silent prayer offered up by those indifferent veterans of flag and chronometer who ruled the committee boat.
Delphine nearly did a fade out with Bill Horn and Charlie Grafflin. Jumping like all get out, the craft leaped clear of the water, except her fin, but came down right side up, glory be. The strain however was too much for the former champion's rudder, and this along with her canoe stern, disintegrated, sending the craft plunging, like a wild thing, head on for an army transport anchored inside the course.
Keeping their wits about them, the crew shut off the motor and in one last desperate lunge, Delphine IV gave a sudden twist and swept up against the stern of the transport, broadside. Tragedy was averted by the unseen hand that changed Delphine’s course, but Grafflin, caught under the gunnel of the racer and pummeled by Horn's 195 pounds as the pilot came alongside, suffered the brunt of the collision. Painfully but not seriously hurt, the mechanic was taken to the hospital suffering from shock, dislocated shoulder and several broken ribs. Horn, whose winning smile was wiped away only for a moment, came out fit as a fiddle and looked surprised no end when the doctor diagnosed the "itch in his back" as a broken rib.
Such was the incident which put Delphine IV, the defender, out of the running. El Lagarto was well in the lead at the time however and Reis kept the season's champion at a 55.555 miles per hour average to take the first heat and set a new 15-mile record for the President's Cup.
There's one aftermath of the first heat which bears telling. Ira Hand, who turned pale and mute, and Sammy Dunsford, whose gray hair grew a trifle whiter in that awful moment. confronted Horn after he had reboarded the committee boat.
"Bill," said Ira, "you have no idea how we felt up here when we saw you heading for that big transport, 60 miles an hour—."
"Whadya mean sixty," interrupted Horn. "We were doing seventy."
Those boys can take it in this speedboat game.
And to get on with the story. The second day, second heat. Only four of the original starters facing the line. Arctic Tern, entered by Ernest Chase, of Baltimore, and driven by John Bramble, had dropped out along with Delphine IV. Horace Dodge was at the helm of Delphine VII, runner-up the first day. F. C. Ericson was at the wheel of Ethyl-Ruth III, the new entry of John Shibe, of Philadelphia. Jack Rutherford, with his wife Maude, as mechanic, drove Imp.
The boats came up too fast for the start and all were over the line before the gun.
"Just a bunch of Class A Division One drivers," Bill Horn yelled from a spectator's seat on the committee boat, the U.S.S. Apache.
El Lagarto turned on the course but her plugs fouled and she was unable to make headway. The other boats came back around the Apache for a restart with Ethyl Ruth III in front. The field was away before El Lagarto got going again, Ethyl Ruth far in the lead. Ericson held the Shibe craft there until in the final lap when low oil pressure forced him to quit. In the meantime Ericson had set up a new race lap mark of 60.81 miles per hour and Reis had fallen back with El Lagarto, unable to close up the wide gap.
With Ethyl-Ruth out of the running however, El Lagarto came through with her second win, although her speed was cut to 54.788 miles per hour. Delphine VII was again second and Imp was last.
There still remained the final heat. The field was idling on the one-minute gun except Dodge, who drove Delphine VII across the line and proceeded down the course. The other boats waited for the clock to spin and started with the second gun, as is the usual practice. El Lagarto again came in first, according to the count and Delphine VII was made to run an extra lap.
Dodge entered a protest however, claiming that he had set his watch with the official clock and that he had started on the appointed minute. The committee, in rechecking, discovered it had made an error; was a minute late on the start and gave first place to Delphine VII. This decision had no bearing on the final standing, however, and El Lagarto was the race winner, 1161 points to 1122 for Delphine VII.
That seventh running of the President's Cup race will provide hot stove league fodder for many seasons to come. Just what may have happened in the final heat had Ethyl Ruth kept running to win the second is a matter for wide discussion. Armond Pugh had driven the boat, which is the hull of the former Delphine VI (Impshi) powered with the Miller motor from Miss Philadelphia, to third place in the first heat. Whatever the ultimate outcome may have been, it stands to reason that the Ethyl Ruth III and El Lagarto would have put on one grand show in the finale.
Delphine VII, the new Crouch designed racer which Mrs. Raymond T. Baker drove in the Gold Cup championships at Detroit, performed beautifully during the entire race but did not have the necessary speed to seriously challenge the winner. This craft will bear watching next year.
Horace Dodge was well represented in the race. He drove Delphine VII, which was entered in his name and he owned the hull of Ethyl Ruth III and the motor of Delphine IV. Bill Horn was listed as the owner of the hull of Delphine IV and the boat was entered in his name.
Imp, the President's Cup victor of 1929, pleased Jack Rutherford with her performance although she was third. It was the first time the Imp had crossed the finish line in four starts during the season. Arctic Tern, the old Miss Philadelphia and Miss Tampa, was, too slow and unsteady to remain in the race.
El Lagarto, in repeating her victory of 1931 became the first boat to win the cup twice. The veteran craft not only staged the first "come back" in Gold Cup history but hung up her fifth major victory since she made her debut as the Lake George Lizard three seasons ago. A grand testimonial for the tireless efforts of George Reis and his dashing side-kick and mechanic, Dick Bowers, to keep the champion boat on the go.
Honors were well divided in the remaining events on the two day racing program. As the grand finale in the Potomac-Free-For-All, John Bramble drove his Pep III, the former Miss Chicago, to victory at 53.731 miles per hour. This race was not without its thrills. Betty III, owned and driven by Melvin Crook, of Montclair, N. J., sank on the initial lap of the free-for-all while doing 60 miles an hour on the lower turn. Betty III, formerly the sweepstakes victor, Rowdy, was caught in a heavy wash at the start and her forward step—pounded away, tearing a hole in her side.
Crook held the craft wide open, unaware that anything had happened, and was far in the lead on the back stretch. As he attempted to make the second turn, Crook said the steering wheel suddenly came off in his hands, the throttle jammed, and, full speed ahead the craft started for a group of small cruisers anchored at the lower end of the course. Walter Ackerly, the mechanic, shut off the motor, and the boat, rapidly filling, wallowed to a standstill after just grazing one of the cruisers. A patrol took off Betty's crew, up to their knees in water, and the craft sank in the channel.
Emancipator II, the National 125 cubic inch hydroplane champion owned by S. Mortimer Auerbach, of Chicago, continued her winning streak in the cup regatta. The Emancipator took her class honors in two straight heats and in making 44.291 miles per hour to win the second five-mile race, was just a trifle short of the class competition record of 44.577 miles per hour held by Edison Hedges' Flying Eagle.
Flying Eagle did not compete at Washington and Emancipator's chief opposition came from Joe-Don, owned by Joseph Monigle, of Wilmington, Del. Joe-Don and Howdy Jr., owned by H. Y. Haffner, of Severna Park, Md., put up a good battle for second place in the initial heat but Howdy dropped out in the final, leaving third place to Dr. Cecil H. Bagley's Chotsie IV.
Outboard high point honors for the two days went to Lewis Carlisle, of East Islip, N. Y., with Fred Jacoby Jr., of North Bergen, N. J., the runner-up. Carlisle, an amateur, took first in C, second in A and finished third in both B and F open. Jacoby took the B open honors, was third in C II and second in the F open race.
Tommy Tyson, of Chestnut Hills, Pa., was the Class A amateur winner and Elmer Stagmer, of Baltimore, driving his first race as a professional, took the division two victory in the class. Cab Walier, of Syracuse, was the C II winner and Charlie Cabot, New Haven, Conn., won in the F open race.
Buddy Hempstead, of Philadelphia, took a lion's share of the inboard runabout trophies, winning both the Class E. F, G and H events with his Joe Anne. Bob Snadecki, Westover, Pa., won the Class A to B race in his Pigeon Bearcat and Ferdinand Carter's Restless, of Philadelphia, was victorious in Class I. Walter Saunders won the All-Washington runabout race with his Virginia and in the ladies' free-for-all Maude Rutherford drove Delphine VII to victory. Her speed was 51.078 miles per hour in the Gold Cup boat.
The regatta was unquestionably the finest ever staged in Washington. Interest was at a high pitch with good attendance, especially on Saturday. Preliminary events were staged both before and after the speedboat races as a part of the aquatic week program.
The "big three" of the regatta, John A. Remon, general chairman; L. Gordon Leech race committee chairman, and William C. Shelton, chairman of the entertainment committee, all deserve a great big hand. It was by no means a three-man job to put on the gigantic program of action, and every committee head and worker is to be extolled. The reception at the Corinthian Yacht club on Friday night and the marine parade the same evening were only two of the high spots, which also included the closing dinner and dance at the Press club Saturday night.
(Reprinted from Power Boating, November, 1933)
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