1909 Western Power Boat Association Regatta

Western P.B.A. Races at Peoria

By E. Percy Noel

The water carnival at Peoria, Ill., where the Western Power Boat Association held its annual regatta, August 17, 18 and 19, demonstrated amply the keenness of the new interest in motor boating in the West. The regatta speaks well for the future, promising greater things for next year. The cruises from Chicago and St. Louis vociferate the beauty of the Illinois river; boatmen who never dreamed of this beauty found the slowly running stream winding in and out among the hills and dales something to marvel at.

Never before in the history of western boating had such an array of evenly matched speed boats gathered together as at Peoria. True, and accident that might have happened in almost any water, spoiled the great race in which these powerful craft were struggling closely; but to see them start was in itself an inspiring sight. Four of these boats, which participated in the free-for-all, were credited with 30-mile-an-hour speed or better, and not even the most experienced boatman would predict a winner among these fast movers—Hoosier Boy, champion of the Ohio river, piloted by W. F. Whitlock, of Rising Sun, Ind.; Independence II, the eight-cylinder, 210 h.p. racer of E. C. Koenig, St. Louis; Scripps II, 100 h.p., six-cylinder engine of W. E. Scripps, of Detroit; and Lamb IV, the victor of the Mississippi, with her twelve cylinders delivering 120 h.p.

So closely matched were they that when the gun boomed from the judge’s boat they ploughed the 7,000 feet of the first leg of the triangular course, their bows tossing the spray on to each other and reached the first buoy boat length to boat length apart. Lamb IV had the pole at the start, with Independence II in the next position and Scripps II in the third. At the cannon, Lamb IV shot forward with a sudden burst of speed, but she held the lead only for a moment. Independence II was quick to seize the lead, cutting ahead of Scripps II, churning great swells for her opponents to ride. Up the stretch they could be seen through the clouds of oil smoke that Independence vomited from her open exhausts, so close together at times that it seemed collision was unavoidable

Then a great geyser of water shot up at the first buoy. Those who watched through the glass said that Scripps II had rammed Independence, and the next moment the Independence was seen shooting straight in for the shore, obliquely from her course. Scripps lying lower on the water, could not be seen from the judge’s boat, and some one thought she had sunk. But no one surmised correctly.

When the police boat reached the first buoy after a run up the course to help, Scripps II was being towed to shore by a small launch and the Columbia and Meteor of St. Louis had gone to the assistance of the St. Louis speeder. Scripps was leaking badly aft, while the Independence was aground in the near-shore mud. Independence had struck a floating seine pole, partly submerged, which broke her steering gear, and had been abruptly turned from her course. Scripps II hit the same obstacle and was thrown into the air fully six feet, but came down right-side-up with a leaking hull, minus her wheel and with her clutch stuck fast. The engine was shut off when the impact came. The damage to Independence was not so great.

Running with six feet of her twenty-three clear of the stream and throwing the water behind and on both sides so that the jets looked like inverted water-falls. Mascot, the latest production of Corsepius of Fort Madison, Ia., won two events preceding the free-for-all on the second day. The first race was for 32-footers, but there were no boats of that size to appear, although Wonder of Chicago took her number and was expected until the last minute. Mascot defeated Teaser, Teaser of the Mississippi, the 26-footer that had never before been beaten—and in this connection it is interesting to note that Teaser was 26 feet 6 inches when she began to practice in Peoria waters the day before the race. Somebody objected—rightly enough—and then what do you think happened. When the boatmen awoke on the first day they found that Teaser was rather stubby around the nose—for six inches had been sawed off her bows, and the hole blocked up with a patch.

In the 32-footer race Teaser took Mascot’s lead away on the last leg of the 5-mile course, and the latter trailed around the judge’s boat 200 yards behind. Up the back stretch Mascot seemed to throw the water a little higher, and soon it was plain that she was gaining. The first moving thing that could be seen in the distance on the home stretch was a geyser—the spectators knew that meant Mascot, and they cheered the odd little craft as she hove in sight with the water falling all over her. Teaser got farther in the rear before the finish of the fifteen miles, Mascot winning easily.

St. Louis boats took all the available places in the cabin and half-cabin events, the Allamakee, of W. S. Ferguson, seizing first place and R. H. Combs’ Duro Four, second place in the full-cabin race. The only St. Louis boat entered in the half-cabin class—the Meteor of August Kron—made a walk-over of the race.

Before the races, thirty boats planned to start together from Bridgeport, Ill., at the beginning of the Illinois-Michigan canal, to cruise to Peoria ways. The contingent that did get there arrived irregularly, but represented nearly every boat club in the vicinity of Chicago. It was not the boatmen’s fault, for enthusiasm was great over the prospect of the cruise; it was the water that caused the trouble.

Planning the get-away from Chicago early Saturday morning, the cruising boatmen encountered the worst summer storm that has been felt in Chicago for some time. The wind blew up a great deal of sea, then the rain came down in torrents. Three and one-half inches of water fell that morning, causing no little trouble on land and making it unsafe for the small, open boats in the open water. The few boats that did plough on through the weather to Bridgeport were a long time getting there.

This misfortune at the start broke up the organized cruise and the boats whose owners had planned to make the run to Peoria got down as best they could. The best runners arrived in Peoria Monday night. The Illinois Valley Yacht Club, otherwise called the "Ivy" Club, met the boats up the river and escorted them down, then entertained the boatmen from the North at the beautiful clubhouse about four and one-half miles from Peoria.

The Chicagoans found trouble in the old Illinois-Michigan canal, but when the river was reached it was such easy going that no one bothered to follow the lights that mark the channel. Through this canal the commerce of the Great Lakes once moved towards the Mississippi, but now it s used chiefly by pleasure boats—not always with pleasure. It is ninety-six miles from Bridgeport to the end near Peru—LaSalle. Coming down, the boats that drew more than tree feet of water dug the mud at the bottom and there were occasional halts to get out of it.

Along some of the levels the cruisers saw beautiful country, but the southern end of the canal shouted ugliness like the northern.

Below Peru the boats passed through a section of the coal-mining district with a rugged line of hills in the distance. One hundred and twenty miles from Chicago they passed the mouth of the Hennepin canal. Only a pair of stone walls, partially hidden by the trees, showed where the connecting link between the upper Mississippi and the Illinois makes its beginning. The canal cost the government $22,000,000 and twenty years’ work. It is not a paying institution, but is being well kept up and is a fine thing for motor cruisers wishing to pass from the Illinois to the Mississippi at Rock Island.

Transcribed from MotorBoating, September 1909, p. 45.

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