1950 Harmsworth Trophy

Seattle Bids for Harmsworth Race

Stanley S. Sayres' Miss Seattle [Slo-mo-Shun IV] is groomed as a possible 1950 defender of the international trophy.

1950 Harmsworth Trophy Programme Guide
1950 Harmsworth Trophy Programme Guide

Negotiations to stage the famed British International (Harmsworth) Trophy Race for unlimited class racing hydroplanes on Seattle's Lake Washington have begun between the Seattle Yacht Club and the Yachtsmen's Association of America at Detroit, Michigan. Seattle's entry for this and other races in 1950 will be Stanley S. Sayres' powerful racer, Miss Seattle, formerly Slo-mo-shun IV.

Arrangements were being discussed at press time to hold the event to coincide with Seattle's first Sea Fair, planned for August 11 to 20. Another feature event under consideration is the Detroit Marathon Trophy Race, a gruelling whitewater ordeal for man and machine. Last year both races were held in Detroit.

Stanley Dollar, present holder of the Harmsworth Trophy and 1949 Marathon winner, had previously shown interest in holding the Harmsworth race in the West until his Skip-A-Long sank in Lake Tahoe, California, last summer. He has asked that he be given until mid-January to advise whether he would exercise the option of naming the location of the next race.

The new, Allison-powered, 28-foot four step hydroplane, Miss Seattle, is at present being groomed by Sayres as a Pacific Northwest challenger for the important races of the year, including the Gold Cup, Silver Cup, President's Cup, in addition to the Harmsworth.

In a test held last December the boat rocketed down Lake Washington at speeds many believe to be in excess of 120 miles per hour. So far, no accurate timing has been possible and the various guesses (some of them far beyond 120 mph) as to speed are based on reports of several seaplane pilots who have run impromptu races with the boat and readings from the Keller water speedometer as stated by several who have had an opportunity to ride in Miss Seattle.

Sayres is unwilling to make any statements as to what the boat has done or as to what he expects it to do. He is well aware of the rather common tendency to greatly exaggerate boat speeds and no one knows better than he that a few short bursts of tremendous speed will not win any major races or even establish an official world's straightaway record.

In a recent interview, he said, "Had this boat been designed for the sole purpose of straightaway speed, certain changes would have been made—had it been designed for racing only on the shorter closed courses, other changes would have been made. We are trying to develop a boat that will make a good showing on short courses, on the longer Harmsworth course, and still be fast on the straightaway-obviously a matter of many compromises. Then, if our compromises should prove to be reasonably good, the job must be rugged so that neither hull nor engine begin flying apart after a few miles. Finally she must be well-driven."

Sayres is delighted with the performance of the new boat, so far. He is determined to do everything possible to make a good showing but he is far from a "starry-eyed" optimist. He is not the type of man to count his records before they are made and has no illusions as to the many problems involved.

Although Seattle distributor for Chrysler autos and vice-president of Jen-Cel-Lite Corporation, he has found time to indulge extensively in his racing hobby and is himself a seasoned driver of smaller racing craft.

Sayres reported that Miss Seattle will be ready to participate in all major races in 1950, and he is especially anxious to bring some of the big races to Seattle where he says the waters of Lake Washington are the most ideally suited of any in the country.

"The Harmsworth Trophy was set up in England some years ago as an international racing trophy to crown the fastest boat in the world," he said. "The rules are very flexible as to type of boat, and they have recently been further liberalized to allow a counter-clockwise course and optional reduction in size of the course.

"Total distance to be raced for the Harmsworth is 42 nautical miles, with a maximum course of 12 and a minimum of 5 miles. Turns must not be less than 120°. This will be accommodated by Lake Washington very nicely."

The Harmsworth Trophy has remained in American hands since 1920 when Gar Wood's Miss America I wrested the trophy from the defender, Sir Mackay Edgar, off the Isle of Wight. This trophy was successfully defended by a succession of Miss America's through 1933, when Gar Wood retired. The trophy then lay dormant until 1949 when Canada's challenger, E. A. Wilson's Miss Canada IV, revived the race with the first challenge in 16 years. This was won by Dollar's Skip-A-Long.

Negotiations to bring the big race to Seattle were begun by Sayres in a recent trip to Detroit. He found officials of the Yachtsmen's Association' of America somewhat interested in the proposal to bring the 1950 Harmsworth Race to the West Coast.

Upon Sayres' return, a meeting was arranged by Miller Freeman, publisher of Pacific Motor Boat, together with representatives of the magazine, to meet with Sayres and discuss the possibility of sponsoring such a race in Seattle. Attending were Jerry Bryant, president of the newly-formed Seattle Salts who are sponsoring an annual water carnival, the Sea Fair, and Latham Goble, finance committee chairman of the Salts.

When Sayres outlined the progress he had made in Detroit, it was agreed that the first appearance of the big gold cuppers in a major West Coast event would be the climactic spectacle that would make Seattle's Sea Fair an outstanding event. It was arranged to invite J. Lee Barrett, secretary-treasurer of the Yachtsmen's Association of America, to Seattle to meet with the Seattle Yacht Club and the Seattle Salts. His visit was made in mid-January for the purpose of discussing the possibility of bringing the Harmsworth Trophy Race and the Detroit Marathon Trophy Race to Seattle.

Elimination of some of the last bugs from Miss Seattle's performance also proceeded in January. Working with Sayres in the creation of this craft is Anchor Jensen, Jensen Motor Boat Company, and Ted Jones, Boeing Aircraft Company engineer who designed the boat. Cooperating with them is Donald Spencer, Western Gear Works, who developed the 3-to-1 step-up gear and who is now revamping the steering mechanism.

When the low-slung, mahogany plywood-paneled boat romped over the water at speeds estimated well above 120 mph in her last test run, only two-thirds of the tremendous potential in her powerful 12-cylinder Allison engine was utilized. Such was the force of the boat through the water that it was found that a much stronger steering mechanism was necessary. These changes are proceeding at the Jensen Motor Boat Company, and the first mild day in late January [1950] may see Miss Seattle streaking comet-like down Lake Washington on a test of her new equipment.

Sayres has pointed out that Miss Seattle is not a revolutionary type of boat as to design or equipment. However, great care was taken in order to give her a stable, rugged hull structure. The engine, placed forward of the cockpit, has a straight drive through the Western Gear 3-to-1 step-up box fabricated in Seattle. Mahogany for her hull was made to order by the Elliott Bay Lumber Company in Seattle.

The engineering of this Seattle-designed and built boat has resulted from considerable trial and error during the past 12 years. Sayres, Jensen, and Jones are working in close association to develop — a speed boat which could be a formidable contender in the unlimited class races as well as capable of making official try to exceed the present world's speed record of 141.74 mph.

(Reprinted from Pacific Motor Boat, February 1950, pp.14-15)