English Criticism Of Familiar American Type Power Boats [1905]

F. Strickland, of the well-known firm of Simpson, Strickland & Co., Ltd., of Dartmouth, South Devon, Eng., has the following to say in a recent article concerning what has become to be looked upon as modern power boat construction, especially familiar in America:

"The advent of the racing power boat has, to a large extent, introduced what is generally considered a new form of hull. This type is one with a deep, narrow bow and broad, flat stern, the width, in fact, being about the same from amidships to right aft. They are, as a rule, decked nearly all over, the deck being sloped down from amidships to the bow and stern, the boat being, in fact, highest out of the water amidships. This produces a very peculiar looking hull, but in principle there is nothing at all new in it, as it is simply the old Thornycroft stern that was used on a very great number of the torpedo boats of days gone by. In the majority of the later torpedo craft it has been practically given up, though they are still broader and flatter in the stern than most other boats.

"When first introduced, this form was intended to keep the stern from sinking and the bows from lifting at high speeds. In fact, a hull of something the same form as the Thornycroft has frequently been brought out as a novelty and a claim made for it that it prevented `squatting.' At the same time, in its most exaggerated form it has never come into general use except for the present-day racing power boat, and its advantages even for this seem very doubtful.

"That the French 40-ft. boats go through the water with very little wash is evident, but I believe this is entirely due to their extreme lightness. Taking the average of them, the weights given are about a ton. Now, an ordinary 40-ft. high-speed steam launch would be about three times this weight. Again, the thing that strikes one at first in watching an ordinary boat running at high speed is the great feather of spray at the bows. This, however, takes a very little power to make, and the power is spent almost entirely in making the large traveling waves that follow the boat. I have never been able to ascertain that these were any less in the very flat-sterned boats than in those of more ordinary type. Further, I believe they `squat' quite as much if the weights and speeds are equal.

"The main test is, of course, which goes fastest for a given power. here we have great difficulty in getting enough data to come to any definite conclusion, but the greater part of the evidence have seems to me to point to the fact that the ordinary form is the best. In the first place there is the fact that the excessively broad flat stern has been to a large extent given up by the builders of torpedo craft (even those who introduced it), and in these craft there is very accurate data as to the speeds secured and the powers taken to get them.

"Then as regards the actual speeds of the racing boats, these are hardly as high as one would expect from the very light and powerful machinery pout into them. Lightness and power are always the greatest factors in speeds in these boats, and the fact that a good speed can be got out of a particular shaped boat by put- ting in very light and powerful machinery does not prove it is a good shape of boat. On the other hand, by far the best performance in high speed that has yet been done has been that of Rapee, which, though only 26 ft. long, has done as good speed as most of the 40-foot boats; in fact, to equal her speed in proportion to her length, the 40-ft. boat would have to go 27 knots on a course such as the Monaco one. Rapee seems to be far ore of an ordinary shaped boat than most, and she certainly lifts her bows a lot and throws up a lot of bowspray. Over 26-ft. boats are built on the broad, flat stern principle but do not equal her in speed. In fact, it would appear that it is quite possible to keep the bows of a high speed boat down, but only by spending power in doing it.

"Another point to be considered is that the broad stern has more surface in it, and therefore to build a boat of this type to the same weight as one of the ordinary type, she must be lighter built. This is a very serious point, as the tendency is to make the boats so light as to be unsafe.

"On the whole, it would appear that the main thing that affects the speed of boats in this class is the drifting power and weight. In this connection the sloping down of the bow and stern will save a little weight and so be an advantage. Of course, it makes the boats very inconvenient and for most purposes practically useless, but the object of a racing boat is to win, not to be useful. On the other hand, as to the peculiar under-water shape, we have no real evidence of its being an advantage at all. Boats have been built that have gone good speeds with it, but only when they are dangerously lightly built. On the other hand, we have seen such boats as Dragonfly, exhibited by Messrs. Thornycroft at Olympia last Spring, which was built strong enough to be safe, but has so far, I believe, done no great speed."

In this connection we would much like to receive expressions on the subject from American designers, who may or may not agree with Mr. Strickland.

(Transcribed from Power Boat News, Oct. 28, 1905, pp. 582-583.)

{I believe this article clearly shows the difference in American and European approaches to the purpose of power boat racing at this time in the world's history. The emphasis in North America was sport and pleasure, and the harnessing of the gasoline engine to accomplish the utmost ends of these two objectives. In Europe, however, with its national rivalries, the power boat was viewed as an extension of the military arm of these nations. Yes, there were high-speed pleasure boats, but the real money was being invested for national goals, not personal goals. For those interested look at the Monaco competitions and then compare the advertisements in Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships after World War I. You will see the prestigious names of Thornycroft, Saunders, Baglietto and Krebs linked to the light, high speed boats enlisted in anti-sub warfare. - GWC}

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

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