1949 Harwood Trophy
Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers, New York City, September 11, 1949

Records Fall in Harwood Race

bullet Harwood Trophy Plans
bullet Around Manhattan Island
bullet Sarant Set Record to Beat Lombardo in Speed Boat Race Around Manhattan
bullet Records Fall in Harwood Race

Speeds are going up in the difficult race around Manhattan Island for the Harwood trophies. In the seventh running of this popular and strenuous event on September 11, 34 hydroplanes and fast runabouts attempted to negotiate the course with success coming to only 20 of the hopeful starters. It was a foregone conclusion that one of the several Gold Cup and unlimited hydroplanes in the contest would finish first but there were also valuable prizes awaiting the first three in each of the seven groups into which the contenders were divided.

As was expected a nip and tuck battle for first place developed among Etta, owned and driven by George Sarant; Tempo VI, owned and driven by Guy Lombardo; and Aljo, owned and driven by Joe Van Blerck. Starting at 2:30 these three leaders reached the Battery, at the tip of Manhattan Island, in a mere matter of eight minutes.

Radio communications of the Coast Guard patrol units stationed at intervals around the course relayed word of the passing of most of the boats practically as soon as they went by. The Battery is about seven miles from the starting point so that the leaders were doing close to a mile a minute on the roughest portion of the course. Besides having to work hard in keeping their craft right side up, the pilots also had to keep a sharp eye open for drifting timbers. The U. S. Engineers sweep vessels had been operating around the course for several days prior to the race, continuing during the day of the race. They gathered into their capacious nets, many tons of floating debris but could not possibly pick up every last bit. While this reduced the volume of large stuff to a negligible point, sufficient remained to substantiate the name "Driftwood Derby" which is frequently applied to the race.

Some Fall by the Wayside

Together with the radio messages announcing the passing of the leaders and those who followed, came word of those who ran into trouble. Anthony Orth driving Snubby, a Class F service runabout, returned to the pits about the a message came through mentioning the fact that he had stopped. Jack Vail in Rebel III, a Class D service runabout, with Jack Jensen riding as mechanic, also came back. Al Sunshine in Spot Cash, a 135-hydroplane, stopped, got going again but had to give up later. Pancho, a Class E run-about driven by Leston Cloak, President of the American Inboard Association, sponsors of the race, ran into trouble due to the rough water pounding and after vain attempts to keep going gave up in the East River. A 225 hydroplane Pearl IV driven by Henry Sieck also came to grief and had to give up. Similarly, Riot II, Baby June, Dee Jay IV, Pffst II, Willowmere, and Cupcake were reported forced out at various points around the course. The pounding due to driving a fast boat in rough water was generally the cause of the grief which overtook these drivers. Annie I driven by Frank Morra, opened up to such an extent that she sank in the East River.

The three leaders were reported turning into the Hudson at Spuyten Duyvil closely together with Tempo VI slightly ahead. Etta opened up with her Allison engine and smashed her way through the choppy waters of the Hudson to pass into the lead. Guy Lombardo, not caring to risk cracking up Tempo VI, ran in closer to shore but conditions did not permit the use of his full speed. Etta finished but the pounding had opened her seams to such an extent that heavy pumping had to be done to lighten the boat before she could be lifted from the water by the cranes. She will need to be extensively repaired before she engages in another race. Tempo, on the other hand, came through undamaged and was ready for further racing at other regattas elsewhere. Aljo also came through carefully and undamaged. All three of the leaders smashed the existing course record set by Bill Cantrell in 1948 at 51.0 mph.

Etta covered the 29 mile course in 27:14 or 64.4 m.p.h. Tempo about a minute and a quarter later used 28:30 or 61.0 m.p.h. and Aljo used 29:25 or 59.5 m.p.h. to break the record wide open. Etta, owned and driven by George Sarant, an automobile dealer in Freeport. Long Island, is by a strange coincidence a close neighbor of both Guy Lombardo and Joe Van Blerck so that all three of the first boats to finish come from Freeport. Riding with Sarant in Etta. as mechanic, was Mario Scopinich. one of the brothers who operate the Freeport Point Shipyard where Etta was rebuilt. Sarant receives for his victory a $1000 savings bond and the Harwood sterling silver bowl. He will need the cash prize to help rebuild the damaged boat.

In the other classes which were racing, the only 225 to finish was My First owned by R. W. Keller. In the 135's one boat finished also, this being Flying Saucer, owned by E. M. Fairbanks. In the D to T runabout classes, none finished and in the D service runabout class, Frenella V, Roger B III and Crabsmalter finished in that order. In the larger E, F and I service runabout class the order was Jennie Lee II, Say Yes, Sandra III, Beaver, Stanley and Edda.

The smallest boats as a group were the Jersey Sea Skiffs. These are lapstraked beamy skiffs powered with a relatively large engine. They are capable of better than 40 mile speeds and are not troubled by rough water. Six of these boats started and five of them finished. The winner in this class was Chanticleer, owned by Harold Disbrow with an average speed of 41.3 m.p.h. Susan, ?-To, Falcon and If followed in that order.

All prizes were presented by Harwood and consisted of the $1000 grand prize and a sterling replica of the Harwood bowl. First, second and third prizes were also awarded to the winners in each of the seven classes. These are in the form of smaller sized sterling bowls or cash if the contestant prefers.

Course Well Patrolled

The U. S. Coast Guard set up a most elaborate protective net of small cutters entirely around the course. The New York City Police Department likewise assigned four of its boats to work with the Coast Guard. The Fire and Park Departments also assisted, the Fire Department supplying apparatus and men for emergency standby duty and the Park Department made available areas of Riverside Park and its personnel assisted in making the officials comfortable.

Sponsored by Harwood Inc., the actual conduct of the race is carried out by officers and members of the American Inboard Association. Leston Cloak served as Race Chairman ; Victor Oristano, of Bruno & Associates, as Secretary; Lou Eppel, Referee; W. E. Willis, Flagman; F. W. Horenburger, Timer; Richard McFadyen, starter; Emile Jacoby and Victor Anderson as pit supervisors and numerous others assisted in many ways. Lunches for officials and contestants were served in the Railroad Y.M.C.A. and in the evening, prizes were presented at a buffet supper at the New York Athletic Club, all by courtesy of Harwoods.

The summaries :


Boat, Driver


Average Speed


Etta, George Sarant, Freeport, L. I




Tempo VI, Guy Lombardo, Freeport, L. I




Aljo, Joe Van Blerck, Freeport, L. I




Chaz II, Charles Klein, Long Beach, N. Y




Jennie Lee, J. Elwood Lee, Margate City, N. J




Chanticleer, Harold Disbrow, Long Branch, N. J




Susan, Stephen Schmidt, Long Branch, N. J. . .




Flying Saucer, Ed. M. Fairbanks, Massapequa, N. Y.




Say Yes, Richard Griffin, Philadelphia




My First, R. W. Keller, Detroit




?-Too, John Boland. Port au Peek, N. J J




Sandra III, Kyle C. Smith, Baltimore




Ray Morris, Red Bank, N. J




Frenella V, Fred Brooks, Jr.. Hamilton, Oat




Beaver, Wm. Hanle, Philadelphia




Stanley, Joseph Mascari, Bronx




If, Marshall Van Winkle 3d. Little Silver, N. J




Roger B III, E. Murray Billings. Brockville, Ont




Edda, Philip J. Bowers, Red Bank, N. J




Crabsmasher, Arno A. Ape!, Ventnor, N. J



(Reprinted from Motor Boating, October 1949)

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