1950 Presidents Cup
The Presidents Cup Regatta
By W. Melvin Crook
WASHINGTON, D.C., annually conducts its Presidents Cup Regatta under the certain handicap of a mediocre course and the potential impediment of a date and its unpredictable weather. Over the years this combination has left a history sprinkled with postponements and broken boats. But September 16 and 17 of 1950 will be remembered as the time the weather gods smiled benignly on the nation's capitol while a large and well-balanced field staged the finest racing seen this year in the East.
Outboard events provided the curtain raiser. Six starters, including perennial midgeteer Don Whitfield, of Montclair, N.J., appeared for the midget hydro event. Don took the first heat at 33.809 m.p.h. with Merl Brown, from Olmstead Falls, Ohio, second. In the final heat these positions were reversed, producing a point tie and Brown, having the lower elapsed time, was the winner. Third honors fell to Mrs. Eleanor Shakeshaft from White Plains, N.Y., holder of the one mile record for the class.
Twelve starters got off in the A hydro contest which featured an intersectional battle between Gil Petermann, of Malverne, N.Y., and Doug Creech, from Charlotte, N.C. Petermann won both heats—his fastest at a speed of 41.077. Creech took secondly the initial heat but scored no points in the second. Les Buckman, of Baldwin, N.Y., ranked second in the final points, with third going to Joseph Wotowitz from Hartford, Conn.
The B hydros turned out nine strong with Creech again upholding the honor of the South against a contingent from the New York area. Ben Jankowski, of Glen Head, N.Y., captured the first heat at 45.825 m.p.h. Levittown, N.Y.'s Vic Scott was a close second and Les Buckman picked up 225 points for third. Creech was fifth. The start of the second heat was one of those things where the whole fleet approaches prematurely and everyone is forced to back off to avoid jumping the gun. In the holding-back process both Scott and Jankowski fouled their engines and were left far behind the leaders. Les Buckman won the heat and enough points to give him top B hydro honors. Doug Creech took second place, which yielded him second money for the class.
A 12-boat start in the first heat of C hydro produced the crowd-thriller of the day. As they whipped over the starting line, closely bunched, Dean Worcester, of Silver Springs, Md., felt his boat become airborne and was thrown backwards from his overturning craft. It would have taken a miracle to keep him clear of the boat immediately behind him and that was no day for miracles. Dean surfaced under the prop of the unidentified follower, who was trying desperately but futilely to swerve aside. Worcester popped into view with his right arm held aloft and oozing blood from several prop gashes. His injuries were reported later as severed tendons and lacerations.
The ubiquitous Doug Creech captured the first C heat, followed by Washington's own Hudson Moses. The second C contest found the Long Island boys, Jankowski and Scott, finishing one-two with Creech down in fifth spot, but the point score brought Creech out on top for the class with Hud Moses second.
The F hydro race drew 13 starters, most of them driving with C motors. Both heats were won by Ben Jankowski, his best heat speed being 50.251 m.p.h. Second spot for the class went to James Baden, of Washington, D.C., with Scott third.
Fifteen BU and CU utility outboards turned out for their event. Doug Wright from Richmond, Va., took both heats with his BU outfit. Wright's best heat speed—35.756—was about 1½ miles over the record for the class but will not be recognized since utility records can be established only at Sectional or National Championship regattas. Carl Breland, of Solomon's, Md., finished third in over-all position but led the CUs in the field, setting a new "record" for that class.
The first scheduled inboard event, for 7 liter hydros, was thrown open to step-ups when it was found that only one 7 liter boat was in the pits. Kinston, N.C.'s Fred Sutton, owner of the lone 7 liter, was unable to start, leaving seven 225s to make up the field. Al Ouellette, of Portsmouth, N.H., put his Miss New Hampshire over the starting line first but soon lost his lead to Concord, N.C.'s Carl Widenhouse, driving Copperhead. Midway up the last backstretch Where Copperhead slowed to a stop. Ouellette, regaining the lead, came out of the last turn with his engine cowl waving in the breeze and passed on the wrong side of the committee boat, to earn a disqualification instead of 400 points. Frank Foulke from Essex, Md., in Sagana XII, was the first driver to make a fair finish, followed by Detroit's Bill Muncey in Mi Son and P. J. Henn, of Murphy, N.C., in Goo-Goo II. In the second heat Muncey steered Mi Son home 300 yards ahead of Foulke, leaving them tied on points. Muncey, having the better elapsed time, was awarded the 7 liter title.
In the first heat of the regular 225 racing, Ouellette took an early lead, but on the last lap Miss New Hampshire dropped out and Sagana flew on toward the finish line—apparently a sure winner. Then, some 200 yards short of the line, Sagana's rudder tore loose, flipping up on deck, and Frank tried frantically to chug across, dragging his left leg as a jury rudder. He eventually made it, but not before Bob Rowland, of South Norfolk, Va., whipped his You-All in ahead.
In the second 225 heat it was Ouellette in Miss New Hampshire all the way, but what a hair-raising trip for the driver! Shortly after crossing the starting line, New Hampshire's wandering cowling again came adrift and flapped wildly in Ouellette's face for upwards of eight miles. 150 yards short of the finish line the flailing metal member took off, miraculously leaving the driver's head in its accustomed position. Rowland took second.
The final heat for 225s was won by Ouellette. Rowland took third, thus earning more points than any driver in the series. Ouellette placed second in the point standings and P. J. Henn third by virtue of one second and one third.
Two heats of racing for the Pacific One Designs were highlighted by the appearance of the national champion of the class, Dr. L. J. Novotny, with his Cherub II from Los Angeles. Ten of the bouncing little boats started the first heat and nine of them watched Novotny romp off to victory at 51.933 m.p.h. The second heat started out as a repetition of the first, until Novotny was forced out with a loose fuel tank. Jack Cook, of Dover, Del., won this heat and high point honors for the two contests.
Ten D and E Inboard Racing Runabouts appeared for the first of their two heats. Philadelphian Frank Muzzey, veteran of many years of runabout racing, was top man in the Ds with one first and one second place. Tracey Hill, from McHenry, Ill., with a first and a third, led the E drivers.
The 135s provided the comedy relief in their first heat. Joe Wolf, of Reading, Pa., in Wa-Wa, and Curt Martens from Hampton, Va., in Marbel, somehow managed to run the first backstretch far out behind the spectator fleet, skirting the edge of Washington National Airport. By the time they had ducked behind all the lined-up cruisers and wasted valuable seconds trying to find a slot large enough to sneak through onto the course, the other boats had built quite a lead. Ardson Bozarth from Vineland, N.J., won the heat with Skip. Wolf managed to push Wa-Wa into second, despite the sightseeing tour. Martens spilled on the last turn. In the second heat, Wolf followed the conventional route and won handily, taking the series on points. Bozarth was second in the final standings.
Highlight of the competition for E and F Service Inboard runabouts was the performance of Joe and Aubrey Thacker, two Washingtonians, in their D job, Jezebel VIII. Jezebel led all three classes and raised her own class record in the operation.
A swarm of 48 cubic inch hydros and runabouts got off after a postponement to allow the course to be swept of a sudden influx of driftwood. Winner of the hydroplane section was Earl Hildebrand, of Arlington, Va., with Tony Margio from Harrisburg, Pa., taking second. Elliot Wilson from Cambridge, Md., led the runabouts, nosing out Ruby Scull, of Ventnor, N.J.
The titular event—for the Presidents Cup—is always scheduled for the latter parts of the show at Washington with the expectation that it will provide a rousing climax.
This year it lived up to expectations by producing a large field of unlimited hydros, plenty of noise, and a new set of records. It fell behind the other classes in the matter of close competition solely because the Dossin Brothers' superb new John Hacker creation U-99 [Miss Pepsi (2)]—driven by veteran outboard pilot Chuck Thompson—so far outclassed the other boats.
The fleet poured down for the start of the first heat in this order: Jack Schafer's Such Crust I (Detroit), driven by Danny Foster; U-99 (Detroit); Bill Cantrell, driving Horace Dodges My Sweetie (Detroit); Such Crust II (Detroit), another Schafer entry piloted by Dan Arena; George Sarant, driving his own Etta (Freeport, N.Y.); Norm Lauterbach at the wheel of D. J. Murphy's Dee Jay [V](Philadelphia) and Lee Schoenith driving his Gale (Detroit). Thompson badly overran the first turn and lost much ground before he got back on the course. At the end of the first lap it was Crust I, Sweetie and U-99. Near the end of the second lap, U-99 overhauled Crust I and went into a lead which she was never again to lose. Crust had cracked a spark plug which caused her to backfire whenever Foster poured on any coal.
U-99 won at an average of 79.434 m.p.h.—a new record for the event. A half lap behind came Sweetie, followed by Such Crust II, Etta, Crust I, Gale and Dee Jay in that order.
The same fleet appeared for the second heat, but Dee Jay stalled on the starting line and never got in the race. Bill Cantrell rammed Sweetie over first at the start, with Thompson close behind. Crust I, Crust II, Etta and Gale were right on the heels of the leaders. It took Thompson but a short time to move into the lead and there he stayed throughout, to win at an average speed of 88.725 m.p.h. U-99 lapped every boat in the race except Crust I. Cantrell picked up third spot in Sweetie, with fourth going to Crust II, fifth to Etta and sixth to Gale.
All seven of the original boats got off in the final heat, with Thompson leading them. On the second turn of the first lap Arena was forced out with Crust II and Foster was compelled to withdraw with smoke pouring from his power plant early in the fourth. Etta fell by the wayside on her fourth circuit—to the accompaniment of a flash of flame and a loud boom from her carburetor. Thompson took things rather easy until the last lap when he turned on the horsepower and whipped the smooth-running Dossin entry to a new lap record of 95.038. Sweetie finished in second position, Dee Jay in third and Gale in fourth.
Final point tabulations gave Thompson 2,000 (including bonuses). Cantrell 825 and Foster 427.
[Reprinted from Yachting, November, 1950, pp.57, 95-97]