1904 Calais to Dover
Calais-Dover Motor Boat Race
From Our Special Correspondent
Dover, Aug. 8
Seeing that this race, organized by the Automobile Club of France, had been given an international character by the entry of English, German, and Belgian boats in addition to the French, it seemed a good opportunity to pass in somewhat detailed review the craft from the various countries with the object of ascertaining whether there was much difference in the practice of the builders of the varies nationalities. It must be borne in mind that, as to the motors themselves, there is very little, if any, variation from the standard patterns fitted to the ordinary car, except that the racing boat has engines similar to the racing cars. Of course, in the details of arrangement and in such things as pumps, tanks, &c., the practice in a launch has the advantage of not being so cramped for room as is the case on a car. The greater differences must therefore be looked for in the construction of hull and the methods employed in keeping water out of the body of the boat. Owing to some lack of arrangement on the part of the authorities, there did not seem to be any one place where all the boats were to be found, though one part of the Calais docks had been set apart -- if a large amount of bunting round one of the basins could be taken for a sign -- for their accommodation. The result was that a protracted search on Sunday and Monday morning was necessary to unearth a number of the competitors, which were found in almost every corner of the docks.
The general result of a detailed examination was that, while there did not appear to be any generally-adopted form of hull, yet a clincher-built boat with a comparatively sharp entrance and rather a short taper aft was the more general shape. It seemed, too, that the more common midships section was in the shape of a flattened U, and that the absence of any kind of keel was almost universal. Exceptions to this rule may be noted in Napier Minor, which is flatter in the bottom than most, and some of the regular ships' launches, such as the Amiral Bruix and Noemie, and one or two of the bigger boats, such as the Suzy and Marcotte, which had the usual keel.
One or two other types were also represented. For instance, in the Humono was found a regular sea-going yacht of some 36 tons, with ample accommodations for four passengers besides the crew, and 6ft. of headroom below. The boat had come round from Scotland to take part. There were also three fishing boats fitted with petrol engines, two of which at all events, the Maurice and the Dalofil, seemed well suited for the work for which they were intended. The third had what seemed to be too big and expensive an engine for this class of boat. Some means of reversing engine or propeller had to be fitted, the two main methods being either some form of epicycle gear, which imparted a reverse motion to the propeller shaft, or a reversible propeller, which acted backwards without changing the direction of the propeller shaft. In addition to these one or two got the reverse motion by means of a sliding gear, and at least two others by some form of belt drive -- which later would hardly appear to be satisfactory, in that a belt can and does stretch nf therefore slip, an occurrence which might be very awkward in a tight place.
This morning early gave promise of very much finer weather than had been the case on Saturday and Sunday; for Saturday it would have been quite, and on Sunday almost impossible to run the race owing to a fresh westerly breeze and considerable sea. Consequently at quite an early hour boat after boat made its appearance from its secret retreat and came into the outer basin in Calais Harbour. The Automobile Club of France had chartered Le Pas de Calais, which took most of the French spectators over, while for the convenience of the English the Queen had been chartered by the "Motor-Boat Journal." The crowd on board showed that the prospect of seeing so many boats start at once on what would appear to be a long voyage to the owner of a 35ft. steam launch was a great attraction
England was represented by Napier Minor, entered by S. F. Edge (Limited), and the Trefle-a-Quatre, now the property of Mr. G. B. Thubron. It will be remembered that these two boats competed off Ryde on July 30 for the International Cup, but then Trefle-a-Quatre ran under French colors. Mercedes IV, represented Germany, and Belgium had a starter in Marcotte.
The prizes were a cup presented by Comte Recope for the best performance with a heavy oil fuel; a Sevres vase "for the winner among the cruisers," presented by the President of the French Republic; and a cup presented by M. Quinones de Leon for the best performance with alcohol fuel. Unfortunately there was only one boat which declared itself a user of this fuel.
The following is a list of the starters and some particulars as to engine, hull, &c.: --
|For Cruisers Of Less Than 21ft. 3in. In Length
|Name of boat
|Motor made by
|Hull built by
|Amiral Bruix I
|For Cruisers, 21ft. 3in To 26ft. 3in. In Length
|Soc. la Marguerite
|De Dion, 9-h.p.
|For Cruisers 26ft. 3 1/2in. To 39ft. 5in. In Length
|M. de Dietrich
|De Dietrich, 35-h.p.
|For Cruisers 39ft. 5 1/2in. To 59ft. In Length
|Fay & Bowen
|Vosper & Co.
|For Fishing Boats
|Seillier & Prudhommeaux
|For Racers - - Class 1
|Name of boat
|Motor made by
|Hull built by
|M. E. Callois
|For Racers -- Class 2
|Richard Brasier, 80-h.p.
|S.F. Edge, Ltd.
|Saunders Patent Launch Co.
Racers carried red flags, Cruisers carried blue flags
The preliminary gun was fired at 1:30 and the starting gun five minutes later, and all the competitors were sent off all at once. It was a pretty sight to see them coming down on the line in a big bunch showing every form of bow wave, and, if end on, looking little more than a dark smudge in a cataract of white water. Hotchkiss led over the line, followed by Mercedes IV, and Napier Minor; but the first named had the bad luck to stop her engine directly afterwards, and did not get going before she was lost to sight from the Queen. So Mercedes IV went on with the lead, which she kept on increasing as the knots were reeled off, till she reached Dover with an advantage of 5min. 18sec. over Napier Minor. Of course the smaller boats could not be expected to keep anything near, and were left to run their course while the steamers set off to catch the leaders, now more than a mile away; and catch them they never did, for Mercedes IV finished a long way ahead of them, as did Napier Minor. This will give some idea of the pace these small launches can go when a steamer of 8,000 indicated horse power cannot catch the launch of 80. As a matter of fact, Mercedes IV, did as good time as the fastest of these Channel boats, and they are reckoned speedy. As far as a race was concerned, it was nothing to excite great interest; but what was most interesting was the number of boats crossing the Channel and their different appearances as they went through the water. One very noticeable point was the extraordinary amount of noise the French boats made owing to their having no "silencers," in most cases only very short lengths of exhaust pipe from each cylinder. The other nations were quieter.
The following is a list of winners and their times: --
|Cruisers — Net Time
|Vas-y wins the President of the Republic's prize for cruisers
|X (Marsouin II)
Trefle-a-Quatre was delayed by trouble with a valve
Mercedes IV wins first prize for time in the racer section. Marthe wins the "heavy-oil fuel" prize. The alcohol fuel cup was not awarded, as there was only one entry.
Napier Minor wins the prize given by the International Club of Monaco for the first boat home that raced at Monaco last spring. Out of the 21 boats that started 20 finished, and the Hotchkiss, which did not come across, was put out of the race just after the start by a faulty ignition and a burnt-out plug.
(Transcribed from the London Times, Aug. 9, 1904, p. 6. )
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page]