1947 Harwood Trophy
Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers, New York, NY, September 14, 1947
Two Late Season Races
By W. Melvin Crook The Harwood Trophy Race Around Manhattan Island
Malt 'n Hops
Harwood Trophy Race Around Manhattan Island
Distance — 29 Statute Miles
|1||Aljo V*||Joe Van Blerck. Jr.||44.5|
|2||Mercury||Oliver E. Elam, Jr,||42.8|
|Malt 'n Hops||Gerald T. Hanley||
|91 and 135 Hydroplanes|
|15||Ho Hum VII||Lou Eppel||30.7|
|17||Sad Sack||Walter Haberman||19.6|
|B, C, D, and E Service Runabouts|
|3||Skyrocket II||Leston Cloak||40.7|
|8||Prosperity||Joseph Karaszi, Jr.||33.0|
|F, G, H and I Service Runabouts|
|5||Chicago VII||George Sedlmayr||37.0|
|10||Son-of-a-Gun||Mrs. B. F. Goodall||32.4|
|18||Judy Lee||Wm. Edgar John||31.7|
|14||Typhoon||Stanton H. Falt||31.5|
|Jersey Speed Skiffs|
|7||Stoggy V||Jim Davis||35.4|
|11||Hell Razor||Elmer Morris||32.2|
|12||? Too||J. Boland||32.1|
|16||No Name||Ben Minton||24.1|
|* Winner of Harwood Trophy ineligible for her class prize.|
The name of Joe Van Blerck is far from new to power boat racing. Back in the days before we entered the first World War, when boats like Hawk Eye, PDQ, Peter Pan and Baby Marold were the toast. of the circuit, Van Blerck racing engines were known the world over. As time went on, larger manufacturers came to dominate the field, but the Van Blerck name continued as a respected one in the industry. In the past two years the family has regained its prominent position in the racing picture thanks to the exploits of chunky, affable, 38-year-old Joe Jr., and his 225s bearing the name Aljo.
Just five weeks before the Around Manhattan Race, Aljo V (the smallest starter in the Gold Cup Race) was towed from the course at Rockaway, smashed and battered by the rough seas. She was old, as race boats go, having been through several years of hard campaigning for another owner, before the war. But Joe had such faith in her that he turned her over to a boat yard to make a new hull from the shredded remains. Four short days before the Harwood affair, the rejuvenated Aljo V was back from the yard, soaking quite shiny but completely devoid of instruments, engine and other essential equipment.
Before going to work, Joe looked her over, patted her fondly, and opined that she might have a chance if he could "use" another driver to run interference through the driftwood of the Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers: He had checked the course and know what he would be up against.
Immediately before the start of the race, it was obvious that Van Blerck's preoccupation with the driftwood menace was a sound precaution. The Hudson at 7th St. was moderately calm. A 10 m.p.h. wind blew almost directly dawn the river and the combination of current and outrushing tide kept the sea down to an away lumpy condition. The flotsam, however, was enough to give a cruiser skipper the horrors. Some of the stuff floating around was twice as long as one of the race boats.
Strangely enough, the first incident, which occurred same three minutes before the start, had nothing to do with drift. Devilish Dolly, a Jersey ski owned by Harold Disbrow, caught fire as she came past the judge's boat and drifted downstream to the accompaniment of a hissing fire extinguisher.
As the 26 boats fell into line for their starting run, they farmed an impressive fleet. What was lacking in the finer points of close starting was more than roads up by the maelstrom they created. Hot Potato, Jack Schafer's Hisso-powered three-point hydro, driven by Al D'Eath, made a wild dash through the fleet and broke into an immediate lead. Oliver Elam's Mercury, the old Ohio Valley 725 Class campaigner, now equipped with a big Curtiss, was unable to plane effectively in the wakes of the other boats and was forced to crawl off to a late start with her enormous engine barely "perking."
The field had run little more than a mile when Pal-o-Mine, an old 33-foot Liberty-engined Baby Gar runabout, running well up with the leaders, barreled over, dumping her three-man crew, uninjured, into the Hudson. The boat floated a while bottom up and then sank. Driver Len Perry was unable to advance any reason for the spill he had just taken.
Bill Bourne, driving the Class runabout Prowler B, was tied up in the pits and finally roared over the line 7˝ minutes late. He had covered barely half a mile when a large object resembling a hatch cover could be seen to fly from his boat, Undaunted, Bill continued as far as the George Washington Bridge where, within a few miles of the finish, the Prowler made a fast trip to the bottom.
At the southern tip of Manhattan Island, observers checked the leaders past in this order; first, Harry Lynn's Skyrocket; second, Aljo V and third, Stanton Falt's Typhoon. Van Blerck had found someone to "use," in fact, he was concentrating so hard on following the leader's wake that he narrowly missed ramming a ferry in front of which his pilot fish had ducked. Joe later reported that he had been as nearly aboard that ferry that he felt he should go back and pay a fare.
The East River took a comparatively light toll. Foremost victim was William Luby's Ckoro which dropped out below Brooklyn Bridge after a piece of drift had neatly sheared off her rudder.
The Harlem was calm and this was the stretch where most of the boats were able to run at or near top speed and improve their times. As he neared the Hudson end of the Harlem, Van Blerck decided that it was time to quit playing "follow the leader" and go out far first place. Suiting the action to the thought, he pushed his little red hydroplane out in front.
Waiting for him in the Hudson was his Freeport neighbor, Guy Lombardo, at the wheel of his empress cruiser. When Joe pulled abreast, Guy gave his twin Sterlings their heads and the two came down the river nearly bow to bow. It wasn't until they reached the committee boat and Aljo flashed over the finish line while Guy veered the other way, that many of the spectators realized that Lombardo was not in the race.
The winner's speed of 44.5 m.p.h. was remarkably high in view of his having tailed slower boats for so many miles. Still it was fast enough to lead Mercury, the second finisher, by a minute and a half, and to beat the only other 225 to finish, Jed Hanley's Malt 'n Hops, by more than 7˝ minutes.
The most disappointed lad of the day must have been Harry Lynn. He was the owner oŁ the big Pal-o-Mine which spilled near the start. He drove his Skyrocket I which was about to cross the finish line in fourth place when her engine suddenly stopped. It was ruled to be a drifting finish which meant disqualification for the boat. Lynn had just one bit of consolation. His other runabout, Skyrocket II, driven by Leston Cloak, took third place and won the class for B, C, D and E service runabouts.
Walter Haberman's little 135 Sad Sack added a homey touch to the proceedings. She was running along comfortably about four miles short of the finish line when her gas line broke and she ran out of fuel. Haberman hailed a youngster who went "uptown" and brought him a gallon of gas. This gallon was just enough to bring Sad Sack home in 17th position.
(Reprinted from Yachting, November 1947, pp.64, 95)
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