1933 President's Cup
El Lagarto Takes
By Herbert L. Stone
Not often does a power boat eleven years old win an important race against newer boats with more highly developed power plants, because there has been a great advance in speed upon the water during that period of time. And when that boat wins not only one important race, but takes all three of the premier speed events of a racing season, it is not only something of a record, but is a feat that sets one wondering how it was possible of achievement. For this is no age of miracles, even though the performance of George Reis' El Lagarto would lead one to think otherwise. It goes to show, however, what can be accomplished through persistence, a thorough knowledge of hull and engine development, and by making intelligent use of the outfit at one's disposal.
El Lagarto made her debut as a racer in 1922 as the Miss Mary. She was designed by John L. Hacker, who has turned out many fast racing boats in his day. At the time that she was built the Gold Cup Class had just been limited to 625 cubic inches of piston displacement, and from then on the class was looked upon largely as an experimental class, advances in speed being due to hull development rather than to more powerful motors. And since 1922 speed in the class has increased from about 40 to 60 miles per hour.
In the hands of George Reis, El Lagarto this year created a new 30-mile heat record of 60.315 statute miles per hour at Detroit in the Gold Cup contest. This event she won in two hard heats, while in the third heat it was necessary for her only to loaf around the course. She had already won the National Sweepstakes Trophy at Red Bank, and everyone was wondering if she could make it a "grand slam" for the season by annexing the President's Cup on the Potomac, September 29th and 30th. This she did, defeating a field of six starters, but owing to the short course of two and one half miles, and the sharp turns, she did not better her Gold Cup record.
The first heat, run September 29th, was a spectacular affair. Pitted against the veteran El Lagarto were two boats owned by Horace E. Dodge, Delphine IV and Delphine VII, and another ex-Dodge flier, Ethyl-Ruth III, formerly Delphine VI, which had been sold to John Shibe of Philadelphia after the Gold Cup race and fitted with the engines from Miss Philadelphia. Other starters were John M. Rutherford's Imp, another old boat, and Arctic Tern, formerly Miss Philadelphia, which, with a set of shingles attached to her bottom, and in the hands of John Bramble, did not figure in the racing.
The water was rough for the first heat, and the boats prone to "porpoise" were leaping clear of the surface, apparently hitting only the high spots. El Lagarto was back a bit at the start but responded quickly to the gas. She went into the first turn in second place, but came out of it in the lead, a position she never relinquished for the rest of the six laps. Leaping wildly at times, Reis kept her under control. Behind him came Delphine IV, another high jumper, driven by William Horn. Ethyl-Ruth III was away to a late start, and though she closed up on the leaders she never caught them. As Delphine IV entered the third lap in a mad rush to overtake El Lagarto, she leaped clear of the water and, as she came down, a twisting landing tore off the rudder and part of the transom. Out of control, the flying craft headed for a sightseeing steamer, which she hit with a glancing blow that threw her mechanic over the rail where he was crushed between the racer and the steamer and painfully injured. Horn, her driver, was unhurt. This removed El Lagarto's closest competitor from the race, and the Lake George veteran was not pushed hard to win the heat at a speed of 55.555 miles per hour, Delphine VII being second with a speed of 54.788 miles. Ethyl-Ruth III, running easily, was a poor third, followed by Imp and Arctic Tern, both of which were somewhat out of their class.
Two more heats were run the following day, but the field in these two races was reduced to four and three boats, respectively. Ethyl-Ruth III was the sensation of the second heat. Driven by Frithof Ericson, who had replaced Armand Pugh at the wheel after much hot discussion, the former Dodge boat went into the lead at the start, after all had been recalled for beating the gun, and gained steadily on the other three for five laps of the course. She ran beautifully, on an even keel, and, apparently without effort, hung up a lap record of 60.810 m.p.h. El Lagarto, running in second place after the first lap, saw the impossibility of catching Ethyl-Ruth, and Reis kept her just ahead of Delphine VII. It seemed to be all over but the shouting when, at the start of the last lap, Ethyl-Ruth lost her oil pressure and Ericson withdrew rather than risk burning out his engine. Reis then went on and won by a scant three seconds over Delphine VII.
With two heats to the good, Reis was content to play safe for the third as El Lagarto needed only to finish third to win the President's Cup. Dodge, in Delphine VII, started a minute before the gun and actually finished last; but it seems that the gun was a minute late and the judges heeded Dodge's protest and gave him the heat. El Lagarto was thus relegated to second place, and Imp to third, but the final point standing for the three heats was: El Lagarto, 1161; Delphine VII, 1122; Imp, 937. The veteran had won out.
The committee had gathered a fine field together in both divisions of the four classes of outboards, and in some of the runabout classes. The first day saw the A and B Classes run, with the following results: Class A, Amateur: Thomas Tyson, 800 points; L. G. Carlisle, 685. Class A, Professional: Elmer Stagmer, 761; H. Kiefer, 685. Class B, Open: F. Jacoby, Jr., 685; J. C. Wilier, 656.
On the second day Classes C and F were decided, after furious driving in which several spills kept the spectators on edge. The results follow: Class C, Amateur: L. G. Carlisle, 800 points; Samuel Crooks, 722. Class C, Professional: J. C. Waller, 724; C. Wyckoff, 724. Place awarded to Walier on fastest elapsed time. Class F, Open: Charles Cabot, S00; Fred Jacoby, Jr., 722.
(Reprinted from ?, ? 1933, pp.28-29)
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