1936 President's Cup
Ma-Ja II Wins President s Cup
The Gold Cup class has redeemed itself by staging one of the greatest power boat races ever held in the history of the sport, the contest being for the President's Cup on the Potomac River at Washington on September 26 and 27. Seven of the late lamented class turned up and they staged a rip-snorting, blood-curdling series of three heats that left spectators and officials trembling with excitement. All seven boats ran in the first heat and four finished the final heat, the only boat that actually had a mechanical breakdown being Horace Dodge's Impshi driven by Bennet Hill. The two others were put out of the running by accidents that had no reflection on the engines, hulls or drivers. El Lagarto had her tail ripped off by Notre Dame while maneuvering for the start of the second race. As it was she completed two laps of the race but her driver, George Reis of Lake George, then found her to be filling rapidly and he just made the crane at the Navy Yard before she filled up completely. Delphine VIII, also owned by Horace Dodge and driven by Frithiof Ericson did a most spectacular flip flop directly in front of the committee boat Apache and sank to the bottom in some 25 feet of water. She was traveling at better than 70 miles an hour when it happened and all of her main step and most of the deck were ripped off by the terrific impact. Ed McKenzie, her mechanic, was caught in the wreckage and it was nearly a full minute before he shot to the surface. He was fortunate to escape with minor cuts and a dislocated shoulder. Ericson suffered only a small scratch on his nose.
The "main event" completely stole the show and for the first time the 225 cubic inch hydroplanes and all other classes simply served to round out the program. No one expected Ma-Ja II, owned and driven by Jack Rutherfurd, to capture the President's Cup and the issue was in doubt right up to the finishing gun of the last heat. There was no coasting around the course in the last heat by the winning boat, the Ma-Ja II being driven for all she was worth to win over an ostensibly faster boat.
El Lagarto, as usual, had her perfect start in the first heat and, leaping dizzily, a whole boat length at a time, she led the pack right up to the start of the fourth lap when Ericson in Delphine VIII, driven at phenomenal speed, passed her right at the line. In his anxiety to keep the lead at all costs, "Eric" stepped on her as hard as he could and it was then that she took her magnificent plunge to the bottom, leaving El Lagarto still the leading boat but closely pressed by Notre Dame, driven by Clell Perry, last year's winner. A terrific burst of speed on the part of Notre Dame on the back stretch of the last lap put her ahead of El Lagarto and she won the first heat by less than six seconds. The winner's average speed for the heat was 57.3 miles an hour. El Lagarto was second and Ma-Ja II was third. Impshi, winner of the Gold Cup at Lake George, was a poor fourth and Miss Canada II, driven by Harold Wilson of Ingersoll, Ontario, was fifth—a beautiful boat—but not fast enough to be a threat. The new Hotsy-Totsy III, owned and driven by Victor Kliesrath, was sixth and Miss Cincinnati, driven by R. H. Herman, was last.
The second heat was held an hour later, and it was just before the start of this race, while jockeying for position, that Notre Dame nearly cut the stern off El Lagarto. George Reis, her skipper, though, determined to go on in the race hoping to run fast enough to keep
the water out of the hull, but after two laps, the water won and with engine stopped, El Lagarto was towed to the Navy Yard where she was hoisted out just in time to avoid sinking.
In the meantime, Jack Rutherfurd, driving Ma-Ja II, made his usual perfect start, thereby gaining a couple of hundred feet on his chief competitor, Notre Dame, which is notoriously late at the starting line. Try as he might, Perry, in Notre Dame, could not get by Ma-Ja even though she was a slower boat. Ma-Ja had a distinct superiority on the turns while Notre Dame had to slow down to a walk to prevent skidding way off the course. Rutherfurd held his boat to her topmost speed through-out the heat and at the finish his elapsed time was less than one second slower than the first heat. The average speed was 57.25 miles an hour.
At the start of the final heat on the next day, Ma-Ja II had a first and a third to her credit while Notre Dame had a first and a second. It was still anybody's race. Once more Ma-Ja made her perfect start, right smack on the starting gun, with Notre Dame well back of the line. Once more it developed into a two-boat race with Notre Dame gaining on Ma-Ja on the straight stretches but with Ma-Ja overcoming the gain on the turns. In the second lap Notre Dame actually got ahead of Ma-Ja just before the upper turn but Ma-Ja cut inside her and came out of the turn with a slight lead. Notre Dame tried to get by again on the back stretch but Ma-Ja's driver swung her over to starboard a little and effectually "hosed down" his competitor. From then on the Rutherfurd boat was at least twenty yards ahead all the time but had she slackened her pace for a few seconds or faltered in the slightest, Notre Dame would have slid past her to win the cup. It was not to be, though, and Ma-Ja II was first to receive the checkered flag. The winner's average speed was 57.21 miles an hour. Notre Dame was second, of course, and the others, completely outclassed, finished as follows: Miss Cincinnati third and Hotsy Totsy III fourth. Benny Hill had mechanical trouble with Impshi in the fourth lap and did not finish. And thus the famous President's Cup was won by an ostensibly slower boat against great odds, mostly through skill in driving and head work on the part of her intrepid driver, John M. L. Rutherfurd.
The 225 cubic inch class hydroplanes were next in importance, racing for the John Charles Thomas Trophy. However, the competition was not as keen as most of the races in this class and the choppy water caused all kinds of accidents and near-sinkings. At the end of the second heat, the big davits of the committee boat Apache were filled with "ready to sink" 225 boats and Commander Bloom was heard to mutter that he hoped there would be no more as all the space was taken up! The races themselves were very much one-sided with Miss Manteo II winning all three heats in a walk-away race. Five boats finished the first heat, four the second and only three in the third. Miss Manteo's fastest time was made in the first heat when she averaged 51.9 miles an hour.
David Gerli's Lady Gen won the class I runabout event against little or no competition and in class C and D runabouts, only one boat started and finished, Joe-Don of Wilmington, Delaware. Class E and class H runabouts were easily won by Maude Rutherfurd driving her snappy little Chris-Craft Imp II. Her average speed for the two events was just under 43 miles an hour and like her husband, who drove Ma-Ja II in the big race, she timed her starts perfectly and thus had the jump on the whole field right at the start which with superior skill in driving and handling, left all other competitors far astern.
Melvin Crook drove Betty V to easy victory in the single heat of the American Speedboat Championship. Jay Dee, driven by Jack Rutherfurd, was second, Miss Saranac, owned by Edward Guggenheim, was third and a big Chris-Craft, Restless II, owned by Stephen Seth, was fourth. Betty's average speed for the race was the fastest recorded for the entire regatta in any class, 60.09 miles an hour and as usual she ran faultlessly through-out the 15 miles even though the water was decidedly lumpy by that time.
The A.P.B.A. Championships for the 225 cubic inch class was won easily by Miss Manteo II at a little over 55 miles an hour in the first heat and 51.8 in the second. Baby Toots II was second on points and Baby Toots I, third. La Cucaracha was fourth and Black Imp fifth.
Tops was sixth. Snail and Sketches both turned over in the first race.
Outboard racing occupied the early hours of both days racing and is apparently definitely on the down grade at least so far as entries and interest are concerned. The greatest number of starters in any of the amateur classes was five. Jack Vandeman of Red Bank, New Jersey, won the class A amateur race and Al Deemer of Brooklyn won class B. James Mullen of Richmond, Virginia, won class C and Miss Molly Tyson of Philadelphia won the midget class. On the second morning, the professional outboarders had their innings with slightly better showings in speed and numerical strength. Karl Pannacci won in class A, Dick Neal of Kansas City was first in class B and Fred Jacoby of New Jersey won in class C. The outboard handicap event brought out the most starters with the little midget racers starting first and so on down to class F, each class starting a few seconds ahead of the next faster class thus in effect bringing about a race in which all should theoretically finish at the same time. However, Molly Tyson managed to squeeze through in her midget class boat before any of the larger classes caught up and she was given the win.
On the day before the power events started, 69 sail-boats of various classes raced around the dog's leg course on the Potomac but complete results have not been received up to the time of going to press. However, Pete Carlson of Sea Cliff won in the Snipe class and Aquila won the Comet class event. "Larchmont Bill" Swan won the class D Frostbite dinghy class.
The entire arrangements of the regatta under the able direction of John Remon and Gordon Leech and Jack Marsh of the sailing end were well-nigh perfect and the three days of racing will go down in history as probably the finest regatta ever held in this country.
(Reprinted from The Rudder, November 1936, pp.20-23)
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