1956 Silver Cup

Boats In Unlimited Class To Compete In Top Races

High-Powered Speedsters Test Skills of Experienced Drivers

By Bill Robinson

Tempo VII, Gale V
Unlimited-Class Gold Cup speedboats provide one of the greatest spectator thrills in all sport. Here Guy Lombardo’s “Tempo VII” and Joe Schoenith’s “Gale V” fight it out on the Ohio River at Madison, Ind.

This is the peak of the season for the big unlimited class speedboats popularly known as Gold Cuppers. They began a two-month period of intense competition in Seattle the first weekend in August, and they will be at it coast to coast and through the Midwest until the circuit ends at. Madison, Ind., Oct. 7.

These high-powered monsters are far removed from the family recreational boat that makes up the large majority of America’s pleasure fleet. Operating them is for the select few, but they provide spectator thrills for hundreds of thousands. They are somewhat like racehorses in that very few of the owners also drive them. By the time a man is in a position to support one of these roaring, fuel-devouring machines, he is too old to take the punishment they hand out.

The drivers are a mere handful of heavy-footed, iron-nerved men with the nerves and reflexes to make split-second decisions and calculations. They must have a "feel” for things mechanical, an instinct that puts them in harmony with tremendously intricate high-speed machinery. It is a dangerous business, this zooming over often-rough water at a couple of miles a minute in company with other skittish monsters doing the same tiling. Yet so good are the top speedboat drivers, and so careful the inspection, regulations, and supervision, that accidents are the exception rather than the rule.

Speedboat races seemingly have very little value other than the thrill of competition. Yet many of the features used in today's conventional pleasure boats and power plants have been tried and developed in the exacting testing ground of racing. Hull forms, engine and gear design, steering equipment, fuels and lubricants have all been greatly improved for general use through lessons learned from the race boats.

And even without the technical side, many say the sheer thrill of the spectacle justifies the existence of such complicated machines for such a restricted use. When a big fleet of spectacular craft rafts up along a race course and the unmistakable roar and high-pitched whine of a race boat dashing out from the pits fills the air, there is an excitement possessed by few other sporting events.

The start of a big boat race is one of the most stirring and critical moments in any form of competition. Amid the flying cloud of spray and exhaust fumes, split-second timing is needed to hit the line on schedule while maneuvering among other boats.

Seattle has seen it in this year as has Polson, Mont. Detroit has the big boats for the Silver Cup. Harmsworth International Races. and Gold Cup from Aug. 18 through Sept. 1. Then they travel to Washington, D. C. Elizabeth City. N. C., and Madisonville, Ind. The competition is always intense. Underlying it all this year is the growing battle between Seattle and Detroit boats for supremacy of the big boat field.

For years Detroit considered the Gold Cup its private province. Then Stan Sayres and his fabulous fleet of Slo-Mo-Shuns took it away and held it for five years before Joe Schoenith's “Gale V” took it back to Detroit last year. The fact that a scoring system fluke decided the title did not make Seattle fans any happier, and it will be quite something to watch how this year’s battle develops.

— August 17, 1956

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Detroit Irked By West’s Snub Of Silver Cup

Detroit (UP)—A Detroit boat racer voiced the sentiments of the host club for the Silver Cup race yesterday by blasting boat owners from Seattle and other West Coast points for failing to enter the Silver Cup.

Boat owner and racer Jack Schafer made his statements at a joint press, radio and television conference called to boost Detroit’s “Riverama” celebration, including the two-week program of power boat racing.

The highlights of the boat races are the Silver Cup, Harmsworth Challenge races and the Gold Cup events. The Seattle Yacht Club, which has the country’s leading boat, “Shanty I,” has entered the Gold Cup, America’s top race, but passed up the Silver Cup, as have other West Coast clubs.

“I feel that if we were in their place, we would be racing,” Schafer said. “We may be a different breed of cats, but we aren’t afraid to race our boats even though you take a chance on hurting your boat.”

— August 17, 1956