An International Union [1908-1927]

When gasoline power was applied to carriages in the 1890's very few people had any idea that within twenty years not only would the new source of motive power become a plaything of the idle rich, it would also become the main source of transportation for the working class as well. In the beginning, however, it was the moneyed class that made the most use of this new mode of transportation and it was not long before speed competition on the roads of Europe and America became relatively common, even scheduled events. By the end of the nineteenth century motor racing in Europe evolved to such a large scale that, because of geography and the political separations of the continent, efforts began to focus on international competition. These international championships became sources of great national pride as well as badges of economic merit for the companies that manufactured the winning engines and vehicles.

At the turn of the century gasoline power was placed in launches and small auxiliary craft and it took no time at all for the competitive spirit to be translated to these vehicles as well. Almost immediately international regattas in Europe became the norm. Through the patronage of the crowns of political and commercial empires the races at Keil, Germany, Venice to Rome, Calais to Dover, Algiers to Toulon and the great Monaco international exhibit and regatta became the most important dates of the season.

Naturally, more and more regattas among the nations of Europe brought an increasing mixture of rules and ratings with which the competitors had to deal. There were national boating organizations that established standards within each country, England's Marine Motor Association, the Automobile Club of France and the German Motor Yacht Association, to name a few, but it was clear to see that an association would have to be created in order that international rules could be created. Which units of measure for volume and length would be used? How would handicaps be computed once standardized measurements were established? How could so many opinions be taken into account without bruising national pride? These were some of the questions that arose at the time.

In January 1908 the machinery to create such an organization began to move. A letter from the Kaiserlichter Automobile Club was received by the Motor Yacht Club in England expressing the desire to convene an international conference in London to discuss regatta rules and ratings. On January 29th the First International Congress on Motor Boat Racing was held at the Royal Automobile Club. Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Monaco were represented by Georges Prade, publisher of L'Auto, yacht designer Linton Hope, and Harmsworth competitors Lionel Rothschild, Fred May and Mansfield Cumming among the delegates at the conference which was presided by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.

The agenda for a future conference was agreed upon:

  1. Establish rules and ratings for international contests.
  2. Form an international organization with national representatives to administer these rules.
  3. All constituted yacht clubs should consider this agenda and meet again in three months.
  4. Establish a preliminary meeting coordinating committee
  5. The international delegates will recognize only this organization and none other

On the ninth of June the Second International Congress of Motor Boat Racing was convened. The Congress assembled in Paris at the Automobile Club of France. Joining the nations which were at the first conference was Switzerland by proxy. The agenda, which was passed, was as follows:

  1. As in yacht racing, international rules and a set of measurements will be formulated.
  2. An international organization will be formed with national representatives attending to make and administer these rules.
  3. No recognition of any other international organization will exist.

At this conference Count Recope, of France, was elected president, F. P. Armstrong, of England and Prof. Busley, of Germany were elected vice-presidents and Georges Prade, representing Monaco, was appointed secretary, and the Association Internationale du Yachting Automobile was born. To begin, the measurements and rules used in the Monaco regatta would be adopted effective in 1909. These standards would be used until 1911 to see how workable they would be. The rules would not apply to the British International (Harmsworth) Trophy which was possessed by the non-member United States of America.

International organization and racing standards worked well and very little change was done to the original set of rules. However, World War I and the accompanying post-war strains on the European economy virtually killed international racing and the Association as well. In 1917, Prof. Busley, who at that time was the president of the I.A.Y.A., disappeared and along with him the Association's archives. Georges Prade died in 1921, and although the Monaco regatta was revived that same year, no British boats chose to participate.

In July of 1922 Dr. Morton Smart, Commodore of the British Motor Boat Club and pioneer competitor in the old B.M.B.C. 21-foot Class of 1911, sent communications to all the previous Association members promoting a "renaissance" of the Association. In short order the same feelings were received from across the continent, to include Sweden, Norway and Finland On August 12th an invitation was sent from Alfred Pierrard, president of the Belgian Federation du Yachting, to convene an international motor boat racing conference in Brussels.

On the 2nd of November the Brussels conference was held with Great Britain, Ireland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Spain and Monaco sending representatives. The United States was represented by proxy. Alfred Pierrard was elected president, Morton Smart, Vice-President, and John Ward was appointed Secretary General. Work was started to follow an agenda that would:

  1. State that the old A.I.Y.A. no longer existed.
  2. Form a new organization similar to the International Yacht Racing Union.
  3. Adopt the I.Y.R.U. constitution and rules.
  4. Establish limited racing classes, similar to the B.M.B.C. 21-foot or 30-foot classes to make motor boat racing affordable.

The entire agenda was approved unanimously and a new organization, names the Union Internationale du Yachting Automobile, began the work to reestablish international power boat competition. In 1927 the work had been done, and the organization's new name became the Union International Motonautique. The headquarters were placed in Brussels, Belgium, and would remain there until after World War II when the Union would move to Ghent. The President of the U.I.M. continued to be Alfred Pierrard until the end of World War II when Fred Buysse would preside until 1972. In addition to the original members of the 1922 conference, Argentina, Poland and Germany would become the charter members of the U.I.M.

The role of the U.I.M. has become not only the corner upon which most international rules rest, but also the progenitor of motor sport on water around the world. The original twelve U.I.M. members in 1927 has grown to 55 with membership in all continents. With the growth of motor boasting and the creation of new competitive classes the U.I.M. has also led the field in technical administration and the development of boating safety. To make the story poetic, the headquarters of the U.I.M. moved from Ghent to Monte Carlo where the spirit of international boating competition first got its start in 1904, a most fitting place for the administration of international competition on the water.

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