1908 Championship of the Great Lakes

Race for Championship of the Great Lakes

Courier, Sterling Flyer and White Star in Great 25-Mile Speed Contest at Buffalo

If you know the Niagara River, and if you have learned of the enthusiasm of the motorboat fraternity of Buffalo and thereabouts, you will have no difficulty in imagining the scene presented when Courier won from Sterling Flyer a race for the speed championship of the Great Lakes on October 4th. Just thirty-three seconds separated the two fast boats in a 25-mile contest, and in many respects the race was the most sensational ever held on the Niagara River--not only in the close finish, but in the incidents in the afternoon which furnished excitement plus for the fifteen hundred or more who viewed the thrilling contest.

This race was run under the auspices of the Motor Boat Club of Buffalo over the club's five-mile course, five times around, or a total of 25 statute miles. The course was surveyed last year, and civil engineers examined the setting up of buoys before the start, so that there is no question as to the accuracy of the course. No allowance was made for turns, so the boats actually made a little better speed than that shown in the summary.

There were five starters: Courier, owned by W. J. Conners; Sterling Flyer, owned by J. G. Barclay; White Star, owned by Philip Perew; Edward O Spillman's H. S., and Tip, owned by John Kruchton. Admiral, a new speed marvel, owned by Craig and Walker of Detroit, was also entered, but was unable to start, owing to an accident that occurred to her machinery the morning before the race, while trying out a new propeller wheel. This boat was expected to do some big things, and her failure to start was regretted by all.

One exciting incident occurred before the race, when Courier, jockeying before the start, swung against the dockage and tore away part of her stern, leaving a gaping hole just at the water line. In spite of this handicap, her helmsman, Frank Ahr, decided to go over the course if possible. The trophy for the winner of the race, valued at $500, was presented by Edwin Roos Thomas of Buffalo.

From the start the contest was of a most exciting nature, and the crowd assembled along the club docks, and upon the numerous boats that lined the course, cheered the crews as they passed up and down the river at full speed.

The preparatory gun was fired at 3:30 p.m., when the boats took their position for the start, which was announced by a gun fired five minutes later. The five boats crossed the starting line in a bunch, although Sterling Flyer was first over. H. S. followed her, with Courier, White Star and Tip in the order named. Heavy swells from other boats gathered near the starting line caused White Star to pitch heavily, and Edward Lyons, one of the crew, who was standing up, was apparently pitched overboard. Afterwards, it was learned that Mr. Lyons deliberately jumped into the water, in order to lighten the boat as she was carrying three men, and he saw that she could do better with only two aboard. He was picked up at once by a motorboat. Tip withdrew from the race before she reached the first stake, and just after turning the second stake on the upper triangle, H. S. took the lead away from Sterling Flyer, and assumed a lead of about 100 yards. At this time Courier was third and White Star fourth. At the end of ten miles the positions remained the same; H. S. had increased her lead to 41 seconds, and was running at a rate of more than 28 miles an hour. When she had completed nearly fifteen miles of the course H. S. was compelled to withdraw from the race. Courier then took the lead over Sterling Flyer and gradually increased her advantage until on the last lap she was a safe distance ahead of the splendid little boat which had won the International Cup at Hamilton, Ont. several weeks before. Considering the fact that Sterling Flyer has only about half the horsepower of Courier, her performance was remarkable. Both of these boats are equipped with Sterling engines--that of Sterling Flyer being 65-hp., and Courier 120.

The summary follows:

Boat Owner Time Speed
Courier W. J. Conners 54:31 27.51
Sterling Flyer J. G. Barclay 55:04 27.24
White Star Philip Perew 55:37 26.97
H. S. Edward O. Spillman Withdrew  
Tip John Kruchton Withdrew  


(Transcribed from MotorBoat, Oct. 25, 1908, p. 26. )

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