Arthur L. Bobrick, Gold Cup Candidate
The particular distaste Commander Harry Jackson, that prominent official of the American Power Boat Association (who is a cruiser man), holds in his heart for speed boats, induced two virtually unanswerable questions when we went into the subject with A. L. (Art) Bobrick.
The purpose, of course, was to uncover Art's motorboat genealogy; one probably as varied and complete as that of any man in the sport today.
The questions were, simply: (1) What is the difference between a sailing man and a motor-boat man? and (2) If you are a cross between the two of 'em, what makes a speedboat man?
We tackled the questions in the President's office at the headquarters of the Bobrick Manufacturing Corp., Los Angeles (established 1906 by Art's dad).
The President's desk was covered with little vials and bottles and chemical what-nots, to say nothing of a lot of shiny metal parts and springs. I understood they are essential in Art's business. It involves making soaps and ammonia and those Sop-o-zon [liquid soap] Dispensers which one is apt to meet (and cuss) in sundry public places throughout the world. Also on the desk and close to the President's swivel chair, as if it had been an object of the most recent study, was a 'prop. Art informed me he was figuring on increasing the pitch before placing it back on El Torbellino, the new hope which he will drive this summer in quest of the Gold Cup at Lake George.
The vials and et ceteras were intriguing. "I used to be in the paper business before I got into this business," Bobrick mentioned.
"So? And which of the businesses do you like best?"
The skipper of El Torbellino grinned: "Motor-boat racing."
So it seems that the difference between sailing and motorboating, to return to our problem, comes born in a guy. Bobrick was born in Boston in 1888. When he was eight, an uncle, Lawrence McCarty, bought him a cute little rowboat equipped with sails (Uncle Lawrence was a sailing man).
"It was a swell little mahogany dinghy," said Art, "and I'll never forget how sore he got...."
One might guess why—if one were a sailboat man—for the first thing the boy Arthur did was to remove those cute little sails, cut up the mast, and, in the manner of Robert Fulton, make and install a little home-made brace of paddle wheels. All this came, understand, without any home stimulation. As for 'what makes the speedboater':
"You know," said Art, "that for every minute we run El Torbellino we work ten hours. S'fact. Not counting the work of building 'the outfit,' it's simply the tinkering and thought and changing we do afterward. So it stands to reason—there just isn't any reason. You can't," he admitted, "give an answer when it comes to motorboat racing anyhow. I suppose that anybody that has anything to do with it is a nut. I'm proud to be one of them."
Which may all be taken, per se, as you like it.
The fact remains that this slim, dark, quiet western member of the American Power Boat Association Racing Commission has witnessed the sport from both the officiating and the competing sides. He has devoted time, money and effort to the up-building of the sport on both coasts. Art Bobrick, more than any one of a hundred 'boatists' you could line up, should be able to tell you why he loves the game. He can't. He simply does. And after all when a sport is vested with that certain subtle fascination which will let a man turn to it and stay with it without the need or desire for a reason it must be a sport worth having. Or do we moralize?
In view of the coming Gold Cup regatta and its sister events on the Atlantic Seaboard, of particular note is Bobrick's comment on the east-west angle:
"I think that the new rule changes give us our best chance to lift the Gold Cup since 1927. We are all experimenting with new hulls and new motors. Unless I am mistaken, Lou (Lou Fageol who will drive So-Long) and myself in the West, with possibly Jack Rutherfurd among the Easterns, are the only ones who have thus far gotten our new outfits to going.
"I have a suspicion (Art, how could you?) that in the East the boys think our light-weight hulls are a joke. Remember they used to think the same of our western outboards until Fergy (Harold G. Ferguson) went back in 1929 with a western 'shingle' and cleaned up."
From these observations it is possibly apparent that Bobrick, although his name is linked with the sport both east and west, has learned to think in purely California terms. Before returning to a few more stray Gold Cup thoughts we might take a peek into the general background of this somewhat aesthetic and calmly-outspoken sportsman—who is likely to carry a more formidable challenge in future Gold Cup Class racing than a few may now realize.
Art's initial racing, as a young pre-teen squid, all took place in Boston Harbor, around Hull Gut and oft Nantasket Beach.
It officially began at the age of nine, when he took charge of (and mysteriously made run) a little one-lunger motor boat bought by another uncle (Eddie McCarty).
At about ten years of age he came West. The Bobricks moved a few doors from Joe Banning, member of the old Southern California family which then owned Catalina Island. Thus, for the next sixteen years there were plenty of boats to play around with. Came an interim of much East-West commuting, then the years from 1915 to 1921. These provided a marine background, but unsatisfactorily so to Art. It was all sailing. He lived then in San Francisco and his cronies were mostly of the windjammer variety.
In 1920 he went to New York and bought a 38-foot cruiser, the first of a long series carrying the Bobrick house-flag.
In 1924 he started the quest for the cruiser championship of America, which he tried to win each year, usually with a different boat. The zenith of Art's motor cruising dreams were realized in 1926 when his Brickton IV not only won the cruiser championship, but captured the other two fixtures, the Block Island Race and the Bear Mountain Handicap. In all he has tried eleven times to win the Block Island performance. Last year, navigating Wallace Hendrick's Alesto, Bobrick came in fifth.
He has also raced outboards, starting in 1927 on the east coast, with the then Class-B outfits. The next two years, with Bill Willis as his mechanic, he raced his stock (?) runabout Eedee at all the regattas around New York, winning the Davidson Trophy in the Hudson River classic. This trophy incidentally, he still holds.
He has held several commodoreships, including that of the Colonial Yacht Club, New York, in 1927.
It was in 1926, after years of fooling about with cruisers, when Art began to feel—as a lot of other now-prominent officials felt—that the existent rules were far from perfect. He began to take great interest in this formative phase of upbuilding the sport. In 1927 he was made Chairman of the A.P.B.A. Rules Committee, serving in the capacity five years, until the committee was combined with the Racing Commission. He is at present western member of the Commission. He also served on the National Outboard Racing Commission when it was formed in 1929 and until 1931 (that historic year so dear to western hearts ; when the National Outboard Championships were held in Oakland).
Bobrick lives in the beautiful community of San Marino where he has a wife, Edith (Eedee to the yachting fraterntiy east and west, and the one and only, since 1920), no children (boats are enough trouble) and a completely equipped boat shop where he and Bill Zartman (one of the top mechanics in the field) work until the wee hours most of their waking time, figuring out the theses and thoses that are to make El Torbellino the whirlwind of speed her Spanish name implies.
About that home machine shop—"I would not advise," said Art, "any racing enthusiast having a shop at home unless he has his wife well trained. It's impossible to keep one's feet out of oil. Women, strangely, do not relish oil tracks over carpets and polished floors. Oily overalls are hard on furniture. Rings in the bath-tub tend toward marital discord."
For several years Bobrick has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Long Beach, Calif., Yacht Club. He officiated in the first 1,100-mile race from Olympia, Washington. to Juneau, Alaska, in 1928, acting as Judge and Referee, and once navigated an entry in the race from Long Beach to San Francisco, which classic D. M. Callis and Art started in 1928
Looking back, one recalls that about 1927 it was Art Bobrick who really organized racing on the west coast. He went to all the clubs, told them what sanctioned regattas were and how to run them. He was a mainspring in getting both the outboards and the inboard cruisers organized.
For a ten-month interlude, in 1935, Art was forced to virtually forget speedboating. On request of the Administration he went to Washington, D. C. There he served as assistant deputy administrator, arbitrating NRA affairs of some 56 industries, in the chemical division.
It was during his sojourn at the Capitol that Bobrick took a good look at the democracy of men who help decree the fate and fortune of our country and thought to himself :
"We'd better get some business men in Congress or very soon there won't be no business."
So he has added to his multiple aspirations a new quest—election to Congress on the Republican ticket from the 12th District in California.
If and when the pilot of El Torbellino gets back to Washington, D. C., you can bet your bottom dollar the marine industry of this country will have at least one staunch representative in the Nation's Capitol who firmly believes that "bigger and better yacht harbors" are listed among the various items vitally needed nowadays in these United States.
As for the Gold Cup classic, Art will be out to win, yet fully realizing that competition will be tough in a field numbering the finest drivers with the best boats, in the world.
He says: "It's a long way to Lake George and back, but maybe we can take second or third place. I'd rather do that in the Gold Cup than win first in any other race I know of. except the Harmsworth."
Outboard principles of design have been patently adopted for El Torbellino which Art Bobrick will bring East to Lake George as a representative of the Long Beach, (Calif.) Yacht Club for the contest on July 25.
Innovations to counterbalance the factor of light weight vs. probably rough going in the arduous Gold Cup chase include among other things, two water-tight compartments at the two points where trouble might be most likely to emanate, namely, a water-tight bulkhead forward and another at the extreme stern, above the propeller. Like an outboard, all the weight is placed aft of the step with the line of balance about midway between the step and the rear end. The propeller travels 2½ times the revolutions of the 8-cylinder Wright-Martin motor. At full speed this is 7,500 r.p.m.'s. The hull was built by Buck Holt of Los Angeles. Bobrick and Bill Zartman rebuilt the motor and installed all the machinery themselves.
Nickel steel bolts and nuts are used throughout and as an added precaution against the rough going which will be encountered, every nut is drilled and cotter-keyed. The waterline length of the hull is only 14 feet 7½ inches, the beam 5 feet and when the full power of the motor is developed, the whole outfit weighs only 6½ pounds to the horsepower.
(Reprinted from Motor Boating, July 1936, pp. 30, 76-77)