David Greene’s Highlights of Detroit Racing (1901-2005)


1901 John Hacker starts building raceboats. From 1911 to 1956 his designs accounted for 44 victories making him #5 on the all time designer standings. His most famous designs were Oregon Kid (1914), My Sweetie (1948) and Miss Pepsi (1950)
1908 1909 Races around Belle Isle
1911 1912 Chris Smith and John Ryan start building raceboats. In 1914 Chris Smith separated from John Ryan. Over the years his boats accounted for 37 victories making him the #6 designer of all time. From 1914 thru 1921 his boats dominated major league boat racing. His most famous design was Miss America (1920) match race two top boats - Baby Reliance and Detroit’s Kitty Hawk by Hacker
1914 Jack [Lawrence, Sr.? -- LF] Buhl races his Neptune
1915 Miss Detroit is built and designed by Chris Smith and is financed by popular subscription. Miss Detroit is the first Detroit entry to try for the Gold Cup and wins on Manhasset Bay outside New York City
1916 Detroit hosts its first Gold Cup with a three day attendance of 200,000. This race is not sponsored by the Detroit Yacht Club.
1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 After the 1916 Gold Cup Miss Detroit runs into financial difficulty and Gar Wood leaps into the breach. With such boats as Miss Detroit II (1917), Miss Detroit III (1918) and Miss America (1920) Wood defends the cup five straight times and establishes Detroit as the center of boat racing. The Detroit Yacht Club is the sponsor of these races. They continue to stage races through 1961. From 1917 to 1921 Gar Wood was virtually undefeated.
1920 1921 1922 1923 Gar Wood goes to england and wins the Harmsworth Trophy and then defends it the next year in Detroit-much to the chagrin of new york city. 250,000 attend the Labor Day Harmsworth heat. Gar Wood was heavily favored to win the 1922 Gold Cup but loses to Jesse Vincent who successfully defends the next year - 200,000 attend.
1923 Gar Wood and Chris Smith split. Wood had purchased Smith’s boat building plant in 1917. Among Wood’s problems was the fact that Smith’s boat for Jesse Vincent was faster than Smith’s hull for Gar Wood. This was the beginning of a five race Gold Cup losing streak for Gar Wood. He was handicapped by rough riding boats and unfortunate engine choices
1921 1926 1928 1929 Gar Wood defends the harmsworth trophy against mediocre British opposition four times. The first three years the British entry lasts about a lap. Finally in 1929 the British entry completes a heat albeit not at a competitive speed. 500,000 attend Heat 1 of the ‘29 harmsworth
1930 1931 1932 1933 In the 1930’s the British contenders were competitive with Gar Wood’s Miss Americas, but lacked staying power. In 1931 and 1932 the crowds were 500,000 or better - the largest attendance in American sports at the time. Attendance was way down in 1933 since the course had been moved to the St. Clair river about 50 miles from Detroit.
1932 Horace Dodge, who had been in boat racing since 1923 beginning his Gold Cup career in 1925, wins the Gold Cup at Montauk Point out on the tip of Long Island. Detroit had failed to win the Gold Cup in 1924, 1925, 1926 and 1927 - not even challenging in 1929 and 1930
1935 Gar Wood makes his final mile runs and fails to raise his own mile record. Wood had set the mile record seven times far eclipsing his closest competitor many times as he had in Harmsworth competition. During his racing career Gar Wood won 21 races including 11 Harmsworths and five Gold Cups. He exceeded the victory total of Stuart and Paula Blackton of New York with their 20 victories. Gar Wood retires as the all time winning driver with 20 victories.
1936 Horace Dodge wins the Gold Cup for the second time. He wins by default with an inferior boat as his competition either does not appear or breaks down.
1937 1938 1939 Detroit defends the Gold Cup with Herb Mendelson’s Notre Dame that goes undefeated for the 1937 season. The Italian Alagi declares for Detroit and wins in 1938. These Gold Cups attract 200,000 to 400,000 (1939) spectators
1940 Like 1934 and 1936 there is no race in Detroit. From 1917 to 1933 when it staged consecutive races Detroit reaffirmed its position as the main regatta in the United States. Notre Dame wins the President’s Cup.
1941 Horace Dodge attempts to stage the Gold Cup in Detroit. However there is little interest among the Gold Cupper owners as the United States is in an undeclared war by supplying the British. The winning Montauk Yacht Club had no interest in defending Hotsy Totsy III’s victory in the 1940 Gold Cup.
1946 Detroit outbids Red Bank to stage the Gold Cup. Limiteds are allowed in the race and there are 17 starters. Al Fallon’s Miss Great Lakes wins the President’s Cup. 200,000 attend the Detroit Gold Cup
1947 A.P.B.A. moves its headquarters from New York to Detroit. Miss Peps V wins six of seven races including the Gold Cup. The Detroit River Racing Association starts staging regattas along with the Detroit Yacht Club.
1948 Such Crust driven by Dan Arena wins three of five races although Al Fallon’s Miss Great Lakes wins the Gold Cup. 20 boats attend the Gold Cup .
1949 Detroit has three local regattas. 200,000 attend the Detroit Gold Cup My Sweetie wins eight of nine races including the Gold Cup. 21 boats attend the Gold Cup - the largest field in history. Detroit stages 5 regattas. Other venues have only had two regattas. This trend continued throughout the 1950’s with four in 1950, three in 1956 add 1959. My Sweetie wins the high point championship. 200,000 again attend the Gold Cup
1950 Slo-mo-shun IV wins the Gold Cup setting up the Seattle versus Detroit rivalry. Previously, the rivalry for Detroit was with the East - New York State primarily. The rivalry began in 1915 with Gold Cup victories being about evenly split. My Sweetie repeats as high point champion. Bill Cantrell replaces Gar Wood as the all time driver with 21 victories
1950 1951 1952 Miss Pepsi wins nine of 12 races during this period. Miss Pepsi posts the fastest competition lap from 1950 through 1952. Pepsi takes the high point championship in 1951 and 1952 although the championship did not assume real importance until the late 1950’s.
1953 Such Crust III records the fastest competition lap and heat of the season. On the standard 3 mile course. Gale II wins the high points. Miss Pepsi retires for the first time.
1954 Joe Schoenith puts two boats - Gale IV and Gale V - on the circuit. Between them they win six of eight races. Gale IV posted the fastest competition lap of the season on the standard 3 mile course. Crowd for the Silver Cup is 200,000 matching 1940’s Gold Cups.
1955 Gale V returns the Gold Cup to Detroit through a lack of appreciation of the strategic situation by the Miss Thriftway camp. Tempo VII is declared a Detroit boat by New York’s Guy Lombardo and wins her final five races of the season posting the fastest heat and competion lap of the season which are also world records. The Schoeniths win the national high point championship for the third straight year. Miss U.S. Wins the first race with an overall average of 100 M.P.H.
1956 Horace Dodge retires having been involved in boat racing for over 30 years, compiling 15 victories over these years and two high point championships. Miss Pepsi retires for the second time, compiling 14 victories and two high point championships.
1957 1958 Lee Schoenith organizes the unlimited racing commission, developing detailed rules for the Gold Cup. Danny Foster retires as a driver with 14 high point race victories setting the standard. Bill muncey exceeds this total in 1962. Miss U.S. 1 wins the most races of the season although losing the national high point championship to Miss Bardahl. Lee Schoenith and his committee develop detailed rules for the unlimited class.
1959 1960 Gale V turns the fastest lap of the year at 118.681 M.P.H. While testing prior to the Gold Cup. Miss U.S. 1 turns the fastest qualification lap both years.
1961 1962 Gale V wins three races and Miss Detroit wins the President’s Cup Lee Schoenith becomes unlimited commissioner and saves the Unlimited/Gold Cup class from possible extinction. Miss U.S. 1 sets a new mile record going 200 M.P.H. For the first time in history. After the Detroit Yacht Club and the Windmill Point Yacht Club abandon sponsorship of Detroit regattas, the of Detroit association is formed to promote the race.
1963 Detroit lands the Gold Cup with the highest bid. This energizes Detroit racing which had had a declining boat count since the late 1950’s. In the 1950’s between 10 and 15 boats were listed as participants for the season on most occasions. This trend started in the late 1940’s. Prior to world war ii the Detroit boat count was five boats or under except in the 1920’s when it was under ten boats.
1964 Detroit boats win two of nine races. 250,000 attend the 1964 Detroit Gold Cup,
1965 in qualifying for the Lake Tahoe World Championship Miss U.S. V turns a lap of 120.9 M.P.H. - the fastest lap ever recorded for a Ted Jones-style boat.
1966 Smirnoff turns the fastest non-competition lap of the season at 118.212 M.P.H. Miss Lapeer takes the competition lap of the year at 114.893 M.P.H. Detroit boats wins three of 10 races. Upon his death Chuck Thompson had accumulated 14 victories and two driving championships.
Jack Schafer retires having posted 8 wins over his 21 year career George Simon's Miss U.S. runs the fastest competition lap of the season at 111 M.P.H. Detroit boats win two out of ten races including Miss U.S.'s world championship at Seattle.
1969 Fan club Unlimiteds Detroit is formed. Myr's Special turns the fastest competition lap of the year at 111 M.P.H. En route to winning two of seven races. Miss U.S. wins the World Championship for the second straight year.
1970 Myr Sheet Metal wins three of eight races while posting the fastest non-competition lap of the year as well as the fastest heat at 105 M.P.H
The Schoeniths now sponsored by Atlas Van Lines win two of 9 races posting the fastest heat of the year at 105 M.P.H. Atlas Van Lines wins six of seven races giving the Schoeniths their first national high point championship since 1955 as well as their first gold cup since that year. Atlas Van Lines also ran the fastest competition lap and heat of the season. Between 1969 and 1972 the Schoeniths win more races than either Bernie Little or Dave Heerensperger
1973 Detroit stages two regattas during the year for the last time.
1975 Thunderboat Magazine inaugurated by Unlimiteds Detroit. Miss U.S. posts the fastest competition lap of the year at 120 M.P.H. The Schoeniths retire from racing with 28 victories - the most ever by a Detroit owner. Having four high point championships they are #3 in this category.
1976 George Simon wins his first gold cup since beginning his quest in 1953 and then retires. As a result he won back to back Detroit races in 1975 and 1976. During his career Simon won 13 races. Les Staudacher produces his last boat having built 56 major league boats (more than anybody else) that compiled 50 wins, making Staudacher #4 all time in this category. A reported 500,000 attend the Detroit gold cup. Bill Muncey becomes the all time driver over Bill Cantrell 36 wins to 31 wins. Cantrell had retired in 1968.
1981 Detroit’s Fred Alter becomes unlimited commissioner
1983 Jerry Schoenith's Miss Renault wins the World Championship
1987 Jerry Schoenith's Automotive Thunderboat Association (ATA) inaugurated
1990 Detroit becomes the permanent home of the Gold Cup
1991 Tom D’Eath retires with 16 victories
1994 Miss Exide runs out of Detroit
1995 Detroit Gold Cup draws 400,000
2003 The organizational ability of Tom D’Eath saves the Gold Cup for Detroit.
2004 Mark Tate retires with 12 victories and four driving championships
2005 Detroit's Dave Bartush wins the Gold Cup with Miss Al Deeby Dodge.


[Reprinted from Thunderboat, July 2009]