1949 Harmsworth Trophy
Detroit River, Detroit MI, July 23-August 1, 1949
Skip-A-Long Wins Harmsworth
An intra-team duel at tremendous speeds more than atoned for the lack of foreign competition in the 1949 Harmsworth contest as two young American pilots drove faster over the Detroit River than man had ever traveled around a marine race course. History will recount how the highly prized Harmsworth Trophy was retained by the United States when Dan Arena drove Jack Schafer's Such Crust to victory on July 29th and the second race, on the 30th, was won by Stanley Dollar with his Skip-A-Long. The record will also reveal that custody of the plaque was awarded to Dollar after he won a special run-off race to break the tie. The Canadian entrant, E. A. Wilson's Miss Canada IV, will go down as the ninth in the list of challengers who have failed to interrupt American tenancy of the British International Trophy. But witnesses of this, the 20th Harmsworth contest, will remember Such Crust and Skip-A-Long turning the fastest laps of all-time and Skip-A-Long running the fastest of heats, long after they have forgotten Canada's futile attempt. Skip-A-Long's performance was a solid victory for her owner as well as her designer, Ernest Fetske.
Selection of the American defense team, limited by the rules to three boats, required a week. The final nominations were not made known until the deadline of two hours prior to the race and great was the "rhubarb" that went on during the period of public doubt. Eventually, to the surprise of no one, the announcement was made that the following boats would represent the United States: Skip-A-Long owned and driven by R. Stanley Dollar, Jr. Three-point, home-built aluminum hull 30' X 12', with Allison power. Ollie Meek rides with Dollar. Such Crust owned by Jack Schafer and driven by Dan Arena. Three-point hull designed and built by Ventnor, 30' X 11'6", with Allison power. Brother Gene Arena rides with Dan. My Sweetie owned by Horace Dodge and driven by Dodge or Bill Cantrell. A conventional hydroplane, designed and built by John Hacker, 30' X 8' with Allison power. Ed MacKenzie rides.
The challenger, of course, was E. A. Wilson's Miss Canada IV, designed by Doug Van Patten and built by Greavette. She is 33' X 9'9" and is driven by a Rolls-Royce Griffon, rated at 2500 hp. Owner's son Harold drives and is accompanied by Walter Harvey. Miss Canada, due to her tremendous power and the known performance characteristics of this hull form, was a decided favorite.
Water conditions were ideal at the time scheduled for the start. The drivers were all late coming down to the line and Skip-A-Long, leading the pack, did not cross until the smoke of the starting gun had drifted away. Five seconds later came Such Crust. Another 3-second interval brought My Sweetie, followed in 6 seconds by Miss Canada. My Sweetie, with Bill Cantrell at the wheel, slipped into second place at the first turn and walked out into the lead mid-way of the first backstretch. Late in the initial circuit Arena took over second place from Skip-A-Long. My Sweetie led the closely-hunched American boats at the end of the first lap, while the Canadian boat had lost some two miles to them.
Soon after they started the second round, Such Crust took first place from My Sweetie. On this lap, Arena really kept moving with the result that he finished the round at a new record speed for a Harmsworth lap. His pace of 94.945 bettered the 93.017 set by Kaye Don with Miss England II in 1931. Positions remained unchanged until the fourth lap. On the first turn of this circuit, Cantrell started to slow down as a broken water line was flooding his boat. Dollar took this opportunity to pass My Sweetie and dug in badly in the attempt. Skip-A-Long took so much water that she stalled on the spot.
My Sweetie quit the race soon after, leaving Such Crust to continue, lapping the challenger near the end of the fourth lap. By the time Arena was on his sixth and final lap, Dollar had dried out Skip-A-Long to the point where he could restart. Undaunted by the nine minute delay, he set out to catch Miss Canada. Such Crust won the heat at a speed of 87.969. Skip-A-Long was the next boat to finish. She averaged 67.933 and Canada followed her, in for a speed of 86.300. .
When this first race was over, Schafer's crew discovered that Such Crust had started to disintegrate from the fast pace and a. large gang was put to work to get her in shape for the next day. The camp of the challenger reported that the Rolls would only put out 1700 of her usual 2800 r.p.m. The engine experts went to work on this situation. Shortly before the time set for the second race, the Wilsons asked for a one hour postponement in the hope that the extra time would permit there to regain some of Miss Canada's lost speed. Jack Schafer and Danny Arena were happy to join in the request since their mechanics, like the Canadians, had been working around the clock.
By the postponement time, the course was beautifully smooth and an earlier rain storm had petered out. Horace Dodge decided to do his own driving this time and put My Sweetie over the line 23 seconds after the gun. He was closely followed by Such Crust and Skip-A-Long, while the Canadian challenger lagged some distance behind.
Such Crust assumed the lead before reaching the first turn. Skip-A-Long, too, passed Dodge in the early stages. At the end of that first lap, Such Crust held a 300 yard advantage over Skip-A-Long. My Sweetie trailed more than a mile behind the leaders but still maintained a half mile advantage over the Wilson boat. Positions remained unchanged through the fifth lap. Arena and Dollar were setting a terrific pace and both were breading lap records with regularity. As their fuel load lightened, they continued to pick up speed. On the fourth round Such Crust had made 96.664 and Skip-A-Long, 98.803. The next time around Danny must really have had his foot right in the carburetor its he chalked up a phenomenal 98.164-then and now the fastest a boat has ever run around a course.
While on her final lap, Such Crust lapped Miss Canada. Arena seemed a sure bet to duplicate his first heat victory. But suddenly, with only a couple of miles to go, Such Crust backfired and slowed to a walk. Skip-A-Long roared across the line to assure the United States of a 30th year of Harmsworth possession. She had averaged 94.285 for the 42 nautical miles, bettering the 89.913 credited to Kaye Don in Miss England II during the 1931 contest.
Such Crust limped home at a crawl but still managed to average 85.628. My Sweetie ran at a most consistent pace to finish with an 81.652 average. The challenger, faster than she had been on the previous day, but still far outclassed. turned in a speed of 77.922.
On August 1st, Dollar and Arena engaged in a two-lap match around the course to decide which of the tied boats should earn custody of the trophy. Such Crust pushed Skip-A-Long hard the first time around, but at the start of the second lap an oil line broke and Jack Schafer's big red racer was forced to quit. Possession of the emblem thus goes to Dollar, who will undoubtedly defend against any challenges at some West Coast spot.
(Subsequently Skip-A-Long also won the Detroit 100 Mile Marathon, competing against Such Crust, So Long II, Aluminum First, Helvin, Such Crust II and R. Buster. Ed.)
(Reprinted from Yachting, 1949)
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