Onontio's Mile Record [1904]

Recent Automobile and Motor-Boat Speed Records

Now that the racing season has closed it is interesting to note the speeds that have been attained on track and stream by those modern speed annihilators--the automobile and the motor boat.

People residing near the Hudson River have had several opportunities to witness some lively motor-boat races within the past two months. We have shown the latest models of these speed craft as they appeared in racing trim. Our illustration this week shows the motor boat which holds the world's record for the fastest mile. This is Commodore Harrison B. Moore's new 60-foot boat Onontio, fitted with a 175 horse-power Craig engine, which drove it through the water a distance of one nautical mile in 2 minutes 26 seconds, or at the rate of 24.66 knots or 28.42 statute miles an hour. This fast speed was attained on the Hudson River over a nautical mile laid out and measured by United States naval officers; and the remarkable performance of the Onontio was the feature of the day on October 29, when a match race was run between Mr. Frank Croker's XPDNC (short for "Expediency") and the Challenger and Vingt-et-Un II, of Messrs. Smith & Mabley. This race was run on the Hudson from New York to Poughkeepsie and return--a total distance of 118.6 nautical 0r 136.6 statute miles. The XPDNC won in 5 hours 11 minutes 50 seconds, which represents an average speed of 22.86 nautical, or 26.29 statute miles an hour. She covered the first half of the course in 2 hours 30 minutes 50 seconds, at an average speed of 23.62 nautical, or 27.17 statute miles an hour, which is extremely fast for so long a distance. The Vingt-et-Un II was obliged to stop several times which reduced her average speed for the entire course to 19.26 nautical, or 22.15 statute miles an hour, her elapsed time being 6 hours and 10 minutes. The Challenger was disabled at the start and so did not run. Both this boat and the Vingt-et-Un II were fitted with S & M engines of 119 and 59.72 horse-power respectively, their lengths being 39.62 and 38 feet on the waterline, and their ratings under the rules of the American Power Boat Association, 88.35 and 79.35. The rating of the XPDNC is 79.7; she is fitted with a Mercedes engine of 47.6 horse-power, and she is 44 feet long on the waterline.

The hull of the Onontio, which was designed by Mr. Henry J. Gielow, is 60 feet over all and 57 feet 11 inches on the waterline. The beam is 7 feet, and the draft 1 1/3 feet, the extreme draft being 3 feet. The keel and framing are of oak and the planking is double, of 3/8-inch mahogany on the outside and 5/16-inch white cedar on the inside. Both layers of planking run fore and aft, and have the space between them filled with a special cement. A novelty is found in six water-tight bulkheads of two thickness of 5/16-inch white cedar crossed diagonally and laid in cement. Another special feature is found in two fore-and-aft trusses, which make a firm bed for the engine and greatly stiffen the hull. There are three cockpits--one for the helmsman, another for the motor, and a rear one for passengers. The motor is made up of eight 7 3/4 x 10-inch cylinders, arranged in two groups of four each. The cylinders are mounted on 7/8-inch vertical steel rods, ten of which support each set of four cylinders. The crank shafts are not inclosed, but revolve in bearings in the base plate below the cylinders. Both the crank shafts and the connecting rods are hollow. There is a separate crank shaft for each group of cylinders, the two being connected together by a clutch which also acts as a flywheel. By disconnecting the forward part of the engine, the boat can be run on the rear group of cylinders only. The valves are located in the heads of the cylinders, each of which contains two inlet and two exhaust valves, all mechanically operated. Make-and-break igniters, supplied with current from a dynamo, are used, and a force-fed mechanical lubricator supplies oil liberally to all the bearings. The motor was designed by James Craig Jr. to give 175 horse-power at 650 R.P.M.. Its weight is 3,500 pounds. In the speed trial mentioned above, it is said to have turned up 900 R.P.M., in doing which it made 3,600 explosions per minute, and the propeller (which is a three-bladed, 30-inch diameter, reversible screw having a maximum pitch of over 5 feet, and covering a helicoidal path of 10 feet per revolution) covered at its edges more than a mile and a half a minute.

(Transcribed from the Scientific American, Nov. 19, 1904, p.353-354.)

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