1936 President's Cup
Gold Cuppers Stage a Comeback
Sensational Racing for the President's Trophy at Washington with Thrills and Spills
Small Hydros Battle for National Honors
By John G. Robinson
The Gold Cup boats, after establishing a new low level, in the event for which they were built, staged a thrilling comeback in the race for the President's Cup at the Washington regatta.
The first heat for the President's Cup, held on Saturday Sept. 26, was unquestionably the greatest race this country has seen in years. It had a full measure of every ingredient necessary—a fine course, eight of the country's fastest boats, eight master drivers and an international angle in the presence of Miss Canada, the first foreign boat to compete for the Chief Executive's Cup. All this brought suspense, thrills—yes, almost tragedy, but let's on with the story.
When the warning gun boomed at 2.55 p. m. from the Coast Guard cutter Apache, the judges' boat, eight speedy craft were milling around in the Potomac. Aboard the Apache was a hush of expectancy, broken only by the raucous roar of loud speakers telling of the coming race. Crash! the minute gun—and more activity as the contestants sought to pick out more favorable positions and gage distance against the slow-moving hands of the starting clock counting off the seconds before the start. Here they come—bang!—and they're off in a smother of spray. Notre Dame hit the line first but El Lagarto, the famous old warhorse and Delphine VIII were close behind and traveling fast with Ma Ja II in fourth position. Closely bunched but further back were Hotsy Totsy III, Vic Kliesrath's new boat; Miss Canada II, owned and driven by Harold Wilson of Ingersoll, Ont., famous 225 class pilot; Impshi, Horace Dodge's 1936 Gold Cup winner, driven by Benny Hill and Miss Cincinnati, owned by J. C. Fischer of Cincinnati and driven by Dr. Robert H. Hermann.
Going down the straightaway it was impossible to see who was ahead but at the first turn the unmistakable leaping of the leading boat showed that the famous old campaigner George Reis had his "Leaping Lizard" in first place. Around they came and up the back stretch with El Lagarto bounding along at a dizzy pace, seemingly more in the air than in the water, her shaft, strut and propeller clearly visible at every leap. How the 13-year old hull could take the punishment is a never ending source of wonder which is a remarkable tribute to the original builder, the Hacker Boat Co. Battling for second place were Delphine VIII, owned by Horace Dodge and driven by F. G. Ericson, and Ma Ja II, owned and driven by Jack Rutherfurd. Miss Canada was in fourth place, running smoothly, with Notre Dame, Impshi, Hotsy Totsy III and Miss Cincinnati further back.
Gradually the boats strung out as they sped around the 2½-mile course. El Lagarto was setting a fast pace and had a nice lead at the end of the first lap. Notre Dame was having trouble on the turns but her terrific bursts of speed on the straight stretches told and by the end of the third lap she was in third place, having passed Miss Canada and Ma Ja II.
The fourth lap featured a terrific battle between the (lying leaders, El Lagarto and Delphine VIII, with the former having the advantage until the lower turn near the end of the lap when she seemed to falter and Delphine sped past to take the inside position at the turn and a clear lead coming into the straightaway. We didn't learn until after the race that an oil pipe had let go aboard El Lagarto and that Reis, blinded by the flying oil, had been forced to slow down to avoid possible accident.
Roaring up the stretch came Delphine VIII. It was the first time in her history that the British-built craft had ever taken the lead in an important race and with two laps to go she looked like a certain winner. "Eric" had his heavy foot on the throttle and the broad-beamed craft lurched dizzily as she struck the rough backwash between Apache and the seawall. Suddenly she leaped clear of the water—there must have been at least six feet of air below her keel—then landed with a terrific crash on her star-board side, tearing out a huge section of the bottom of the hull from chine to chine, including the metal covered step. But she was not through yet, for the momentum of the speeding boat was such that once more she leaped, this time with her bow high in air until she seemed to float on her transom, then sank stern-first until only a few feet of the bow remained above water.
When the smother of foam had subsided only one head could be seen. It was Ericson—where was his mechanic? Thousands gasped but most of us were too panic stricken to move. Suddenly everyone was yelling for patrol boats. Out they went but still no signs of the missing mechanic. We on the Apache, helpless to aid, lived hours in the space of a minute or so of actual time. Could it be that our sport had turned to tragedy right before our eyes? All eyes were fixed on the wreckage as each individual one of us hoped against hope. Suddenly the water was broken by a black head that seemed to shoot to the surface. It was the mechanic Edward McKenzie, but his face was cut and his head rolled back on the sup-porting life jacket in a way which showed he was unconscious. A shout of relief from those close by was followed by excited cries to Ericson, but Eric was al-ready paddling furiously, hampered by his cumber-some life jacket and soon reached the helpless McKenzie to support him until help arrived. McKenzie was quickly resuscitated and rushed to the nearest hospital suffering from a badly cut lower lip and jaw, lacerations and contusions but apparently no serious internal injuries. Ericson, except for minor abrasions, was uninjured.
In the meantime the race continued with El Lagarto leading until the backstretch of the final lap when Notre Dame got by to win by about 100 yards. Ma Ja II was third and Impshi took fourth place from Miss Canada. Hotsy Totsy III, new and untried, was a disappointment and did well to finish ahead of Miss Cincinnati, which was last.
It was the first time since the Montauk regatta of 1931 that eight Gold Cup boats had started in a race and the first time since the Port Washington race of 1926 that seven had actually finished in one heat. It begins to look like returning prosperity.
The start of the second race was a straggling one, with Impshi beating the gun by a slight margin. Ma Ja II and Miss Canada struck the line together, both wide open and went up the course heck and neck with both drivers intent on the advantage to be gained by being first at the upper turn. Ma Ja II had the inside position and was first around with El Lagarto following and Notre Dame in third place. Impshi was fourth with Hotsy Totsy III, Miss Canada and Miss Cincinnati trailing. El Lagarto dropped out in the second lap and Ma Ja II finished the lap with a lead of at least 200 yards over Notre Dame. Most of us thought that El Lagarto had pounded out her bottom in the rough going, but it was learned afterwards that in the maneuvering for the start the bow of Notre Dame had struck the stern of El Lagarto stoving in the planking on the starboard just aft of the seat occupied by Dick Bowers, George Reis' broker-mechanic. George Reis figured that the bilge bailers would keep the boat afloat and gamely entered the race. The damage was much greater, however, than he figured and later examination showed that the force of the blow had sprung the frames and loosened the planking on the port side as well, so that under way the whole stern of the boat weaved and vibrated in a most alarming manner. El Lagarto proceeded to the Navy Yard and was hoisted out in a sinking condition. It was impossible to effect repairs in time for the third heat on Sunday.
In the meantime the race went on as a thrilling duel between Ma Ja II and Notre Dame. The big stream-lined torpedo had the speed on the straight stretches and gradually cut down Ma Ja's lead until, on the back stretch of the fifth lap, the boats were almost neck and neck. Suddenly Notre Dame slowed, only momentarily, but that slight pause was enough to give Rutherfurd a clear lead at the turn. Clel Perry tried desperately but the big Notre Dame just couldn't take the corners with the reckless abandon of the Rutherfurd craft and Ma Ja won.
Impshi actually finished third, but as she had beat-en the gun she was forced to run another lap, so that on the official score she finished last. Hotsy Totsy III was third, with Miss Canada fourth, and Miss Cincinnati sixth.
Despite the surprising victory of Ma Ja II the general opinion seemed to be that Notre Dame would win the final heat because of her known speed and super-charged engine against the comparatively unknown Ma Ja II with her unsupercharged Packard. But we reckoned without the super-helmsmanship of Jack Rutherfurd and his will to win.
The start of the final heat was highly spectacular-: Out in the stream Hotsy Totsy III, Impshi and Miss Cincinnati were approaching the starting line at at moderate pace ready to jump off at gunfire. Suddenly there was a swish and right from under the bow of the Apache came Ma Ja II, wide open, to cross the line just a heart beat after the gun. It was a beautifully timed start that caught the other boats napping and insured a commanding lead for MA JA at the upper turn.
Hotsy Totsy, Impshi, Miss Cincinnati and Notre Dame followed. Notre Dame showed a remarkable burst of speed and overhauled the slower boats in short order. She duplicated the performance on the back stretch and cut down Ma Ja's lead until at the end of the first lap she was only a few yards back of the flying leader. On the straight run up stream she actually passed Ma Ja and took the upper turn with a slight lead. It seemed all over but the shouting, for with the big Detroit craft facing a clear straight run everyone thought it capable of lengthening that lead; and maintaining it till the finish. But no, Ma Ja has some extra revs in the old Packard, or perhaps Notre Dame slowed, for as the boats came abreast of Apache it was seen that Ma Ja once more was ahead. It was a great duel from that point until the finish, a battle between two great boats and a nasty, short, choppy sea with every moment fraught with danger to the contestants. Notre Dame made it close at all times,. but Jack Rutherfurd was not to be denied and always had the extra speed to stave off Perry's frantic efforts
to get by. On the straight stretches Notre Dame seemed faster, but on the turns there was no comparison and Rutherfurd never failed to gain back on the turns all that he lost on the straightaways. Coming up to the finish Ma Ja II swept past with a fifty yard lead over Notre Dame to complete one of the greatest series of heats in the history of Gold Cup boats. Miss Cincinnati, lowest powered boat in the race, but steadily consistent, took third place with Hotsy Totsy III a good fourth. Impshi did not finish.
Last year the 225 class boats stole the show but this year they had to take second place in public interest to the larger Gold Cup class. However, the popular little boats put on five splendid heats which in any other regatta of the year would have the stellar at-traction.
'There were 13 starters in the first heat for the American Power Boat association 225 class champion-ship and it was a mad scramble as these speedy little craft splashed and dashed in the choppy waters of the Potomac. Snail II, driven by Hugh Gingras of Rock-ledge, Fla., a consistent winner during the past season, was away in the lead, but turned over before reaching the first turn. Miss Manteo led around the turn and finished the first lap with a big lead over the rest of the field. La Cucaracha was in second place, followed by Tops, Wilmer III, Baby Toots II, Baby Toots, Black Imp, Ginger, Zippy Too and Nelson.
Miss Manteo, owned by H. A. Greef, Manteo, N. C., was an easy winner, with LA CUCARACHA in second place, Toes third and Wilmer III, last year's champion, fourth. Ten boats finished the first heat.
Wilmer III split a plank before the start of the second heat and so nine boats were left for the second heat. Ginger got over the line before the gun and was disqualified, leaving eight. Miss Manteo took an early lead with Baby Toots II and La Cucaracha battling it out for second. La Cucaracha slowed down and stopped and Baby Toots took third with Black Imp fourth and Apex fifth. They kept this order until the finish. The average speed was 51.814 miles per hour in this heat, as against 55.384 miles per hour in the first.
The National championship for this class, held in three heats, is restricted to the 10 highest scoring boats which have competed in at least six sanctioned regattas. Only seven of the qualified boats were able to start in the first heat, held on Sunday afternoon. Snail, which capsized in the first race on Saturday, came out with a new engine and appeared none the worse for her accident. She took the lead at the start but Miss Manteo slipped past and was first around the upper turn. Snail II clung to second with Baby Toots in third place, La Cucaracha fourth and Zippy Too fifth. They finished in the same order. The winner, Miss Manteo, averaged 51.904 miles per hour.
The field narrowed down to four boats in the second heat and Miss Manteo won again with Snail II in second place, Baby Toots third and La Cucaracha fourth. La Cucaracha, former record holder, and undoubtedly a very fast boat, seemed to be having clutch trouble. The water was much rougher than in the first heat and the winner's speed was only 42.614 miles per hour.
Miss Manteo also won the final heat with Snail II again second and La Cucaracha third. It was a wonderful clean up for Miss Manteo which won five straight heats in 225 class racing. This boat was built by the Ventnor Boat Works, Ventnor, N. J. and is powered with a six-cylinder Lycoming 225 class racing engine. As a matter of fact practically all of the 225 class boats were Lycoming-powered.
The race for 91 and 135 cubic inch class hydros was won by Baby Pep, owned by Frederick Hahn III, Philadelphia. This is a Ventnor hull and is powered with a Gray engine of the 135 cubic inch class. Eagle, owned and driven by Edison Hedges, Atlantic City, N. J., was second. Eagle is a 91 cubic inch class boat, powered with a four-cylinder Universal Blue Jacket. Eagle's speed of 40.053 miles per hour set a new competitive record for the class. Winkle III, owned by John L. Hyde Jr., Washington, took third place with Wooden Horse, owned by James W. Orme Jr., third. The winner's time was 42.273 miles per hour.
The events for inboard runabouts were hotly contested, except for classes C & D, in which one entry, Joe Don, was allowed to run over the course all alone to average 37.544 miles per hour.
In the class H race Maud Rutherfurd drove her Lycoming-powered Chris-Craft to victory with a speed of 42.775 miles per hour. Nelson, also a Lycoming-powered Chris-Craft, owned by R. N. Stevens, Baltimore, Md., was second and Lady Gen II, owned by David Gerli, New York City, was third.
Mrs. Rutherfurd also captured the class E race with Imp II and averaged 42.959 miles per hour. Amoco, a Gray-powered 19-footer, owned by John Rhoades of Lancaster, Pa., finished second but was disqualified because she had an open exhaust which is not allowed under runabout racing rules. Nelson, owned by Robert N. Stevens, was given second place and Myne, owned by E. T. Fox Jr., Locust Valley, N. Y. took third.
The class I runabout event went to Lady Gen III, a new Chris-Craft 28-footer, owned by David Gerli, New York City. Damp Wash, owned by Edward C. Baltz, Washington, was second. Lady Gen III showed 44.401 miles per hour for the course.
The American speedboat championship, open to single-engined boats with unlimited power, was won by
Melvin Crook and his incomparable Betty V. There were four boats in the race. Jay Dee, former Gold Cup boat, now powered with a 12-cylinder Packard engine and owned by Jack Dunn of Miami and Jack Rutherfurd, gave the winner a good race, but Betty was in command at all times and was always in the lead. Miss Saranac, owned by Edmund Guggenheim, Roslyn, N. Y. was third and Restless, a big Chris-Craft, powered with a Liberty 12-cylinder engine was fourth. Betty V averaged 60.093 miles per hour which was terrific speed under the water conditions.
The outboards opened the regatta on both days and it is well that they started early for the water roughed up in the early afternoons and racing the little galloping shingles would have been impossible.
Jack Van Deman, eastern champion, won the first heat for class A amateurs, with Tommy Tyson in second place and Gar Wood Jr., third. Gar.Wood Jr., produced some extra revs in the second race and cleaned up with Van Deman second and Tyson third. Van Deman won on total points for the two heats with Wood in place and Tyson in show positions. The best time was 40.816 miles per hour, made by Wood in the second heat.
Gar Wood Jr., also won the first heat for class B amateurs but couldn't do any better than fourth in the second heat, so that the race went to Al Deemer, Brookville, Pa., who took the second heat and was third in the first. Bob Rowland, South Norfolk, Va., with a second and a fifth, took third on total points. Deemer made 44.978 miles per hour in winning the second heat.
James Mullen III, Richmond, Va., won the class A amateur in straight heats with Deemer second in both. These two were away off in the lead and outclassed the field. Douglas Fonda, Orange, N. J. was third. Mullen's fastest time was 49.505 miles per hour.
The Midget class race was won by Miss Molly Tyson, Chestnut Hill, Pa., with Irene Definbaugh, Woodside, Del., in second place and Elise Tyson third. The speed was 29.391 miles per hour. Little Miss Tyson also won the outboard handicap race from a big field with her midget.engine and the scratch boat, driven by James Mullen III was second.
The professional outboard races were held Sunday morning. Karl Pannacci, Seabright, N. J. won the class A by taking both heats. There were seven starters and Pannacci won all the way. C. Mulford Scull, Ventnor, N. J. was second in the first heat but stopped for a moment in the second heat and took a fifth. Fred Jacoby Jr., was third in the first heat and second in the final heat so that he took second on total points with Scull third.
Dick Neal, Kansas City, Mo., took both heats in class B. He led all the way in the first heat and won easily but he had a tough battle in the second heat when his engine faltered for a moment. However he won by twenty yards. Les Buckman, Baldwin, N. Y., was second in the first heat with Fred Jacoby Jr., third. In the second heat Milford G. Harrison, Vermillion, O., took second with Philip Gore, Towson, Md., third. On total points for the two heats Harrison was second and Jacoby third.
C. Mulford Scull won the first heat in class C from 10 starters. It was a classy field and the Jersey flyer had to show the boys a speed of. 49.234 miles per hour to win. Fred Jacoby Jr., was second and Dick Neal third. In the second heat Scull fouled his plugs just before the gun and couldn't get started. Fred Jacoby won with Dick Neal second and Jimmy Altman third. Total points gave first position to Jacoby with Neal second and Scull third.
The President's Cup regatta of 1936 was a huge success, undoubtedly one of the greatest in years and all the officials who contributed in any way to its success may well be proud of their efforts.
Ma Ja II, owned and driven by Jack Rutherfurd, Sands Point, N. Y., is a Ventnor hull powered with a six-cylinder Gold Cup type Packard. The success of this boat is a tribute to her owner who redesigned and re-built the bottom to suit his own ideas.
Notre Dame, owned by Herbert Mendelson of Detroit and driven by Clel Perry, is powered with a 24-cylinder Duesenberg supercharged engine. She holds the speed record for her class but seems to be unmanageable on the turns.
Hotsy Totsy III, which finished third in the President's Cup, on points, is a new hull, designed by Walter Leveau and built by the Robinson Marine Construction Co., Benton Harbor, Mich. It is a beautiful job of boat building and it is most unfortunate that there was not sufficient time to test the boat thoroughly before the race. She is powered with an eight-cylinder Wright supercharged engine which is said to develop approximately 600 horsepower. The after plane, however, seems to be too powerful for the forward plane and the engine was never opened up at any time during the series of races. She is 22 feet six inches overall length with six feet two inches beam.
Miss Cincinnati, owned by J. C. Fischer of Cincinnati, is a neat job of boat building. The power plant is an unsupercharged Hisso rated at 220 horsepower. She did not have a chance against the higher powered craft but ran smoothly and consistently in all three heats. She finished fourth on points.
Miss Canada II, owned by Harold Wilson of Ingersoll, Ont., is a new boat, designed by John L. Hacker and built by Greavette of Gravenhurst, Ont. She is a really beautiful bit of work, but untried in competition. Her overall length is 24 feet 9 inches. She is powered with a 12-cylinder supercharged Miller engine.
Impshi, 1936 Gold Cup winner, is owned by Horace E. Dodge and is powered with a six-cylinder Packard engine. She has competed in many Gold Cup events.
The ill-fated Delphine was built for Horace Dodge from designs by Fred Cooper, designer of Miss England II, by Vosper & Co. Ltd., Portsmouth, England and is powered with a 16-cylinder Miller engine.
Miss Manteo, the 225 class champion, was built by the Ventnor Boat Works, Ventnor, N. J., and is powered with a six-cylinder Lycoming racing engine.
(Reprinted from Power Boating, November 1936)