1940 National Sweepstakes
Shrewsbury River, Red Bank NJ, August 24-25, 1940

More R. P. M.
By "Mel" Crook

bullet Notre Dame Smashes Records in Speedboat Sweepstakes Race
bullet Tops III Takes Final
bullet More RPM
bullet Records Crash at National Sweepstakes

An Open Letter to The Red Bank Race Committee:

Now that your 1940 regatta has passed into the realm of history, you are probably enjoying some pretty nice compliments on what ranks as the largest affair of all time, with 357 starters in the two days. And then, too, the weather man smiled as benignly on you as he almost always does, and the spectator attendance was probably the highest you have ever had. Of course, we are all pretty much accustomed to seeing the records go tumbling decimal over mile on your Shrewsbury oval, but this time you demolished a total of thirteen, which is somethin’.

Yes, it was a dilly of a weekend, and if you fellows didn’t rate so high in my estimation, I’d sign off with the backslapping. But I noticed a few things this year that I think should be brought to your attention. What with a turn in the officiating department, some reportorial snooping and a weak attempt at driving, I saw almost every side of your show, including a few sooty ones.

So let’s beef first as an official. All in all it wasn’t too bad except for the plethora of politicians and other publicity hounds who delighted in crowding into the working section and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

As for the angle of the press—well, I’m glad I don’t have to turn out this page on the spot. Not that there isn’t plenty of room in the press cage. It could accommodate many more re-porters than ever attend. (Of course the spare seats are handy for various kibitzers and a number of local females who frequently tire of standing.) The big difficulty is that the poor scribes would be hard put to it to know that they were at a race except for the periodic gunfire and noise of open exhausts. Because, you see, they are almost perfectly concealed behind the officials and the above-mentioned politicos.

But really, my main complaint is as a competitor who feels that a race is run first, last and always for the competitors. In the large public park lying alongside the Irwin Boat Yard, you have a chance to lay out a "pits" department which would be just what the doctor ordered for the large collection of inboards you always draw. That is, it would be if you used the entire area and not just the small part of it devoted to us. As it is, we have room enough for our boats and trailers and that is all. Meantime, the general public has the larger part of the space in which to gambol and munch hot dogs. I promise that this wiener-wolfing would not be envied in future years if you would give us enough space so that we will no longer be halted atop the hill by the gestapo, refusing to let us bring tool boxes, fuel, etc., down where they belong.

And now I’m through grousing. If yours were not such a swell show generally, these defects would probably go unnoticed. But I know you all well enough to know that you don’t want anything to be "lersy."

* * *

Don Whitfield and Dick Fadyen upheld the honor of this ‘yere home town of "R.P.M.’s" by walking off with a first and third in the midget outboards at Red Bank. Don, by the way, hung up a new class record of 37.527 in the doing. This division attracts just about the only gal chauffeurs left in the game. Dorothy Kuhn, Jane Hendrickson and Frances Defibaugh appeared in the summaries and Elise Tyson was on hand but trouble eliminated her from the running.

Junior Wood continued to mow ‘em down by taking firsts in A, B, and C amateur, creating new marks in the latter two. Strangely enough, his old rival Clint Ferguson accounted for third place in the same three classes. Jimmy Mullen made it a straight heat victory in the F open event and this time "Fergie" took second honors.

* * *

The most spectacular event of the Shrewsbury meet was the race for "Inboard runabouts—except class E." A mere 26 boats showed up for the start of the first heat, and everyone had a chance to see what the English Channel looked like the day of the Dunkirk evacuation. To, add to the fun, some official told the boys they all had to start between the committee barge and the inner line buoy. Somehow, they made it with only one casualty. Norm Frey, driving Tom Ehrhart’s Doris III, was caught in the melee, and before anyone could say "Oh, my !", she was bashed in and sank. The really funny part of all this was the sight of Empty Pockets, a big K boat driven by Jack Kraemer, being chased around the course by Jim Jam, a diminutive A with Tracy Johnson at the wheel.

George Ward took the class E race from a field of seven with his old reliable Hi Ho II. And after all these years, she’s still going faster and faster, apparently, because each of his heats set a new record, the final one being at the rate of 53.571.

* * *

Floridians McIntyre and Hayes could do no better than salvage a second and fourth in the 91 cubic inch race. Tom Chatfield continued to be top man with the little fellows while setting a new record of 52.295 as Barney Russell placed third and Sam Crooks brought up the rear.

The 135 title was won in spectacular fashion by Henry Davis, Jr.’s, Eight Ball III. The first heat of this was very much of a jumble because Andy Crawford and his Ednandy tried to take the first turn in exactly the same way another boat was taking it. Result—two boats sunk and two drivers dunked. Mort Auerbach abandoned the race to return and fish Andy from the drink. This ruined Mort’s chances of doing much although he picked up a second in the second heat and won the final chukker. He graciously declined a run-off race offered by the committee when some of the other 135ers tried to turn the matter into a debating session.

The first heat of the 225’s had everyone rubbing his eyes, for out in the lead were a couple of boats which didn’t look in the least like Tops, nor did they resemble Viper or Chrissie. Not only did these strangers get in front; they stayed there. Result: Meadowmere III, Frank Ripp, first; Voodoo, John Olmstead, second ; Tops III, Jack Cooper, third ; Viper, Tom Chatfield, .fourth; and Chrissie IV, George Schrafft, fifth. But things returned to normal later, and the final standing was Tops 1,025, Meadowmere 850, Chrissie 596 and Viper 540.

* * *

With four Gold Cup boats on hand for the titular event, everyone really expected something. And, in the first heat they got it. Three of them started (Notre Dame, So Long and Gray Goose) along with a flock of 225’s. The little fellows had all the better of the start, but coming out of the first turn, Danny Arena had shoved the Notre Dame up front and there she stayed to turn the fifteen miles at better than 76 miles an hour and make docks out of the 225’s. So Long ran up near the front for a while and then slowed down after breaking an oil scavenger line. Gray Goose hung on to finish third behind the redoubtable Tops.

Came the second heat and it was noised around that So Long was out for the day with starter trouble. Notre Dame went out fast again but on the first turn something happened. What it was is not exactly known, but hauled out after partial submersion, she showed (1) a broken strut, the stub bent to port, (2) a hole through the bottom above where the wheel once was, (3) a total lack of propeller shaft and (4) a long strip ripped from the bottom beneath where the shaft had once nestled. Gray Goose soon succumbed to motor trouble, leaving the 225’s Tops, Miss Fireball and Viper to finish in that final standing.

* * *

The Pacific One-design disappointed by turning up only four strong. In the first heat, Iry Barney finished far in the lead with Hobo, setting a new class mark of 45.801. Carter Hughlett’s Peewee took second with our own job third and Bill Delano trailing the pack. The second heat looked much the same except that Delano moved up ahead of the Bettina. But on the last lap, Barney, far in the lead, tore off a water scoop and just managed to get in close enough behind Hughlett to win on elapsed time. His motor was badly fried.

* * *

Regatta committees could liven up their prize presentations considerably if they would always have those irrepressible youngsters, Jack Cooper and J. D. McIntyre, on hand. As the latter finished receiving his silverware at Red Bank, Cooper stuck his face in front of the microphone and said, "Folks, this ol’ codger here is really my grandfather."

To which McIntyre quickly recracked, "That is a dirty lie, folks. Why, I remember when I was a small boy Mr. Cooper used to take me by the hand and lead me down the street to the barbers every morning to watch him get shaved."

We put the "how come" on. Frank Ripp after he had gone out and done so well in the first 225 stanza. "There was nothing unusual about the speed," said he. "We’ve always been able to go that fast, but I just don’t see any sense in going out and smashing up a boat if the water conditions are lousy."

(Reprinted from Rudder, October 1940, p.50)

Hydroplane History Home Page
This page was last revised Thursday, April 01, 2010 .
Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Email us at wildturnip@gmail.com
© Leslie Field, 2005