Problems With the Race Handicap Rating Rules [1906]


Power Boat Racing Demands New Rating

Impossible To Get Close Contests Under Present Rules

Want Actual Speed Tests

Plan To Be Introduced To Try Out Every Boat and Classify It On Its Performance

It is probable that at the meeting of the American Power Boat Association, to be held in this city on March 7, an effort will be made to secure the removal of the rule adopted at the December meeting of the association changing the measurement requirements to fix the rating of boats and to pass a new rule of rating that will handicap boats on their actual performance. Some such plan is absolutely essential to the continuance of power boat racing as it has been found impossible in the experience of power boat clubs so far to hold a series of races under any rule of measurement that would afford even a pretense of actual contests. The races has all resulted in walkovers for one or another boats that happened to be favored in the rating and classification and the others had not a ghost of a chance. The result was that those who had boats discriminated against refused to start and there has been a corporal's guard in every race meet held where there should have been dozens of entries in every event considering the number of boats owned in yachting centres. And there would be were there any reasonable system of handicapping. This was evidenced by the experience of the Knickerbocker Yacht Club, which last year had a one design class that was raced continuously, with splendid results, both as to contests and interest.

The scheme to race boats on actual performance is by no means chimerical. It may sound so at first, but it was successfully tried at Palm Beach during the recent motor boat carnival, and it was found to be generally satisfactory. it was tried at the unanimous demand of owners of some twenty-four boats who were disgusted at the travesty of racing afforded by the present measurement rule, where it was impossible to get the boats together on any equitable footing so that more than one had a chance to win.

The old rule, which was in force until December last, provided for the measurement of the horse power of a boat and computed the rating on the basis of its horse power, displacement, and waterline length. The square root of the waterline length was multiplied by the horse power and the product divided by the area of the midship section. From this whole result the cube root was secured and this was multiplied by 16 for the rating. While this was supposed to give a true scientific idea of what the boat ought to do theoretically, in practice it was found that there was great difficulty in obtaining the horse power. The method to determine the horse power was to use a motor product divided by the area of piston by the number of cylinders, then by its stroke, and finally by its revolutions. The only factor ignored was the mean effective pressure, which might still have given an approximate horse power result, except that the difficulty encountered was to measure the revolutions. it is certain that ridiculous figures were gotten for the horse power of some of the boats. Dixie, for instance, being credited with 119, which was far below the fact, and others being similarly misquoted on account of discrepancies in the matter of revolutions.

It was determined in view of this to change the rule and the matter was delegated to a committee. The committee accepted without justification a rule that was proposed that did not cover the matter at all, but simply ignored the revolution factor and considered simply the area of the piston and number of cylinders, not even taking into account the stroke of the engine. Such a means of computing the horse power was manifestly ridiculous and almost as absurd as the subsequent provision adopting a differing divisor for boats in the automobile and other classes which was speedily proven to be ludicrous in its discriminations.

While it is possible to measure these various factors on a scientific basis and determine just what a motor develops, a much similar way is the means now suggested. It is to evaluate every boat before it be allowed to race, to be sent by the authorized measurer over a measured mile on a given course and to classify that boat according to the speed which it can develop. Certain standards would then be adopted and the boats classified by the proper authorities according to that speed, irrespective of length or other characteristic, in the same manner as trotting horses are classified. Each race between boats of the same class or speed would then be assured good contests and between different classes could be arranged with handicaps that were absolutely sure to develop even races except for such elements as water conditions, smooth running and good steering, which should decide contests.

It is suggested that a suitable measured mile could be laid out for this purpose either on Newark Bay, or on the Harlem at Morris Heights and the trial made there. These places would be no more inaccessible than would be the places where a boat was last year taken in order that it could be measured and the result would be infinitely more satisfactory than the present absurd formula.

(Transcribed from the New York Times, Feb. 18, 1906, Part II, P. 10. )

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