1907 Letchworth Cup

The Letchworth Cup Races

The annual joint regatta of the Buffalo Launch Club and the Buffalo Motor Boat Club for the Letchworth cups was held this year on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 14, over what is known as the Bedell House course on the Niagara river at Grand Island. The occasion was the annual outing of the executive departments of the Pratt & Letchworth Co. and the U. S. Hame Co. -- two institutions that are a great credit to the Bison City.

It should be known to our distant readers that there is no connection between the business of these companies and the sport of motor boating -- but Mr. O. P. Letchworth, the executive head of both, is one of the boys in any undertaking which promises fun and clean sport and he offers every year some valuable cups to be won in fair and open competition. Therefore the donor has come to be considered a great factor in promoting launch racing and his annual outing is about the most popular event of the entire season in this vicinity. One of BOATING's editors was privileged to attend the races this year and what he saw is worth telling.

The gathering of the clans began at Black Rock at one o'clock where hundreds of guests of the officiating firms boarded the pleasure steamer Osseous Bedell bound for Grand Island, three miles below. It was a jolly crowd -- just plain, happy, every-day mortals to whom the bright sunshine and the excellent music offered a tonic that pervaded everywhere. Only Osseous suffered but she hurried along past great piles of lumber and rows of boat houses that line the American side until well opposite Strawberry Island. Just below this point the river widens out perceptibly and takes two channels on either side of Grand Island. The eight-mile current at Ferry street is lessened by half and more about Frog Island, which is the new home of the Buffalo Motor Boat Club.

This little suggestion of Sahara is being rapidly reclaimed by its new owners who have paved its low banks with rip rap and started a scheme of landscape gardening that is altogether creditable. In the center is a new clubhouse almost completed; the architecture is simple but impressive and the interior suggests extreme comfort for all hands. If the beginning of this youthful organization is an indication of its future Frog Island will not be big enough to hold it in a few years.

Bedell's, our destination, is on the easterly shore of Grand Island right near its head and is a pleasure resort of the better sort. Here is located the Buffalo Launch Club, the oldest organization of its kind in this country and one of which all concerned may well feel proud. The clubhouse -- a big Colonial structure -- is ideally placed in a great grove on the waterfront with lots of elbow room inside and out and no distractions except mosquitoes. An L-shaped dock provides good landing stage and also allows the small launches to moor in the basin between the dock and shore. The whole layout is well thought out and is thoroughly practical and effective.

The one disappointing feature about Grand Island from the popular point of view is its isolation; a so-called ferry makes its trips across from the mainland but the accommodations are scarcely attractive consisting of a tugboat and a flat-bottomed scow upon which visitors and vehicles are herded promiscuously. The steamer Bedell relieves the situation on other days than this, making regular trips to the city. It is, therefore, apparent that a motor boat is a convenient necessity for those who visit these waters. And there were hundreds of these pleasure craft.

Having time before the races to look about us the writer was astounded at the number of motor craft that had gathered about the docks. There were a few cabin launches and others of more or less importance. But the greater number of them were open launches, fast runabouts and speed boats. As a whole they were of good model and well powered. In every respect the attendant fleet was exceptional. The racing boats naturally were the center of interest. They were the pick of the two organizations and it was apparent early in the day that some rivalry existed as to which would make the better showing. In actual numbers the Launch Club led but the Motor Boat Club secured the prizes. In addition to racing flags each entry was required to fly the burgee of the club which its owner elected to represent.

There were in all 15 entries grouped in two classes -- Class B including those whose speed ranged between 12 and 18 miles an hour, while Class A took in the boats that couldn't make 18 miles or better. They were carefully measured by a special committee and their ratings based upon the A.P.B.A. rules for 1907; full allowance was awarded under the table. The accompanying details clearly set forth all the data.

Class B
  Rating L.W.L Beam Engine cyl bore stroke H.P
Dawn 67.0 22' 3" 3' 6 11/16" Buffalo 4 5 19.24
Snip 67.65 21' 11¼" 3' 4 1/16" Niagara  4 19.24
Picket 68.85 24' 8½" 3' 4" Leighton 4 4 4 19.71
Crapaud 74.5 30' 1" 4' 8" Herschell-Spillman 4 5 43.3
Pete 75.0 25' 3" 3' 11¼" Sterling 4 35.44
 Class A
Sterling Kid  71.7 22' 7" 3' 5 7/8" Sterling 4 4 5 25.13
Swan 76.15 22' 1" 3' 1 3/8" Sterling 4 4 5 25.13
Laura T 80.3 33' 2¼" 4' 7 11/16" Herschell-Spillman 6 4 11/16 51.77
Whiz 80.95 35' 5' 3½" Herschell-Spillman 6 6 3/16 6 60.14
Moth 90.65 27' 2 1/8" 3' 10¼" Sterling 6 53.16
Viper III 94.4 30' 6¾" 3' 7¾" Sterling 6 6 71.27
Arab II 97.07 33' 3" 4' 2¾" Sterling 6 6 71.27
Courier 101.5 34' 8" 4' Sterling 8 6 95.0
H. & S. 123.4 40'½" 4' 1½" Herschell-Spillman 8 6 165.13


The course was made up of two triangles, starting from the Bedell house dock, thence up the river about a mile, across toward the east shore, thence back to the starting line -- from here the boats went downstream and back over a similar triangle so that the total round measured exactly five miles. This was covered twice by the contestants.

The boats were awarded their handicaps in advance being sent away separately on a single gun. Gehu, limit boat in Class B, failed to respond at four o'clock and the first boat away was Dawn at 4:08:19. She was 18 seconds behind her signal which was about the average through the fleet. It was apparent that the racers were not skilled in making good starts. Mr. Schultz in Sterling Kid and Sidway in Arab II being about the only exceptions. Pete, the scratch boat, left the judges' stand at 4:11:55 and the race was on. Snip passed Dawn, and Pete overhauled Crapaud on the upper triangle; it was evident even then that the Bridge craft was in winning form.

Down the river the racers made great time, the little Snip holding the lead while Picket moved up ahead of Dawn and Pete beat both of these boats to the starting line. Crapaud was fourth and Dawn last. The third quarter gave Pete the lead and the race; Crapaud, the Tonawanda entry, finally got to going, making the best time of the fleet on this round, and coming home in second place, close behind the leader. Snip was third but Picket was catching her fast.

On the final quarter Pete gained 21 seconds on Crapaud, giving her a lead of 39 seconds at the finish. She was roundly applauded when she sped across the line. Picket beat out Snip for third place by a quarter of a minute; Dawn was a poor last. Whereas there had been only a little over three minutes between the limit and scratch boats at the start there was more than four minutes at the finish and the order was exactly reversed.

At 5 o'clock the larger class was summoned, Sterling Kid taking the limit gun at 5:05. She made a beautiful start, losing but four seconds in getting away. Swan, the next starter, did not show up, bringing up Laura T at 5:08:05 and Whiz 17 seconds later. The latter was in poor shape and was distanced immediately by her Tonawanda sister that preceded her.

Before Viper III started at 5:12:21, Sterling Kid was off on the second quarter but the Major soon had his six-cylinder Sterling singing a perfect song and took up the long chase in earnest. Arab II followed Viper III at 4:12:54, though Sidway never had a chance to catch the mahogany flyer; in fact Viper III beat her a minute on the first quarter. Both carried motors exactly alike, but Viper III -- a smaller boat -- was plainly faster in the smooth water. With any sea it looked as though Arab would win.

Up to this time there had been no breakdowns and everyone was moving even though some of the engines were not doing there best work. It was reserved to the fastest boats in the fleet and the two whose great bursts of speed had startled the onlookers in the warming-up period to cast a cloud over the contest. When Courier rushed over the line at 5:15:07, a minute and twenty seconds behind her gun everyone settled down with the firm expectation of seeing a genuine race. Some said she was late intentionally because she was so fast she didn't need her time. When the first quarter was finished and Viper III had actually beaten the Conner's craft 20 seconds, affairs began to look different.

H. & S., the new Tonawanda flyer, successor to Niagara that won this same trophy last year, sped away at 5:17:59 with Viper III more than two miles ahead. Since the latter was maintaining a 23-mile gait it is easy to figure that H. & S. must exceed 29 miles an hour to catch the bunch. Everyone hoped she would do it and break all records -- the crowd wanted action and lots of it -- besides the popularity of E. O. Spillman is unquestioned..

The big eight-cylinder boat with 165 horsepower moved off fast and her speed was no disappointment while it lasted. On the upper turn, however, she stopped and did not get underway again for ten minutes. It appears that her power plant is new and the engine ran hot. Courier covered one complete round, losing actually a full minute to Viper III, and then she blew up -- not literally but almost so -- something let go inside the crank case, tearing it all to pieces. With these two big boats disabled, interest reverted to the slower but more reliable craft.

Sterling Kid was running perfectly and held a safe lead for a long time. Viper III gained all the way, overhauling Whiz on the second quarter and Laura T soon after. As they passed down stream the last time the Kid was only 33 seconds in the lead and was doomed to go back to the ranks. Laura T held third place while Arab II caught Whiz on the last leg. In this order they finished with plenty of distance between them. The Sterling engine had made a clean sweep and Commodore Criqui wore a double smile, one for his club and the other for his company.

Viper III ran perfectly throughout the contest, giving the winner an average of 23.08 miles an hour. Viper III is not an attractive boat underway as she lists badly, a fact that earned her the soubriquet of "Toothpick;" she would drown a water polo player in a seaway but can certainly travel when conditions are right.

Both Laura T and Sterling Kid ran evenly and well and their showing was a credit to them. That they were beaten is due more to the rules than their own performance. It stands to reason that a man's hardest race is against the rules and if he can beat them sufficiently the rest is a matter of efficiency of his power plant. Laura T and Crapaud are handsomely modelled craft and represent the latest work of the Niagara Motor Boat Co. at Tonawanda. Pete, Snip, Arab II and Courier are products of T. M. Milton, of Brewerton, N.Y., whose work is regarded very highly by their owners.

Bedell House Course: 10 Miles Weather Fair, Wind Brisk, SW
Class B
per mile seconds
Starting gun Crossed line First quarter Second quarter Third quarter Finish Time from crossing 
Dawn C. S. Alt 64.25 4:08:01 4:08:19 4:16:30 4:28:25 4:36:48 4:49:09 40:50
Snip H. D. Elliott 62.25 4:08:21 4:08:50 4:16:28 4:27:27 4:35:21 4:47:17 38:27
Picket H. Gabriel 59.00 4:09:52 4:11:12 4:18:00 4:28:13 4:35:30 4:47:02 35:50
Crapaud J. M. Wattengel 44.56 4:11:18 4:11:24 4:18:31 4:28:17 4:35:13 4:45:29 34:05
Pete  H. Brundige 44.00 4:11:24 4:11:55 4:18:13 4:27:35 4:34:55 4:44:52 32:57
Gehu was entered but did not start 
 Class A
Sterling Kid  A. B. Schultz 50.75 5:05:00 5:05:04 5:12:02 5:22:19 5:29:25 5:39:37 34:33
Laura T R. Trosin 32.25 5:08:05 5:08:22 5:14:50 5:24:20 5:30:53 5:40:19 31:37
Whiz L. R. Vandervoort 30.6 5:08:22 5:08:59 5:16:05 5:26:11 5:33:10 5:43:30 34:31
Viper III J. G. R. Glasgow 8.08 5:12:07 5:12:21 5:17:25 5:24:54 5:29:58 5:38:28 26:07
Arab II R. H. Sidway 4.07 5:12:47 5:12:54 5:18:56 5:27:33 5:33:31 5:42:20 29:26
Courier W. J. Conners 1.88 5:13:47 5:15:07 5:20:31 5:28:36 Disabled    
H. & S. E. O. Spillman 24.66 5:17:35 5:17:59 5:33:31 Disabled    
Swan and Moth did not start 


(Excerpts transcribed from Boating, Oct. 1907, pp. 37-40)

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