1909 Coronado Tent City Races at San Diego

Coronado Tent City Races at San Diego

By Penciller

Chug, Chug, Chug! Bang, bang, bang! The rattle and roar of a full score of chug boats all shooting gasoline odors into the air at once, all minus mufflers of any kind, and all darting hither and there made a scene of confusion and bustle to be long remembered by the visitors.

The scene was on pretty little Glorietta Bay, a small arm of San Diego bay, on which is situated the world-famed resort of Coronado Tent City. It was near starting time of the motor boat races on July 5th, and the band concert was just drawing to a close when the above described racket began and completely drowned the stirring strains of the Stars and Stripes Forever.

The band tried nobly to make itself heard above the din, but 20 power boats on a 30-foot range were too much for human endurance, so the band gave up and power boating held undisputed sway.

The tent city management, with their usual generosity, donated six handsome prizes to be divided among three classes, and the results were gratifying.

The line-up of entries, with respective power, was as follows:

CLASS A (Small Craft).

The line-up of Class B, which composed the medium-powered, medium-sized boats consisted of:

The four real fast girls were in Class C:

The starting point was on the inner channel close to the Tent City bandstand, and the course led from there down the shore along beside the boulevard for some distance, where it made a curve out into the bay and over the Beacon 12 and return, a distance of four miles.

The little fellows were started first with their handicaps given at start. They put up some good sport and were well received on their arrival by the enormous crowd that had gathered on the shore. Roma was the winner in Class A, with Cooko second, corrected time being 28:30 and 33:20, respectively.

B Class prize was won by little Red Canoe, which went over the course at top speed without a miss. Her time was 25:08, while Grayling, winner of second prize made it in 27:40.

The real event of the day was the C class. No one had ever heard of Gray Streak. She was only launched on July 4th, and her engine and piping had been throws in any old way to get her together for the race.

Consequently when she arrived at the start a few minutes before her time, the sensation she created among the spectators and the consternation among the contestants was remarkable.

The first seen of her was a dash of spray, which someone said was a shark, others insisting it was a whale, while still others didn't just know. All agreed that it was coming pretty fast, but Gray Streak was right in the inner channel before she was recognized as a boat. Only 17 feet long, of toothpick proportions, she needs the "mud guards" that are rigged forward to keep out the spray. As she flew along the bay with some turns that were spectacular, she caused much comment, as did also the expert handling she received from H. Bowles, the commodore's son.

Addie was the first to start, followed 59 s. later by Black Cat, which went over the line coughing and sneezing badly for the first hundred yards, when she settled down to business and never missed a stroke all the rest of the way.

Gray Streak went 2 m. 20 s. after Black Cat and Red Devil, the scratch boat, was 55 s. later.

About one-third of the course had been covered without any change in the positions, when Gray Streak began to back, and for a few moments she lay dead, while the Devil caught her. The Streak then woke up and held her own for a few minutes, when she quit altogether, and was left far astern by Red Devil.

It seemed an age to the anxious on-lookers that the Streak lay dead, but just as a launch was about to go to her assistance she suddenly revived and began to haul up on the others, a long way ahead of her.

At the turn, Addie had to change a spark plug, and was soon out of the running, as her engines heated up, and the speed could not be maintained.

Black Cat kept the lead, although hard pressed by Gray Streak, and when the last stretch of the course was struck the folks ashore went fairly wild.

It was plainly seen that the Streak was gaining with every jump on the black boat, and the question was could she make the finish first.

The minutes seemed like hours, so strong was the tension ashore, where 10,000 people were watching with bated breath.

At last the Black Cat shot across the finish, a winner by 20 seconds. Then it was that pandemonium broke loose and the cheering and applause that the gallant little speed boats received were never before equaled in San Diego waters. The owners of Red Devil received considerable sympathy, as she is undoubtedly the best built boat in the class and has the best speed lines, but the engine, it seems, will not hold down the job.

Glorietta Bay is a most desirable sheet of water for power racing, being absolutely smooth in almost any weather. The bottom is a little too close to the top, and the channels through it are narrow. It is hoped that the Coronado management will some day dredge out a little of the mud, and then a circular course can be laid off that will be a mile around, and where the race can bee seen at all stages from the Tent City shore. Such a course would have no superior in the whole Unites States. Owing to this shallow water, five or six contestants went on the mud in the first of the race and, of course, were stung.

The corrected time for Black Cat for the course was 19:02, Gray Streak 19:20, Addie 26:41 and Red Devil 26:48.

(Transcribed from Pacific Motor Boat, August 1909, pp. 33, 34.)

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