1920 APBA Gold Cup

The Detroit Gold Cup Regatta

The races held under the auspices of the Detroit Gold Cup Committee from September 11th to 15th included the Gold Cup race; the initial contest for the Fisher Trophy for 35 mile displacement runabouts as well as cruiser and runabout races galore. While interest as usual entered on the Gold Cup race; the Fisher Trophy boats put up what was really the feature of the big regatta. One of the great reasons for the success of the latter race was the fact that the deed of gift, arranged by Carl Fisher, the donor; specified that the contesting boats were to run on three days over fifty-mile courses without engine adjustments of any kind. This means that high speed engines are required to operate at top speed for a total of 150 miles. At the end of each day's racing, observers were put on board with orders to seal the engines. The boats then taken to the boat houses and put under the eye of a policeman who allowed no one to touch the craft until 10 minutes before the preparatory gun for the next day's contest. When actually engaged in racing the mechanicians were allowed to make what adjustments were necessary. To anyone familiar with high speed engines it is plain that no serious alterations could be made to a plant when underway. A tremendous amount of credit should be given to the makers of all the engines that finished the 150 mile stretch.

The Gold Cup as usual brought out the fastest boats in this country and Canada. For the first time, the public saw the two Smith-designed hydros that were sent to England by Gar Wood and who brought back the coveted Harmsworth Trophy. It is needless to state that all existing records for speed boats were beaten. In the displacement classes too, all records were broken. In the time trials for the mile, under Admiralty conditions Miss America ran one lap at the rate of 79 miles an hour; over 10 miles faster than any other craft has shot over the water. In the displacement boat trials Miss Nassau who set up a record of 38 miles an hour at Miami last spring, ran one mile at a speed of better than 50 miles an hour. Being equipped with a Liberty engine she was not eligible for the Fisher Trophy which was only for boats fitted with out-and-out marine engines. For being the fastest displacement boat she won the Motor Boating Trophy. The cup given by Morris Rosenfeld for the fastest average mile made by boats eligible for the Fisher event went to the wonderful Rainbow, by far the finest runabout that has ever been built. She had an average speed of over 39 miles an hour.

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The Gold Cup Races

The first day of the three allotted for the Gold Cup race was far from ideal for hydroplanes. A stiff breeze was blowing and there were occasionally spurts of rain but not enough to drive away the crowds that lined the banks of Belle Isle and the mainland. As the starting hour approached the breeze went down, and the weather cleared somewhat. Miss America, Miss Detroit V, Miss New Orleans, Miss Belle Isle and Imp II signified their intention of starting. The fast Canadian entry, Miss Toronto II had not arrived at that time. In attempting to start, Imp's mechanician broke the starting crank and all efforts to turn the engine by pulling the flywheel over against the high compression failed. The others got over the line for a rather poor start; Miss Belle Isle and Miss New Orleans being some seconds behind the Wood boats. At the start Miss America was one second ahead of her larger sister but Miss Detroit lead at the end of the first, second and third laps. The fourth was a dead heat, On the sixth and last: Miss America lead by 2/5 of a second. There never before had been as close a finish between boats travelling at such a speed.

On the first lap Miss New Orleans, the entry for the Southern Y. C. struck a log and was forced to withdraw ; much to the sorrow of the many who appreciated the good sportsmanship of the Dixie boys who had sent the boat on the long journey. Miss Belle Isle, a local boat, had trouble with her big Liberty and dropped out at about the same time as Miss New Orleans.

The weather on Monday was better for the speedsters and a fine race was anticipated; for Miss Toronto had arrived and grim lines about the mouth of Ericson and Pierson her intrepid crew expressed better than words the fact that they were out for business. Just before the starting gun the Canadian boat burned out her starting motor and was towed in. Miss America was the first over the line closely followed by Miss Detroit and Miss New Orleans. Imp II got a poor start but bravely went on her way with her four-cylinder Hall Scott. Miss Belle Isle did not start. Miss America was one second ahead at the end of the second lap, exchanging places with Miss Detroit on the third and fourth lap. Imp II was lapped by both of the larger boats on this round. On the last lap Miss Detroit was one second ahead of the Harmsworth winner. So far the races had been a family affair for the Woods. Miss New Orleans was two minutes behind the Smith boats at the finish but really made a good race considering the fact that she had only half their power. Imp II is the old Oregon Kid hull and has a four-cylinder Hall-Scott of only 100 h.p. She made better than 40 miles an hour in spite of the fact that Blakely lost his way and ran around looking for some of the buoys. At one turn he skidded completely around and headed in the opposite direction.

The last day was in many ways the most exciting of all; for while it was impossible to prevent the prize going to one of the Wood entries, owing to their wins on the previous days, there was the added interest attached to having Miss Toronto on hand and running at her best. Imp II was withdrawn as her owner could not remain longer in Detroit. Miss America, Miss Detroit, Miss Toronto and Miss New Orleans went over in the order named and at once it was apparent that Miss America had a large margin on Miss Detroit. At the end of the first lap she had a lead of nearly half a minute and great interest was aroused as to whether she would be able to lap her larger rival. As the finish drew near the excitement reached a climax and many bets were made by adherents of both boats. Just as the line was crossed Miss Detroit made a supreme effort and crossed on her fifth lap one second ahead of Miss America on her sixth. The excitement over this had hardly died down when Miss Toronto finished. Just after she crossed the line her engine was shut down and Ericson swung her sharply around to the judges float. As he did so the boat struck some submerged object and careened sharply to one side spilling the two in the water. A launch started for the two men who, calling out that they were all right pointed to the boat which was still running without a guiding hand at wheel or engine. Miss New Orleans, piloted by one of the best drivers ever seen at a race meet, now crossed on her fifth lap and seeing the runaway craft steered for her. Mechanician Wilkinson at the risk of his life climbed out on the forward deck of the southern boat with the idea of leaping from one boat to the other. Before he could make the jump however Miss Toronto stopped. If the feat had been accomplished it would have added a page to the record of nervy deeds. Miss America's fastest lap was made at a speed of better than 71 miles an hour, while the average was 70. By this win Miss America's name is added to the medallions placed upon the base of the Gold Cup and another star is added to the already heavy crown worn by Gar Wood.

The Summaries
The APBA Gold Challenge Cup
Boat First Heat Second Heat Third Heat Total Points
Miss America 29:36 31:47 23:4.4 18
Miss Detroit V 29:35 31:46 31:19 16
Miss New Orleans DNF 41:37 35:43 9
Miss Toronto II DNS DNS 29:31 5
Imp II DNS 45:21 DNS 5
Miss Belle Isle DNF DNS DNS o
Best lap Miss America, 71.43 mph
Best Average Miss America 70 mph


(Reprinted from The Rudder, October 1920, pp.5-8, 45-48)