1948 Harwood Trophy
Cantrell Wins Harwood Trophy
On Sunday afternoon, September 12, 1948, Bill Cantrell of Louisville, Kentucky, driving Lou Fageol's So-Long made the fastest trip around the island of Manhattan so far recorded. Averaging fifty-one miles an hour, the grinning Cantrell was first of seventeen starters to complete the rough circuit in the sixth running of the race around Manhattan.
Prerace entries in the hands of officials of the American Inboard Association, sponsors of the race, gave indications that this year's event would be one of the biggest and best marathons ever staged, but by the time the starting gun was fired the actual entries on hand totaled only seventeen. However, where quantity was missing, quality was present, as eleven of the seventeen starters finished the grueling trip of twenty-nine statute miles. Starting in the Hudson River at Seventy-second Street, the course ran south down the Hudson around the Battery, up the East River to the Harlem, through the Harlem to Spuyten Duyvil, out again into the Hudson, and then south under the imposing George Washington Bridge to the starting line at Seventy-second Street, where the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa was anchored to serve as the committee ship.
At the start the seventeen assorted craft looked like so many anxious water bugs on the rough Hudson, and as the final seconds of the starting clock ticked off, last year's winner, Joe Van Blerck of Freeport, Long Island, pushed his red hulled Aljo V out in front and hit the line with the crack of the cannon, closely followed by restaurateur Jed Hanley of Providence, R. I., in his 225 the Malt-n-Hops, and Les Cloak of New York in his E Racing Runabout the Pancho. Behind these three leaders and veterans of the run were bunched four Jersey skiffs, the only craft which seemed more or less at home in the rough water. Eighth across was the fastest of all the entries, Lou Fageol's So-Long, a Ventnor hull powered by a Fageol seven liter engine and piloted by Bill Cantrell, acknowledged one of the best chauffeurs in both the raceboat and racecar business. After Cantrell crossed the starting line the remainder of the field followed. Assorted skiffs, runabouts and hydroplanes, ranging from Danny Murphy's little 91 cubic inch hydro the Lil Toot, to the big Liberty powered runabout entered by Oscar Prescott of Elmhurst, Long Island.
At the Battery checking point it was Cantrell out in front of Van Blerck and Hanley by seconds. Already the water conditions in the Hudson had started to take a toll, as Murphy's tiny 91 was forced to give up the battle and return to the pits. S. J. Schmidt of Long Branch, N. T., in his Susan II, an E Service Runabout, and Anne Jensen at the wheel of the Miss Century, another E Service Runabout, followed in that order two minutes ahead of Les Cloak in the Pancho. One by one the rest of the field rounded Battery Point and started the run tip the East River which also was far from smooth. Cantrell at this point started to air out his power plant and established a sizable lead over the rest of the field with the exception of Van Blerck who hung on tenaciously, pushing his smaller 225 to the limit to stay with the So-Long. First casualty in the East River was Cloak, who was forced out at Twenty-third Street. Miss Jensen, the Flushing, Long Island, nurse, also was eliminated from the race when her Miss Century flipped off the south end of Welfare Island, sending her to the hospital for emergency treatment. Fortunately her injuries were not serious and she was released after examination and treatment.
At the Spuyten Duyvil checking point the nip and tuck battle for the Harwood Trophy, and the one thousand dollar savings bond was still going on between Cantrell and Van Blerck, both being timed at that mark just twenty-three minutes after crossing the starting line. Coming out into the Hudson for the final phase of the run, Cantrell's advantage increased as his larger hull was more stable in the heavy chop than Marathon Toe's smaller 223. With the Tamaroa in sight; Cantrell leaped and bounced down the Hudson, and just eleven minutes after checking through at Spuyten Duyvil he crossed the finish line well in the lead, having made the full circuit in 34.04 minutes, a new record for the race. It was almost unbelievable to officials on the Tamaroa, for water conditions for the race were far from ideal and it was the consensus of opinion that Van Blerck's record time of 39.7 minutes established in 1947 was safe. However all present did not take into consideration the ability of both Cantrell and his outfit to tame the elements. Battered and somewhat weary, Cantrell circled around the official boat, giving the news photographers opportunity to get shots of the record breaking combination.
After Bill went to the pits the second boat to finish, Joe Van Blerck's Aljo V, crossed the finish line. Van Blerck's time was 40.26 minutes for the trip, just six-tenths of a minute from his 1947 time. The average speed for the Aljo V was 43.1 m.p.h.
Third boat to get the checkered flag was Jed Hanley's Malt-n-Hops. In spite of having torn the top off the starboard sponson, Hanley managed to complete the trip at an average of 39 m.p.h.
S. J. Schmidt in the Susan II was the first of the runabouts to get the welcome finish flag. Schmidt in a Seaman skiff powered by a Gray was clocked at 48.38 minutes for an average speed of 38.4 m.p.h. Less than two minutes behind Schmidt came Dave Gerli in his class G Service Runabout the Ilreg from Smithtown, Long Island, and Howard V. Love of Havre de Grace, Md., in the Beetle Baum, a B Racing Runabout. Both Gerli and Love were clocked at 34.7 miles an hour. Seventh to finish was Charles Klein of Long Beach, Long Island, in the Chaz II, an H Service Runabout which might have made a more creditable showing if all twelve cylinders of the big Scripps power plant had kept running for the full trip. As the Chaz II crossed the line the engine sounded far more like a corn husking machine running at full speed than a high powered runabout.
The Harwood's Trophy Race Around Manhattan Island is one of the richest races for inboard racing boats, and one which does more for drivers and crews than any other regatta in the East. After the race a delightful buffet supper at the New York Athletic Club was given all contestants. Prizes were awarded all group winners, with Lou Fageol being awarded permanent possession of the handsome Harwood Trophy and also the thousand dollar savings bond. Joe Van Merck and Jed Hanley received first and second prizes for Group II, while Henry Slocum won Group III honors. Howard Love was given the one hundred dollar first prize for Group IV, and Charles Klein received the same for Group V. Dave Gerli and S. T. Schmidt were awarded the same amount as winners of Groups VII and VIII.
It was too bad that a larger field was not on hand to compete for the extensive purse put up for this historic race. Everything was arranged for the safety and wellbeing of the driver and his equipment, and the casualties this year were less than ever before. A large portion of the credit for the successful organization of the race should go to Vic Oristano, secretary of the American Inboard Association, and Les Cloak, president of that body of racing drivers. It was a well planned and set up regatta, with worthwhile prizes, and next year's running of the race will bring out a record field, now that it has been shown that the trip around the island can be made without too much risk of damaging fine racing equipment.
(Reprinted from The Rudder, October 1948, pp.14, 63)
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