Britain Steps Ahead in the Speed-Boat Battle [1932]

A roaring power-boat "almost hidden by clouds of spray" flashed with the speed of a skimming arrow along the mile course on historic Loch Lomond in Scotland.

The mile finished, the dare-devil driver, according to a United Press dispatch, "swooped his craft around in a wide arc at lowered speed, and took another bullet charge along the course."

Persons living in the vicinity, the press association reporter continues, heard the roar of the motors and started out of bed, at first in alarm, for it was not yet dawn. But when they had had time to collect their wits they realized that the great moment, for which they had watched two weeks of preparation, was at hand. They came tumbling out of their cottages, some of them not even taking time to change from their night-clothes. In the twinkling of an eye, a large crowd was lining the shores of the famous loch.

The thundering boat completed its round.

The crowd waited apprehensively, watching the gray early-morning sky above the starting-point.

Ten minutes passed. Then a green Very light flashed up into the sky and the crowd cheered, for the light meant that Kaye Don, the thirty-eight-year-old thrill-seeker from Dublin, had broken the world's speed-boat record in the Miss England III.

Another wait, for the figures, and then the crowd cheered again. Don of Great Britain had averaged 117.43 miles an hour, bettering the mark of the American, Gar Wood, who had attained a rate of 111.712 at Miami in February.

But the morning was not over. Don was not satisfied yet. So he dared unfavorable weather conditions, and zoomed Lord Wakefield's Miss England III over the course again at the still greater average speed of 119.81 miles an hour.

"On one of the two official runs," continues the United Press correspondent, "the long stream-lined craft roared over the official one-mile course at the sensational speed of 120.50 miles an hour, thus making Don the first man who ever traveled two miles a minute on the water."

Thus the records fall. In slightly more than two years, the New York Times points out:

The speed with which man has driven a motor-boat has bees increased twenty-one miles an hour.

On June 13, 1930, the late Sir Henry O. D. Segrave of England, piloting Miss England II, set a record of 98.76 miles an hour on Lake Windermere in England. On March 20 of the following year, Gar Wood wrested the supremacy back for the United States by driving Miss America IX 102.256 miles at Miami.

The record lasted less than two weeks, for, on April 2, 1931, Kaye Don, in the same boat Sir Henry had piloted, Miss England II, set a new mark of 103.49 over a measured course in the River Parana near its confluence with the River Plata in Buenos Aires.

Again, on July 9, 1931, Don, in Miss England II, broke the record with a new mark of 110.223 over a course on Lake Garda in Italy. On February 5 of this year, Gar Wood once more reclaimed the motor-boat supremacy for the United States by coaxing a speed of 111.712 out of Miss America IX over the Indian Creek water-course at Miami, and now Don has bettered that mark.

For two weeks before the day of broken records, the silence along the wooded shores of Loch Lomond, the most beautiful lake in Scotland, the United Press assures us, echoed to "the staccato roar of the engines with which the latest Miss England is equipped." Don, accompanied by Richard Garner, who was with him on the record runs, and two other mechanics, tested the boat almost daily. The engines of the craft, which is soon to be seen in the United States, develop a nominal 4,000 horsepower, although they are capable of more, and it has been estimated the boat might attain the speed of 125 miles an hour. Reading on in the United Press account:

One innovation was the installation of two propellers. Miss England II, in which Sir Henry Segrave was killed, relied on only one tiny screw that turned at 12,000 revolutions a minute. The result was that, when turning at high speed, the boat skidded like an automobile on a greasy road.

Miss England III has dual throttle control, which enables Don, when turning, to ease off the speed of one propeller, while using the other to send the boat around the bend. Don, believes he can turn at 100 miles an hour.

The step of Miss England III, on which she climbs onto the surface of the water, is an integral part of the boat. The step of Miss England II, which broke when struck by a log floating in Lake Windermere, was only bolted to the frame. This accident caused Segrave's death.

Every grain in the woodwork of ,his $200,000 craft has been subjected to microscopic examination. The cross-members-are of Honduras mahogany, and the frame of Canadian rock elm. The stern is squat and flat, and her bows taper to the thinness of a razor blade.

A special paint enables her to glide across the water as though on skates. On top of this is a coating of graphite, forming a layer of lubricant between boat and water.

(Reprinted from The Literary Digest, July 30, 1932, p.34)