1946 President's Cup
Potomac River, Washington, DC, September 22, 1946
The President's Cup Regatta
The bare statement that Dan Foster, driving Miss Great Lakes, won the 45-mile President's Cup Race from Guy Lombardo in Tempo VI by 16 seconds, suggests merely that it was an edge-of-the-seat contest. And so it was, with the lead changing hands five times during the three heats. But when you consider that this was a new and relatively untested boat that defeated the outstanding Gold Cup craft of the past decade and that, despite Lombardo's pushing Tempo to her limit, there was never any doubt as to which was the faster boat, you can appreciate that Miss Great Lakes' victory wrote a large FINIS to a 25-year era of Gold Cup racing. Never again can the odd-sized, limited power plants built to fit the Gold Cup rules since 1921 hope to compete with the likes of Foster's big Allison which has yet to be "opened up."
The first heat of the President's Cup was run under a brilliant late September sun which burned down on a course disturbed by only a light ripple. Lombardo in Tempo VI, Harold Wilson in Miss Canada III and Bill Stroh, driving Pepsi-Cola III, came out of the pits about fifteen minutes before race time. Canada was put out of the running before she even reached the course by a broken oil pump shaft. Some ten minutes later, Miss Great Lakes was towed out and started with a tremendous roar. Bill Cantrell's Why Worry, the old Ventnor 225 hull with a hopped-up Hisso power plant, Henry Slocum's So Long (she with the Curtiss Conqueror cut in half athwartships) and Gib Bradfield's 225 Buckeye Baby, completed the field.
As the clock ticked off the last 60 seconds before the start, tension amongst the spectators had risen to a high pitch and apparently the same was true with the drivers, for they all hung back and finally roared for the starting line long seconds after the white flag dropped. Cantrell pushed Why Worry over fast and first with Great Lakes gyrating madly behind him and Lombardo coming up fast from the rear. In that order they flew into the first turn with Guy taking the outside slot. As they came off the last buoy of the first turn, Foster made his bid and catapulted past the flying Why Worry in the backstretch. Cantrell poured Why Worry inside the big yellow boat on the second turn but was unable to pass her and they came out into the homestretch with positions unchanged.
Whereas Why Worry used to be regarded as the wildest boat in the Gold Cup Class, she now seemed to be riding serenely compared with Great Lakes which bucked and roared and threw tremendous quantities of Potomac River in all directions. Foster kept just far enough ahead of Why Worry to dump a good deal of this dampness right into Cantrell's lap. On the second backstretch it was impossible to see Why Worry for the heavy curtain of water in which she was riding. You just knew that she was right on Great Lakes' transom or had mysteriously vanished beneath the surface.
Lombardo was ¼-mile astern of the leaders at the end of the second lap. Going into the first turn of the third, Foster washed Why Worry down heavily and Cantrell was unable to clean out his engine for a considerable distance thereafter. With the fight for first thus eased a bit, Lombardo lost no more to them on the third lap and, going into the upper turn of the fourth circuit, he started to close up on the leaders. On the downstream turn he glided smoothly into second place ahead of Why Worry.
It almost looked as though Tempo might be able to show them something as she closed in on Great Lakes coming down the homestretch and into the first turn of the fifth lap. But alas, what Lombardo came into was a most thorough hosing as Foster eased a few hundred more horse power to Great Lakes' propeller. Out of the turn and down the backstretch, the big yellow boat pulled away from Tempo with each mad flicker of her tail. As Cantrell passed the press boat in third place, it could be seen that his engine hatch was loose and about to come off.
In and around that lower turn of the fifth, Great Lakes became temporarily stymied as she lapped the lagging and sputtering So Long and Cantrell lost his hatch and smashed in his starboard pontoon. With Cantrell definitely out of the running, all eyes turned to the Lombardo-Foster duel and were richly rewarded when Tempo closed up tight behind Great Lakes on the Last turn of the heat. But again the great fountain of spray erupted into the brilliant blue of the afternoon sky as Foster poured on more power and pulled away to win by 200 yards.
Foster's speed for the 15 miles was 67.771 m.p.h. with Lombardo's only a third of a mile slower. Pepsi-Cola came in third at just under 59 m.p.h.
Weather conditions were again ideal for the second heat, on the following day. Miss Canada had been repaired overnight but again ran into trouble and was unable to reach the starting line. Pepsi-Cola appeared early but fell prey to difficulties and never started, while So Long's sputtering sounded like an old-fashioned Fourth of July. It was clear that Great Lakes and Tempo would put on virtually a two-boat race since their previous tormentor, Why Worry, was far beyond hurried repairs.
Once again they were all gunshy. Lombardo awoke first and lit out across the starting line in the lead, but seven or eight seconds after the flag had dropped. Great Lakes took off in close and determined pursuit but was unable to make any serious bid for the lead until they reached the first backstretch. Going down that, Foster closed up on Lombardo's glistening mahogany craft but was unable to head the band leader off as they flashed into the lower turn. At the end of the first lap, Tempo was still ahead by 30 yards — a fraction of a second at the speed they were running. Into the upper turn on the second circuit, this had been cut to ten yards. The crowd, which had managed to convince itself that Tempo was faster than Great Lakes around the turns, could hardly believe its eyes when Foster dropped outside around the buoys and continued to gain on Lombardo all the way around. As they straightened out into the second backstretch, the speed of the Allison could be heard to increase a few notches and Great Lakes bored into the lead on the outside.
Lombardo held his pole position around the lower turn of the second lap, and had the lead as they finished the second round. On the upper turn on the next lap, once more Foster astounded the crowd by beating Lombardo through the turn and retaking the lead.
This time, he never gave it up. Dan opened up some 200 yards between his aluminum transom and Lombardo's bow and adjusted his speed to hold that margin.
In just that position they finished the heat. In it, they had erased all Count Rossi's old records set in 1938. Foster covered the 15 miles at 71.131 m.p.h. and Lombardo at 70.63, compared with the Italian's 69.675. Great Lakes' third lap had been run at 74.258 m.p.h. and Tempo's second round at 72.347 whereas Rossi's standard had been 70.866.
With two heats behind them, point standings of the leaders showed that Great Lakes had annexed two first places for a total of 800 points, while Tempo's two seconds accounted for 600. To win, Lombardo would have to pick up a first place in the final session as well as rack up the two sets of 400 point bonuses for fastest heat speed and fastest race. Either that, or Great Lakes would have to break down.
As they came down for the start of the third heat, it appeared that Lombardo was playing for victory via the breakdown method, for he spotted Foster a 200 yard headstart. Thus they started and thus they finished. Throughout the entire 15 miles, the gap scarcely varied and aside from the noise and spray, this was a rather tame parade after the first two hair-raisers.
When they came into the committee boat for the interviewing and picture taking, it could be seen that Foster, Fallon and Great Lakes were covered with oil. A leak had developed just before the start of the last heat and they missed by an unknown margin an out-of-oil breakdown such as had put the same craft out of the Gold Cup.
Winners of the outboard events for amateurs were: Class A, Louis J. Patterson ; Class B, Harold B. Curry; and Class C, Chuck Laube. The pros raced for prize money on the basis of individual heat victories and no class winners were announced. The pay-offs went to Eddie Mattis and Joe Schmutz in Class A; Bob Rowland (both heats) in Class B; and Harry Nicodemus (both heats) in Class C. The Midget title went to the perennial Midget champion, Don Whitfield, while Harper Chance and Jimmie Broaddes split the Class F Open.
In the Class E inboard runabout race, Frank Foulke's Sagana VIII cut a buoy on the second turn of the second heat, and by the time she had re-rounded the marker, she had fallen back to third place behind Sherman Crichfield's Hell's Angel Too and George Brinckerhoff's Monk II. By virtue of an easy first heat win, Foulke took the title on elapsed time.
Gurdon Knapp piloted his Another Little Bea to a handy victory over Ed Campanella's HoMo in the first heat for 91 cubic inch hydroplanes. But, in the final heat, Knapp ran into engine trouble and was slowed to such a snail's pace that Campanella won the series.
In a single heat race for C-F Outboard Runabouts, Charlie Mack staged an old fashioned thriller by starting far behind the field and inching into the lead just before he roared across the finish line to win by 2/5s of a second.
The grand scramble for "All Inboard Runabouts Except Classes A-E-K " saw the B and D record holders come out on top. Bill Hampton took the B title with Flossie while the ubiquitous Foulke steered Sagana VIII to a new five-mile D record of 62.083.
When the 135 and 151 hydroplanes were started together, Merlyn Culver's Yankee Doodle II won in the 135 division with Edison Hedges' Uncle Sam besting the boats in the larger category. Marty Haurin's Gooch II , running 300 yards ahead of the pack in the second heat and heading for a sure 135 victory, encountered steering gear trouble and was passed by the whole field before limping over the line.
Twelve boats started the open event for 225s, Al Brinkman's 61-mile pace in Seabiscuit gave him a first among Division I boats while Vincent Schwing's Betty IV accounted for top honors in Division II.
Only five of the 225s present were eligible to run for the John Charles Thomas Trophy, emblematic of the 225 national championship. They were joined by a handful of others which ran just for the fun of it. Buckeye Baby, Joe Van Blerck's Aljo V and Seabiscuit staged a tight race in the first heat which was won by the Brinkman entry. In the second heat, the fleet commenced to disintegrate. Bill Cantrell, driving Buckeye Baby in place of Bradfield, hit a spar before the start and smashed the port pontoon. Seabiscuit, running well up in front, slowed down near the end of the first lap and limped home far astern of Buckeye Baby. Aljo dropped out at the start of the last lap.
Buckeye Baby was the only eligible boat able to run in the final heat. Cantrell stayed in front of the ineligible Meadowmere for three laps, at which point his steering controls gave up the ghost. After a minute of tinkering, Cantrell started up again, steering with a paddle jammed into his steering quadrant. Thus he finished at a dead slow speed to win the championship.
(Reprinted from Yachting, November 1946, pp.72-3, 116)
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