1934 President's Cup and American Speed Boat Championship
A Contestant's Impressions Of The President's Cup Race
We arrived in Washington, tired but happy, on Thursday night, September 20 with Delphine IV. There on the Navy Yard Dock were the rest of the Gold Cap Boats. El Lagarto, Louisa, Miss Saranac, Hornet. Only Jay-Dee had not yet arrived It made you feel good to sec them all.
The first heat was scheduled for Friday, but it rained so hard day that the schedule was moved ahead a day. Saturday turned out to be fine. Every one had been complaining about the large amount of driftwood both in front of the Navy yard, and on the course. When our boat was put over for a trial run, we found that no one had underestimated. One wit at the Navy Yard said that it wasn't so bad, because they had picked out all of the trees that were floating. While waiting around for the first heat, George Reis and Bill Horn do a lot of clowning in the Diving School. Bill gets a paper box and holds it against a wire buffing wheel running at top speed, and starts to imitate our engine with the resulting noise. Then George Reis and he both start dropping wrenches on the floor to simulate the "Iron Pouring Out."
Delphine IV was one of the last boats put overboard, and we ran slowly out to the course, arriving at the Apache to hear someone, I think it was Bill Eldridge, say "One Minute to the Five Minute Gun" It made you get a little tingle in your spine. "It Won't Be Long Now." There are the rest of the boats idling about.
Boom! the five minute gun. Everyone gets going to warm up a little and get ready for that start. Everyone waves to everyone else. I'm all atingle now. I look at Bill Horn. He flashes that old smile that means "Everything's O.K." I count of the minutes for him. Finally, "Coming up on the last minute."
Boom. there goes the one minute gun. By this time I'm as nervous as an old maid with her first beau. We'll soon know what is what. Our start has been timed to a split second. Time to go. Bill gives her the gun. Here come the rest of the field. Every man for himself. All driving to win. Suddenly our r.p.m.'s drop. A slight vibration sets up. We've struck a piece of drift wood with our wheel, and it's bent. We are falling behind! All our preparation is shot to pieces.
The starting gun; Our start is terribly late. Down the stretch to the first turn we go. We get boxed on the way down, and get Hosed Down beautifully by Louisa and El Lagarto. I cannot see, or catch my breath except in gasps, for a quarter of a lap. We're running in fourth position. R.p.m. down 500 below normal. Oil pressure O.K. Oil temperatures O.K. Water temperature O.K. Fuel pressure O.K. I look at Bill. He still has that smile. "Tough luck, old Kid," he shouts above the roar of the engine. The rest of that heat is history. We finished third. Hornet was wrecked trying to pass El Lagarto. Arctic Tern capsized El Lagarto Wins!
We talk it over on the way back to the Navy Yard. Wait till that second heat. The race isn't won yet. We arrive at the yard and have the boat pulled out and put back on her cradle. There's the wheel. One of the first to look at it is George Reis "So that's what was wrong with you guys. I was wondering what was the matter." The same sentiments are expressed by the rest of the field. A swell bunch of sports. You feel that life is worth living The boat and engine are checked over, a new wheel is installed, and a slight kink taken out of the rudder. I take the boat out early Sunday morning and she is running sweet. She is put back on her cradle again. Bill Horn arrives with a "How's she, Kid?" I give him the dope. "That's better." First heat today at 2:40.
We get away from the Yard at a little after two, and go through the same procedure as the day before. This is going to tell the tale. The five minute gun. The ONE minute gun. We start for the line, our r.p.m.'s are up. The starting gun! We're over the line within a split second of it. A perfect start. There's Louisa on our left, and El Lagarto a little to the rear. I sight across the cowl. We're gaining. A foot, a yard, six feet. Boy, oh Boy. OH BOY, what a thrill. The first turn is looming up swiftly. I remember Elmer Johnson's statement in the lobby of the Willard, the night before. "Beat them into the first turn and you’ll never beheaded." I look back. We're in the clear. Here's the first buoy. I brace myself for the turn which consists in wedging my feet and arms against the sides of the cockpit and holding against Bill with my left shoulder to keep him from slipping in case we hook. Here we go. Boy is he Chauffering that Baby today. We’re out in front. R.p.m.’s are normal. Oil pressure is O.K. Temperatures are O.K. Fuel pressure is up. I give a quarter turn on the grease gun that feeds the stuffing box, and look at Bill. He has relaxed and has that smile again. We both look back for a moment. We're gaining. We've worked hard ever since the Gold Cup race for this moment. Our boat is running like an express train, and just as smooth. No more galloping gadget.
Each lap we strengthen our lead. "We’re coming down the back stretch on the fourth lap. I have just finished checking the instruments, when suddenly there is a rending and tearing, and the heavy pound of steel against steel, and what a moment before was a beautifully running power plant, dies a horrible death with a few final gasps, as if it hated to quit. It sounds like the crankshaft and a rod have let go. Well, that's that. We wave to the others as they come by, and they all wave back. The rest of the race, like the first heat, is history. El Lagarto wins again. He deserves it.
We finally get towed back to the Navy Yard, and the first to greet us are the ones we have raced against. They all express their regrets. They are absolutely sincere. It makes you feel like it isn't such a bad world after all.
I heard later that someone remarked that when we were going down the stretch to the first turn, it looked like Bill had made up his mind to "Go to Hell or bust," and that just about sums it up. Someone asks him what he is going to do. "Just Wait Until Next Year ————."
(Reprinted from The Rudder, November 1934)
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