1909 San Diego Mid-Winter Regatta

Mid-Winter Power Racing in San Diego

by Penciler

Boom---! The first gun for the annual mid-winter power boat race, sounding its warning, vibrated and echoed over the bay and among the hills of beautiful San Diego.

It was January 3, 1909. Time, 9:35 a.m.

The power boat branch of the San Diego Yacht Club were about to begin the year in good style like their windjammer brothers, who began with a fine race on New Year's Day.

The day could not have been finer if made to order. The sun shone bright and warm, not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind to ruffle the glassy surface of the bay.

Parasols and saucy sailor hats shone in a blaze of pretty color from the wharves; shirt waists and white ducks gleamed from beneath the awnings of the many launches that brought parties out to see the sport.

The Eastern tourist had to pinch themselves to see if they were awake, or if this was not May or early June,--surely it could not be January!

But I am off my course.

A dozen launches were to scatter spray, curses and foul gasoline odors around a mile course.

The line-up was as follows: Grey Wing, Jessie, Red Canoe, Hummer G, Glide Away, Tioga, Pickwick, Zera, Grayling, Gray Witch, Buckeye, Red Devil.

The launches were sent away one, tow and three at a time, according to their handicap, the slower ones first, then the next slower, or next better, as you like, and so on up the line until the scratch boats started.

Gray Wing started first, then Jessie, followed by Tiogo and Glide Away. Hummer was to have started next, but just a short time before her turn she had a slight accident to her timer that delayed her start.

Her engineer worked furiously, encouraged by a few pleasant, funny remarks from the crowds on the wharves, which helped nicely, judging from the subdued explosions that came from Hummer, but not from her engine.

Meanwhile the rest of the boats were started, the scratch boats Gray Witch, Buckeye and Red Devil making a noise like speed.

Now, Gray Witch and Red Devil are old enemies and each owner has thirsted long and savagely for the other's nautical scalp.

The race was expected to settle some old scores, but alas, the race is not always to the swift.

One and a half knots from the start Gray Witch blew out a spark plug and quit shooting a few yards away, and Red Devil went dead with dirt in her carburetor.

The situation was funny for the outsider, to see these two fighting trouble side by side, each one working and cranking to beat Witch and Devil, and finding time to roast one another between grunts.

How the people laughed!

Finally Gray Witch began to kick, only to fold a bunch of kelp in a loving embrace around the propeller a few short puffs away, which made Red Devil's owner's face shine with sardonic delight. One of the Witch's crew was promptly overboard with a boathook, when the red boat began to move, which caused a corresponding depression on the Witch.

But it did not last long, for she laid down again in a few seconds.

"Cheer up boys, the Devil is dead!' roared Captain Bowles of the Gray boat, as he threw in the clutch, and away they went around the course, leaving the Red boat to its troubles.

Meanwhile Glide Away and Tiogo were having it nip and tuck. Being sister boats, built on the same moulds, equipped with the same brand and horsepower engine, they started together in the race and stayed close by each other all the way, overtaking everything ahead, Glide Away crossing the finish line three seconds ahead of her sister.

The rest came in from 11 to 15 seconds apart, with the exception of the unfortunate smoke boats that broke down.

This speaks well for the club's handicapping system, which is of its own particular brand.

Each boat is figured according to her actual performance over a knot course, with a severe penalty or disqualification for over three per cent excess speed in a race, over that made on the trial.

Transcribed from Pacific Motor Boat, March 1909, pp. 7, 8.

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