Comments on Handicapping [1908]

The Question of Motor Boat Measurements

by Hugh S. Gambel

Considering the present interest shown in motor boats, especially from a sporting standpoint, and the numerous events scheduled throughout the country and the number of new entrants into the sport, the growth or progress has been all that could be expected under certain conditions. The question has often been asked, "Is the sport progressing or deteriorating?" The cause for such doubt has arisen, perhaps from the fact that in many of the leading events there has not been the same interest shown by the entrants as formerly.

What is needed is the establishment of some better method for handicapping than is now in use. Instead of there being one rule prevailing all through this country, we find that in the East alone there are two or more rules. We go north and we find there is another set of rules, we go west and we find another set or two and we go south only to find, possibly, a different method altogether. The man who is about to enter the game does so purely from a sporting standpoint. he spends possibly thousands of dollars for a boat. He races in the East and meets with great success, so he looks for new fields to conquer. Then he finds he has to contend with entirely different conditions. They may be more advantageous than the rule he has raced under or possibly less so; hence the indifference. But if there were nut one rule and that rule not subject to many changes each season, the difference would be eliminated and the interest in the sport would be correspondingly greater.

The fact must not be lost sight of that a great many, if not the greater percentage of those entering the sport, are new comers, as it were, in yachting. They have never before owned boats of any kind whatever. Many of these would add greatly to the success and progress of the sport if they knew that after they had received designs from their naval architects, the rules to which their boats would be built, would not be changed before their craft could be put in the water. The man building a boat desires to have it receive the proper rating. If he is beaten in a race, he doesn't want his defeat to be due to unjust handicapping, and if he desired to race in other parts of the country, he wants to know that his rating will hold good.

When we compare the success of other countries in the sport, and especially France, it would seem that, profiting by their experience, we might, in a great measure, be guided by their example. Take for an example France and her methods for racing boats. There is possibly no event in the world that is watched with as much interest by those interested in the sport as the events at Monaco. While at first they sacrificed everything possible for speed, they now have become more rational in the matter of building, for their new racing craft have stability and seaworthiness. Their handicapping is by classes. Boats are divided into two groups, racers and pleasure boats or cruisers; the racing boats in turn are divided into sub-classes according to their length over all, as follows: under 6 meters, 6 to 8 meters; 8 to 12 meters and 12 to 18 meters. Pleasure boats are classified according to length, motor power, width, height of free-board, number of seats and the weight. The first class are called the "half-tonners," and include boats having a mono-cylinder motor of 106 mm. or more, or its equivalent in piston surface. In this class the length is optional, but the boat must have a minimum weight of 500 kilos, and the hull must have the same proportions as the cruisers in other classes, calculated on a scale in accordance with its length. In each class there is a limit placed on the power of the boat, and this limit is determined by the bore. The bore for the second class is 90 mm. per cylinder for motors of four cylinders, or its equivalent in piston surface; for the third class the bore is placed at 106 mm. per cylinder for the four cylinders, or its equivalent; for the fourth class the bore must be 130 mm. Each boat is required to have a certain height of free-board and a specified number of seats, and be able to carry during the race, in perfect safety, a number of adult passengers comfortably seated. The number of passengers less one must be equivalent to the number of metres represented by the length of the boat, each fraction of a metre counting as a whole. Nevertheless, by all boats of less than 6 metres, where the co-efficient of utility is not so great, only four passengers need be carried. In the absence of passengers, ballast, weighing 70 kilos, can be put in for each person. But there must be room on board for the passengers. The height of free-board must never be less than that set forth by the formula — 0.20+0.03L — L being the length of the hull. The free-board is measured at the greatest sectional with the regulation fittings and the necessary fuel on board. Coamings or any other addition or ornament will not count for free-board, which ends with the hull, whether this be terminated by a sharp or round line.

A minimum weight is fixed for each boat. It includes weight of machinery, but not of the water, gasolene or spare parts of mechanism. Boats of 6 metres and under must have a minimum weight of 650 kilos; boats of from 6 to 8 metres, a minimum of 800 kilos; boats of from 8 to 12 metres, a minimum of 1,200 kilos; and boats of from 12 to 18 metres, a minimum of 2,000 kilos. No boat is permitted to start in a race for which it is entered without having been thus measured and weighed.

The solutions of the entire problem of proper handicapping seems to have its foundation in this French method of racing according to classes. The adoption of such a method in the United States would enable owners to race in all parts of the country without the annoyances that now retard the progress of the sport here. Another very important thing is that the designer would know that he was to design a boat for a certain class and would feel reasonably sure of producing something that would be creditable to himself and the owner.

Furthermore, the French method does away with all red tape and saves time, trouble and a great part of all expense which owners of boats entering events are now put to. In England they have already established a class corresponding to that of the French for boats from 6 to 8 metres, and they also have the 12-metre class, and this enables them to race their boats against those of France.

(Transcribed from Yachting, October 1908, p.208.)

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