Kaiser Aims for World Speed Record and Harmsworth Trophy With New Boat [1949]

Lombardo Named Pilot of Craft

Kaiser Comes East to Confer on Readying Powerful Boat for Harmsworth Race

Time Trials Set for June

Lake Placid Looms as Site—Industrialist Also Seeks to Break World Record

The hull of the $64,000 double Allison-powered speed boat nearing completion at Apel's Ventnor, N.J. shipyard
The hull of the $64,000 double Allison-powered speed boat nearing completion at Apel's Ventnor, N.J. shipyard. It is intended as an American defender against the challenges by Canada and Italy for the famous Harmsworth Trophy.
Guy Lombardo and Henry Kaiser examine a model of the Aluminum First
Guy Lombardo and Henry Kaiser examine a model of the Aluminum First

Henry J. Kaiser, noted industrialist, expects to have some of the top thrills of his life during the next three mouths. While executive assistants of his enormous empire continue mining ore, building autos constructing ships, producing cement, fabricating aluminum, making steel, developing his small airplanes and helicopters, planning new airports and other Kaiser projects, the boss himself is monkeying with a 32-foot, speedboat that probably will make international sports history.

As yet unnamed, the craft now nearing completion at Arno Apel's; Ventnor N.J. boat yard has been designed to do two things: bring to this country a new world one-mile speed-boat record--the present. one was set in England a decade ago at 141 miles an hour by the late Sir Malcolm Campbell-and later in July to defend for America the famous Harmsworth Trophy, first won by Gar Wood in, 1920 and out of competition since the last Harmsworth regatta in 1933.

Mr. Kaiser, who will be 67 next month but who with his energy and huge frame carrying 250 pounds has the vigor, drive and stamina of a youngster in his prime, chatted for a couple of hours about his hobby and his love of speed boating in his unlisted and unlabeled Fifth Avenue "hideout" private offices.

He came east last week from Oakland, Calif., to confer and plan strategy with his friend, Guy Lombardo, who will drive the fantastically powerful new craft. Time is running out. Apel and other designers and engineers have a schedule calling for sliding the boat off the ways and into the water for the first time within the next fortnight. probably on May 6.

Red Bank Bid Fails

Although, grateful to Red Bank, N.J. and Lake George, N.Y., for the invitations of their community leaders to act as hosts for the coming time trials, Mr. Kaiser has his mind certainly his heart set on Lake Placid for the big tests. His reasons are sentimental.

Lake Placid looms large in the amazing career of this man. As a 19-year-old stripling who had been born upstate of Canojaharie (actually in Sprout Brook), one of four children of a German settler, and after early years of hard work which forced hint to. stop schooling before finishing the eighth grade, he got a job in Utica at thirteen, living in Whitesboro. Soon he was selling Eastman Kodak photographic supplies.

By 19 he had located at Lake Placid, still a photographic supplier, first with- a little shop known as Brownell and Kaiser and later on .his own. At Lake Placid he met Bessie Hannah Fosburgh. She became Mrs. Kaiser. They still call each other "mother" and "father" and don't care who hears it. They talk fondly about Lake Placid and, their courtship there.

The man who came to build during World War II more boats than any other ship builder in history, totaling 7,000,000 tons, had his first power boat experiences back in 1901 on the same Lake Placid he expects to revisit this Spring. He rigged up a one-horse-power, naphtha engine with make-and-break ignition, installed it in a light weight Adirondack lake skiff and achieved the unheard of speeds of six, seven, once even tight miles an hour.

180 Miles An Hour Seen

That year his engineers calculate, at least on paper, that his new creation cam, do 180 miles an hour — that's airplane speed of three miles a minute - on a one-mile straightaway in the time trials, as Lombardo and an as yet unpicked mechanic crouch in the cockpit and coax incalculable speeds out of the W -twinned Allison aircraft engine of some 3.000 horsepower. With the gearboxes it will be turning two synchronized propellers at close to 12,000 revolutions per minute.

The famous tycoon of "building-is-my-business" fame, involving the Hoover, Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams, reached for another cigar, peeled off its aluminum foil wrapper and snipped off its end, lighted it pensively and began describing his new boat, occasionally putting in a long-distance phone call to Ventnor or Detroit or Lake Placid or Oakland to confirm a fact.

"What should we name it?" he asked rhetorically. Most of the thousands who will see the craft at Lake Placid or elsewhere and at Detroit for the Harmsworth regatta and possible for the Gold Cup regatta early in July will refer to her as the "Kaiser-Lombardo job."

Officially, however, Mr. Kaiser may christen her "Fleet Wings." He is also toying with the name it will be symbolic of an American entry in an international event and partly because "Eagle" is the name of the mountain near San Bernardino, Calif., where Kaiser's interests have built a new railroad and have an enormous operation to mine one hundred million tons of ore. He may even call the new ship "Aluminum Eagle."

Aluminum has become a fetish, with him He is manufacturing aluminum in gigantic plants in Ohio, Washington, California and Louisiana. He has strengthened his new boat with aluminum wherever possible. Yet its light weight is permitting a low ratio of 3,000 h.p. to probably less than 8,500 pounds, including crew and fuel.

Mr. Kaiser witnessed the boat racing holocaust in the Detroit gold cup last August when nearly every entry broke apart or sank from rough water pounding. All winter long he has been devising new ways to stiffen his creation and make disintegration well nigh impossible.

He has put two longitudinal aluminum backbones, fore and aft, for the entire thirty-two feet of length. Instead of mounting the engine on wooden bedding, it has been suspended by hanging it along with the gear box, on aluminum girders.

Arch Principle Used

Because builders for centuries have known the strength of arches, the principle of arches has been introduced not only into the decking but into the under-water hull.

Instead of having outrigged sponsons, his are flush with the hull topsides, thus eliminating another cause of accidents and damage. The entire decking is being covered by aluminum 52/1000 of an inch thick to reduce resistance and to enhance the aerodynamic and hydrodynamic features. The bottom has no cross steps, but does have two longitudinal steps. Haskelite plywood, one-quarter inch thick, is used over the frames and the ribs are 5/8 of an inch thick.

Some of the engineering development has been designed by Max Collins, veteran on Mr. Kaiser’s staff during the years he has had a fleet of speed boats at his Lake Tahoe, Calif. Summer home. Other accomplishments were developed by Norman Lauterbach, chief engineer for Apel’s Ventnor yard. The twin screws will be counter-rotating instead of turning in the same direction, another idea for more stability, allowing the boat to turn equally well to port or starboard.

In addition to American rivals for Harmsworth honors, the Kaiser-Lombardo entry will face the challenging competition form at least one Canadian boat, Ernest Wilson’s new Rolls-Royce-powered creation and from one, and possibly two, Italian craft being brought to the United States by Achille Castoldi, whose Sant Ambrogio was one of the many Gold Cup boats wrecked at Detroit last summer.

Indeed, Mr. Kaiser is having not one but three new boats constructed this spring.

(Reprinted from the New York Times, April 24, 1949)