1910 Great Lakes Power Boat League Regatta

The First Regatta of the Great Lakes League

By C. G. Davis

Three days of exciting races marked the first regatta under the auspices of the newly formed Great Lakes Power Boat League, held at Buffalo, July 28th, 29th and 30th. The first and last days’ races were held off the Buffalo Launch Club, the second day’s events off the Buffalo Motor Boat Club, over a course that extended about two miles up the river and three miles down, with the start and finish off the club giving the race.

Arriving in Buffalo a stranger, I had to inquire my way out to the Buffalo Launch Club, which I was told was some distance down the river on an island. My informant must have traveled the route, for all the joys he pictured came true. I took the Niagara car to the end of the road and heard all the grievances of motorman and conductor life; there I changed to an old car standing on a single track with one veteran motorman in it. He sat still as I planked myself opposite him and held out his paw for my fare—he was "it" at both ends of the car so I gave up a nickel and we rumbled along the bank of the canal that was separated from the river only by the towpath bank. We all but lurched down the bank off the wobbly track and I was glad enough to get out, walk across a bridge and down to a dock flanked on each side by a row of boat and fish shanties that lined the river bank.

Down the river I saw Grand Island with its whiter buildings and pavilions and boats and near this end of it a smaller island called Motor Island, which is the home of the Buffalo Motor Boat Club.

A small white tugboat was struggling up stream with a scow in tow, loaded with hay wagons and trucks, but I never suspected that it was the combination ferry boat on which I was to cross until it sidled into the pier and disturbed the fishermen who were patiently drowning sorrow and bait as they sat hour after hour on the dock catching nothing.

The load of hat drove up the dock and the last I saw of it, it and the one-man trolley car were racing for the city. Then an auto, a buggy and a couple of wagons drove aboard an Captain Lutz rang the dinner bell to hurry up a big lumbering farm wagon that was coming—the loose boards in the deck teetering up under its wheel to fall back into their accustomed places. Finally we swung out into the stream and scurried back with the current helping us to round up alongside an equally antiquated dock on Grand Island.

Here was a beautiful island indeed, a small amusement park near the landing, with its merry-go-rounds and games and refreshment booths, a fine shady walk running along the shore with settees at intervals under the huge overhanging willows, and strings of electric light all along, half hidden in the foliage.

Over a rustic bridge, past hotels and a row of small bungalows I went to the handsome clubhouse, grounds and piers of the Buffalo Launch Club.

The boys certainly have a handsome club and happy times, as a peep into the den of the "Pirate Crew" with its skull and crossbones over the door, the handsomely fitted private rooms, spacious dining room, etc., testifies.

There is a fine basin into which the boats can be run and tie up to the board walks around its edge. The judges’ platform is built up on the outer L of the dock, and, as events of the following day proved, they needed it to see over the heads of the people that crowded the piers.

The swift current of the Niagara off the city of Buffalo, where Lake Erie pours into the narrow stream, is here reduced to a three or four-mile current. The mainland shows fields and trees in varying hues of green, and the big, rusty-looking blast furnace, with its great piles of iron oar, shut out the river towards Tonawanda. Upstream the heavy foliage of Motor Island blotted out part of the skyline of the city.

When the time came for the first race on Thursday, July 28th, the day could not have been finer if it were made to order, but there was a scarcity of boats and of people that to me seemed odd. One of the officials, however, remarked: "Oh, wait, they’ll all get here all right." Sure enough, they did; late, of course, but that seemed to be the style. One by one little red dots, black dos and white dots appeared up the river and came rounding up into the basin, taking the form of motorboats.

How the people came, I don’t know, for I was busy watching the boats, but the crowd got there all right and when the judges fired the first preparatory gun at 3:30 for the class Q 10-mile handicap race, three boats were ready. Each knew when he was to start, for the judges had tacked up a slip of paper on one side of the uprights of the judges’ stand giving the time for each boat. Sand D did not start, but Snip, a little white fellow, was ready and at the next gun off she shot, careening as her wheel bit into the water.

Dawn, the next to start, had to wait ten minutes, and during that time women and children unthinkingly assembled right under the stand, with the cannon over their heads, but only one such surprise was necessary to make them keep away. Dawn got away with the crack of the gun. She is a black hulled little flyer. The Red hulled Dragon started at the next signal but her crew threw in their clutch to suddenly and it slipped, her engine raced with a fearful roar, then the clutch caught and she made a jump that jerked her crew hard; then again she slowed up; her engineer threw off his oil coat and got bust; puffs of blue smoke shot up out of her four exhaust stacks and she spurted up the river a mile or so when we saw her drift around broadside her crew trying to remedy the trouble. Meanwhile, slipping downstream along the opposite bank were the little white Snip and black Dawn. Snip held her lead and came in about three minutes ahead.

In the meantime the five boats of Class R were being started. Fearless, a long white and green craft with mahogany decks, was first off; then Quest, a red flyer, followed. She did not get away very quickly but gradually worked into her stride and disappeared upstream with a fan-shaped wake of white suds behind her. The next gun was intended for Major, but this boat did not show up, and the little gray Nibs was going to start, but the judges held up their hands, and she circled around back of the line. Then, when Nibs’ gun did go, the clutch did not take hold at first, and we could hear her motor roar. As Nibs got under way Dragon drifted down past us, her crew still at work.

Then Niagara shot off at the crack of the gun, so handsomely that all about me people were shouting, "Look at her go!" "Say, she takes hold fine!" and so on

Fearless led her class downstream, with Quest second just as La Truda started out to warm up. She was the last boat to start and when she went off up river at her gunfire she spread out two wings of water, like those Dixie II throws. Her exhaust was so rapid and sharp that it sounded like the ripping of silk, and murmurs of admiration ran through the crowd.

The boats ran twice around the five-mile course and for a time it was a merry-go-round of cracking, spray-throwing motorboats. Each received a gun when she had completed the ten miles and it certainly was a pretty sight to see the little fellows go, but the star performance was that of La Truda as she finished.

"Great cat! Look at La Truda coming!" was a remark that made me look up from my notebook to see that handsome gray flyer come up the river half out of water, clothed in spray, with a wake behind her that gave some idea of the kick in her propeller by the series of geyser-like jets of water that broke through the surface to blow away in spray thirty feet or more behind her.

Here is a copy of the first day’s results:

Buffalo Launch Club – July 28, 1910
Class Q Handicap – 10 miles
Boat Owner Start Finish Position
Dawn C. S. Alt 3:41:24 4:23:41 First
Snip F. Fenster 3:31:04 4:27:12 Second
Dragon J. G. Willett 3:44:44    

 

Class R Handicap – 10 Miles
La Truda H. T. Vars 4:19:20 4:45:23 First
Niagara II C. V. Trombly 4:13:28 4:47:24 Second
Fearless A. F. Hubbard 4:00:00 4:50:46 Third
Quest C. Jempson 4:01:50 4:55:30  
Nibs E. A. Ballew 4:11:28 4:59:04  

Course was long – estimated 13 miles

On Friday morning there was no wild enthusiasm apparent over the second day’s races. The program announced that cruisers of Class A would start at eleven o’clock, yet when I arrived at the shore station of the Buffalo Motor Boat Club about ten o’clock the club launch Island Queen that does ferry duty to Motor Island showed no preparations for running, and when her skipper arrived he said that he did not leave there until eleven and there was absolutely no other way to get to the island. I was worried, but now, after seeing the manner in which they start these races, I would know better, and would do as some of the press reporters did; show up about noon. As it was Mr. Wood came to my rescue and got his racer Expense out of his boathouse and ran me over to the island. He also showed me through the clubhouse, and gave me a card of membership privileges. Mr. Wood did not want to leave me alone but I insisted that he had done enough, so back to the city he went, and from then till nearly noon I had the big island and the clubhouse all to myself. So I listened to the ting-ting of the big tin windmill overhead and the twitter of birds and rustle of the leaves.

Four cabin cruisers showed up for the fifty-mile race to Port Colborne and return. They were Pirate III, owned by H. L’Hommedieu; Nereid, Dr. C. Banta; Oidono, J. Flett, and Janet, J. Thorner, owner. Good-natured banter was shouted from boat to boat and one crew scrambled aboard their craft only a minute and a half before the starting gun.

Three of them were well bunched at the gun and made a pretty start. Nereid was a little late, for her crew were hauling their dinghy up over the stern just as the gun boomed, but she lost no more than a hundred yards at that.

While about it I may as well tell what happened to this happy quartette. Pirate II and Nereid made their way alone out against the swift current where Lake Erie pours into the river, but the other two lashed their boats together and assisted each other against the current. It was pretty lumpy going over. At 2:30 Nereid passed the Dummy Light. She arrived at Port Colborne at 5:15 p.m. and started back across the lake. When about a mile out she met Oidono, whose crew shouted and asked them if they had registered, so back they went and all four crews went ashore and had supper at Port Colborne together.

This description of the race is all I could get the next day from the crews of Nereid and Pirate III. After they had supper a heavy squall broke and two of the crews decided that the lake would be too rough for them. They were going to return by the canal, but Pirate II and Nerieid started and had a very stormy trip. Nereid lost her dink and had to round to in a heavy following sea and recover it. Her shaft also pulled out of the coupling and they had to recouple it. They left Port Colborne at 8:30 Friday night and anchored in the lea of Port Abino in company with Pirate III, where all hands turned into sleep. The Pirate III put one over on them here by getting under way about 4 a.m., while the other boats did not leave until 6:30, arriving at the Motor Boat Club at 8:17 a.m., Saturday morning, the Pirate III going on to the Launch Club. As to who won the race—that was an open question when I left Buffalo. Nereid’s crew claimed that they were the only ones to report back to the starting line. So the decision was left to the judges. The crews cared little for that; they raced for the fun of it and they had the fun; that was all they cared for.

After the cruisers started there was nothing to do until three o’clock, except to meet friends and talk and look over the various boats that kept arriving at intervals all the afternoon. Each boat, racer or otherwise, brought a load of ladies and gentlemen, so that when it came time for the race the boardwalk along the bulkhead of the island was well packed with spectators, who sat on the long benches in the shade of young trees planted in a row, or stayed in their boats tied two or three deep along the bulkhead.

Being a stranger I was impressed with the number of really handsome runabouts, beautifully finished in mahogany with nickel-plated fittings and with hulls painted bright red, blue, gray, black or in some cases white.

It was 3:25 p.m. when the preparatory gun was fired and the start took place at 3:30. Fearless was first away in the Q. R. class, followed by Elfralo, a beautifully polished mahogany craft that did not get away very promptly. Nosidda, a boat very similar to Elfralo in shape and finish, jumped from a standing start right at the line into her stride, and Dragon, with a terrific roar, careened to her deck edge as she was opened up wide.

Twenty minutes after the last boat of this class had left, Arab II, Red Head and Hoosier Boy woke things up by something like a speed exhibition. Arab II had about completed one round of the course before the long, low, brown-hulled Hoosier Boy started, so great was the handicap she had to allow.

In the meantime there were some pretty and exciting finishes among the little fellows. Fearless and Nosidda came home almost neck and neck, and everyone jumped to his feet and eagerly watched them. "Prettiest finish I ever saw!" was an exclamation I heard when Fearless just nosed out her handsome rival by half a length.

Red Head dropped out and her owner explained that she had a little trouble, but as Mr. Bullock transmitted the news it assumed grave proportions.

"A set screw fell out of the crank case into the water jacket and that let the cylinder fall into the grease cup. It was only a slight accident and we could have finished by holding a finger over the hole," explained Mr. Bullock, without even a suspicion of a smile.

What really had happened was that a set screw which held the oiler came out and as it went through the cylinder wall into the water jacket the water squirted out, that was the hole they held their finger over. But Mr. Bullock’s explanation caused a good laugh.

Hoosier Boy ran with the regularity of a clock, and finished exactly two seconds after the time the handicap allowed her to run the thirty miles in, but Arab II won the first prize on time allowance.

The judges had a lot of figuring to do over the smaller boats; all the leaders beat their time allowed to cover the course in and were penalized under the peculiar system adopted by the League with the result that Dragon was declared winner. Fearless and Nosidda were tied for second place.

Saturday’s races were again held off the Launch Club, and the attendance this day taxed the capacity of the house, grounds and dock. A rain squall that sent the spectators scurrying for shelter the previous evening left a clear, blue sky, with a stiff westerly breeze rolling quite a sharp sea up where the river widened out a little.

The first class, consisting of Dragon, Dawn and S and D, was started at 2:15 p.m. Dragon jumped into the lead at the start and went twice around the course, winning, with Dawn second.

Much more interest was taken in the final day’s races for all boats started at the gun and spectators could understand what was taking place.

At 2:40 five Class R and S boats started at the same gun. Red Head and Niagara II were the winners. They made a beautiful and exciting start. It was an inspiring sight to see those little racers, both helmsmen clad in oilers, standing, crouching and swaying against the roll of the boat as it sheered about in the swells trying to get every ounce of speed by keeping her on an even keel.

The real battle of the whole three days started at 3:21:40 when La Truda and Hoosier Boy threw fountains of suds astern as their wheels kicked the water and they started upriver on a 30-mile race, three times around the course. La Truda’s two men both leaned over to right their boat as the sudden torque of the screw heeled her over, while the tall, gaunt form of Hoosier Boy’s skipper, stooping over her steering wheel, was all that could be seen above her long, low, even-running hull.

La Truda led Hoosier Boy by a length as the two dashed downriver, close under the opposite shore. The judges climbed upon the railings, a delegation of white-capped admirers of Hoosier Boy stood on one edge of the roof of Bison until that craft took a heavy list, and everyone showed the excitement in his own way. Up the river shot the two racers, under a heavy, black veil of smoke blowing down close to the water from a Tonawanda lumber steamer coming up. La Truda could be distinguished by two high wings of spray, Hoosier Boy by low flat spray wings.

La Truda, half out of water, and Hoosier Boy lying flat, but going like an express train a length or two behind, dashed by the judges’ stand and out of sight, up by Motor Island, then down along the other shore again, La Truda still two lengths ahead.

Next time they came past upstream Hoosier Boy had the lead, and was wildly cheered. I wasn’t cheering; I was studying the La Truda’s action. Why was her nose so much higher out of water? They made the second round in exactly the same time as the first round—yet La Truda had changed her style of running with no gain in speed. So I kept my eyes glued on the spot upriver under the soft coal smoke of the steamer now up that way to see what would happen. And what I saw surprised me. Hoosier Boy came first into view. La Truda shot out of the smoke minus her wings of spray but with a long white wake of water just like the tail feather Hoosier Boy throws up when her rudder is put over and it must have been just what they were doing, for suddenly she rolled over at an alarming angle and groans went up from the excited spectators. We could almost see her bottom planking. The she slid in among the reeds just before the lower range light and stopped.

From the motorboats that flocked around her we learned later that the pounding of the sea on her bottom had made her leak. That was probably what settled her stern so when she went past us and it finally compelled her crew to beach the boat. Now Hoosier Boy had it all to herself and came home alone, winner. On the first round Hoosier Boy cut one of the buoys, but she went over the course later in the afternoon, and the prize is hers.

Results of the Second and Third Days

Buffalo Motor Boat Club – July 29, 1910
Class Q, R Handicap – 20 Miles
Boat Owner Start Finish Position
Dragon J. G. Willett 3:42:00 4:40:50 First
Nosidda H. T. Vars 3:38:00 4:47:38 Third
Fearless A. E. Hubbard 3:30:00 4:47:37 Second
Elfralo Hoeffler 3:33:40 4:51:54 Fourth

 

Class S, T Handicap – 30 Miles
Arab II R. Sidway 4:05:00 5:43:41 First
Hoosier Boy J. W. Whitlock 4:42:00 5:44:36 Second
Red Head H. D. Elliott 4:28:39    

 

Cabin Cruisers – 50 Miles
Nereid 12:30 P.M. Friday 8:17 A.M. Saturday
Pirate " " About 7 A.M. Saturday
Janet " " About Noon Saturday
Oidono " " Did not finish

 

Buffalo Launch Club – July 30, 1910
Class Q scratch – 20 Miles
Dragon 2:15 Time - 59:40 First
Dawn 2:15 Time – 1:01:40 Second

 

Class R, S scratch – 20 Miles
Red Head (S) 2:40 Time – 51:00 First
Arab II (S) " 1:06:06 Second
Nibs (R) "    
Sam (R) "    
Niagara II (R) " 52:56  

 

Class T Scratch – 30 Miles
La Truda 3:21:40  
Hoosier Boy 3:21:40 Time – 58:26

 

(Transcribed from MotorBoat, Aug. 10, 1910, pp. 41-46.)

[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page --LF]