The Gold Cup Class Revisited
By Fred Farley - APBA Unlimited Historian

From 1922 to 1941, Unlimited hydroplanes were barred from participation in the APBA Gold Cup event. In their place, a new category of racing boat was created: the Gold Cup Class.

Not until after World War II would the Unlimiteds again be allowed to compete for the APBA's top award.

The original Gold Cup Class boats, vintage of 1922, were so-called "gentlemen's runabouts." Hulls with "steps" or "shingles" on the underside were outlawed. The engine size was likewise limited to 625 cubic inches--although this was later changed to 732 cubic inches.

Gar Wood, the first boat racing superstar, had won five consecutive Gold Cups, starting in 1917. "King Gar" had entered fifteen Gold Cup heats during those pinnacle years. He finished first twelve times and second three times. In 1920, at the wheel of his twin Smith-Liberty-powered Miss America, Wood averaged a phenomenal 70.412 miles per hour in the 30-mile Final Heat on a 5-mile course. The record would stand until 1946.

In the 1921 Gold Cup, Gar Wood was simply unbeatable and made a shambles of the opposition. In fact, only two other hydroplanes showed up to challenge Miss America. And one of these (Miss Chicago) was driven by Gar's younger brother, George Wood.

For the next two decades, Gold Cup racing was restricted--supposedly for safety but obviously to stop Gar Wood's domination, and also to put the sport into the range of more pocketbooks than had previously been the case.

bullet Winning the Gold Cup and Other Trophies at Detroit
bullet Gold Cup Class Revisited : 1922

A field of thirteen "gentlemen's runabouts" appeared in the 1922 Gold Cup at Detroit. The winner was Jesse Vincent in Packard Chriscraft with a 90-mile race average of 40.253. The race also marked the debut of the Packard Gold Cup engine, which would hold sway for the next fifteen years.

Between the World Wars, no circuit per se existed for either "U" boats or "G" boats. Each race had its own unique set of rules. The owner of a high-speed racing craft would build a boat for competition in one or two major events per year. The balance of the season would be devoted to participation in any number of obscure "free-for-all" races, hosted by individual yacht clubs or by various "wildcat" power boat racing organizations.

The race that most closely paralleled the Gold Cup in terms of rules was the President's Cup, which started in 1926. But while the Gold Cup race location was determined by the yacht club of the winning boat, the President's Cup was contested almost exclusively in Washington, D.C. The Gold Cup was a 90-mile race, whereas the President's Cup was 45 miles.

Most boats that raced for the Gold Cup were likewise eligible to compete for the President's Cup. One difference between the two codes dealt with the minimum cubic inch piston displacement size. At a time when both trophies allowed a maximum of 732 cubic inches, the Gold Cup required a minimum of 600, while the President's Cup permitted 366.

The other prominent race that sometimes attracted the Gold Cup crowd was the National Sweepstakes Trophy at Red Bank, New Jersey, starting in 1930. The Sweepstakes event was a single-engine Unlimited race. Any size or manufacture of inboard engine was permitted--as long as there was only one. This was in answer to Gar Wood's all-conquering multi-engine Miss Americas.

Rainbow III had the 1923 Gold Cup all but won. Owner/driver Harry Greening finished first in both of the first two 30-mile heats and led for 25 miles in the third heat. Then a cotter pin from the rudder assembly gave way and the work and plans of a year were undone.

Greening managed to effect repairs and finished the heat in fourth-place. This put Rainbow III in a point tie with Vincent's Packard Chriscraft. The eight minutes spent repairing the rudder proved to be Greening's undoing. Vincent won the race on the basis of a faster total elapsed time.

bullet The Detroit Gold Cup and Sweepstake Races
bullet Rainbow IV Wins Gold Cup
bullet An Error in Our Gold Cup Story
bullet The Gold Cup Class Revisited : 1924

The disputed circumstances surrounding the 1924 Gold Cup contest at Detroit are well known. As the often-told story goes, Greening's Rainbow IV had apparently won the race but was seen by some as being a hydroplane rather than a displacement hull. And so, a protest was filed.

The craft's bottom was of lapstrake construction, which was technically permitted by the rules. The APBA decided, however, that the strakes had been installed for the express purpose of achieving a hydroplane effect. In other words, Greening had followed the letter of the rules but not the spirit of them.

As a result, Rainbow IV was disqualified and Caleb Bragg's Baby Bootlegger was moved from an overall second to first position. This action effectively ended the Gold Cup career of Harry Greening, a well-known Canadian sportsman of his day. He never raced for the cup again.

bullet Baby Bootlegger Keeps the Gold Cup
bullet Gold Cup Stays in the East
bullet Gold Cup Class Revisited: 1925

Baby Bootlegger may have won the 1924 Gold Cup on a technicality, but she and driver Bragg won the race "for real" in 1925. The George Crouch-designed craft held off a stiff challenge in the second heat from Nuisance, driven by Delphine Dodge Baker, the first woman ever to compete for the Gold Cup. (In 1927, Mrs. Baker won the President's Cup at the wheel of Miss Syndicate, owned by her brother, Horace E. Dodge, Jr., of the Dodge automotive family.)

bullet Ready for the Gold Cup Regatta
bullet Gold Cup Entries Break Record
bullet Greenwich Folly Wins Gold Cup
bullet Greenwich Folly Wins the Gold Cup
bullet A Big Fleet in the Gold Cup Race
bullet Gold Cup Class Revisited: 1926

The 1926 Gold Cup on Manhasset Bay, New York, was one of the classics of the series. George Townsend and Greenwich Folly held off a dynamic challenge from Vic Kliesrath and Shadowvite. At the end of 90 miles, it was Greenwich Folly with 978 points and Shadowvite with 944. Richard Hoyt's Imp failed to finish but posted the fastest lap speed (53.580) since the hull and engine limitation of 1922.

The success of 1926 not withstanding, the sport was in deep trouble after five years of Gold Cup Class rules. Costs had continued to spiral upwards. And the boats that raced were definitely not the desired "gentlemen's runabouts." They were nothing but simonpure racers.

bullet Greenwich Folly Wins Gold Cup a Second Time
bullet Greenwich Folly Wins Gold Cup Once More
bullet Gold Cup Class Revisited: 1927

In the 1927 race at Greenwich, Connecticut, eleven boats started. Two capsized, three disintegrated, one was a victim of driftwood, three experienced mechanical difficulty, and two finished. Townsend and Greenwich Folly survived to post a second straight victory, ahead of second-place Charles Chapman and Miss Columbia. Chapman was for many years the publisher of Motor Boating Magazine, one of the more prominent periodicals in boat racing history.

No Gold Cup race was run in 1928. The "gentlemen's runabout" concept was abandoned and hydroplane hulls were re-admitted. Accordingly, the year was set aside to allow contestants to rebuild their boats in compliance with the new regulation. Although, in truth, only three owners (Richard Hoyt, Vic Kliesrath, and Horace Dodge) from the "gentlemen's runabout" era returned to race hydroplanes in the Gold Cup.

bullet Imp Wins Gold Cup Race at Red Bank
bullet Gold Cup Class Revisited: 1929

The hydroplanes made an inauspicious return in 1929. Hoyt's Imp, the race winner that year, actually ran slower than had the 1927 Gold Cup winner, which was a vee-bottom monoplane. The 1929 race at Red Bank was at least exciting. Sam Dunsford's Scotty gave Imp a good battle before being forced out with mechanical difficulties.

The Stock Market crash of 1929 plunged the country into the Great Depression of the 1930s, which affected nearly every facet of American life. Gold Cup hydroplane racing, however, emerged largely unscathed during that troubled decade. In every year but one, a respectable field of competing boats showed up to keep the sport alive and reasonably healthy.

One of the Gold Cup's more prominent patrons during the Depression was Anna Thompson Dodge who invested millions of dollars in boats and equipment. Her son Horace won the big race on two occasions (in 1932 with Delphine IV and 1936 with Impshi.).

The 1930 Gold Cup fanned the flame of suspicion from the previous year that the hydroplane hulls built to the new rules were not competitive. Six of them appeared in the second contest for which they were eligible. But none of them were able to run with Hotsy Totsy, a four-year-old vee-bottom craft that had been treated to a "shingled" underside. This "shingling" created a multiple-step form similar to that of the outlawed Rainbow IV of 1924.

Hotsy Totsy, after winning the 1930 Gold Cup at Red Bank, repeated as champion in 1931--this time on its home waters of Lake Montauk, New York. Again, the new-style hydroplane hulls did not seriously threaten driver Vic Kliesrath and his "shingled" old-timer.

Taking a hint from the success of Hotsy Totsy, two-thirds of the 1932 Gold Cup starting field consisted of "shingled" versions of earlier vee-bottom Gold Cuppers. The winner was Delphine IV, the refurbished former Solar Plexus of 1925, owned by Dodge.

Before the race, Horace had essentially given up on Delphine IV and loaned her to a couple of his employees--driver Bill Horn and riding mechanic Charlie Grafflin--while Dodge concentrated on Delphine V. Much to Horace's chagrin, Delphine IV won the race, while Delphine V failed to finish. And before season's end, Horn and Grafflin also captured the President's Cup with Delphine IV.

The Gold Cup returned to Detroit in 1933 for the first time since 1924. But the Cup's stay in the Motor City proved to be of short duration.

This was the year of the highly touted "Dodge Navy." Indeed, five out of a total of eight entries belonged to Horace Dodge, Jr. Unfortunately for Dodge, three of his boats were brand new. And none were a match for El Lagarto, "The Leaping Lizard of Lake George," which had made a lackluster debut in the 1922 Gold Cup as Miss Mary II. (As El Lagarto, the craft had won the 1931 President's Cup and National Sweepstakes events.)

Owner/driver George Reis and riding mechanic Anderson "Dick" Bowers pushed the old "Lizard" to the fastest heat (60.866) since the cubic inch displacement limitation of 1922.

bullet Gold Cup Class Revisited : 1934
bullet George Reis Runs Away With The Gold Cup
bullet Gold Cup Stays at Lake George
bullet El Lagarto Wins Gold Cup on Lake George
bullet El Lagarto Again Wins Gold Cup
bullet El Lagarto Keeps the Cup

Reis, Bowers, and El Lagarto made it two Gold Cups in a row in 1934 at Lake George, New York. "The Leaping Lizard" won the first two heats, after a battle with Ben Hill and Hornet in Heat Two, and then cruised to an easy third in Heat Three to win the race on points.

Gold Cup Class Revisited : 1935
Reis Wins Cup, But None of His Rivals Finish

In 1935, for the first time in Gold Cup history, a boat (El Lagarto) won three Gold Cups in succession. Reis and his thirteen-year-old "Lizard" would not be denied. This year, for the first time, superchargers were permitted in the Gold Cup Class.

But Reis and Bowers elected to stay with their naturally aspirated set-up and won the race anyway. Not for thirty years would another craft (Miss Bardahl) match El Lagarto's record of winning three Gold Cups in a row.

George Reis had to be one of the most colorful characters ever to jockey a hydroplane. In addition to race driving, Reis was a poet and also a stage actor of some distinction and performed at the prestigious Pasadena Playhouse. George had been an Unlimited Class driver back in 1920 with Whip Po Will. Reis was blind in his left eye and, when driving in a race, would only pass on the right of his fellow competitors.

Gold Cup Class Revisited : 1936
A 90-Mile Joy Ride Earns Kaye Don Gold Cup

Of all the 1930s Gold Cup races, only the 1936 renewal was an outright disaster. Only two boats answered the starting gun. El Lagarto went dead in the water after only one mile of competition. Impshi, with Englishman Kaye Don driving, ran 89 of the 90 miles by herself.

Some might have written off the sport after the gargantuan collapse of the show at Lake George. Fortunately, the 1936 President's Cup, run just a few weeks after the Gold Cup, was a stellar event.

The President's Cup winner was in doubt right up to the time of the finish of the last heat. At one time or another, El Lagarto, Notre Dame, Delphine VIII, and Ma-Ja II had the lead in the 45-mile competition. Notre Dame and Ma-Ja II traded heat victories in the preliminary action, but the Jack Rutherfurd-driven Ma-Ja came from behind to beat Clell Perry and Notre Dame by six seconds in the third and deciding heat.

In summary, the 1936 President's Cup is remembered as a fine example of remedial public relations surgery. It gave the sport some much-needed credibility. And it effectively dimmed the memory of Lake George.

Impshi's win in 1936 returned the Gold Cup to the trophy shelf of the Detroit Yacht Club. The 1937 race proved to be one of the more successful in the series.

The rules were amended to allow participation by boats of the International 12-Litre Class, which was popular over in Europe at the time. The 12-Litre hydroplanes were roughly comparable to the American Gold Cuppers. The 12-Litres could compete providing that they join an American yacht club that was a member of the APBA.

The 12-Litre delegation at the 1937 Gold Cup comprised Alagi and Aradam from Italy and Rafale VI from France. The other international entry was Miss Canada II from Ingersoll, Ontario.

Count Theo Rossi di Montelera, the head of the Italian vermouth industry, owned the Italian team. Rossi drove Alagi, while Guido Cattaneo handled Aradam. Miss Canada II pilot Harold Wilson would become a Gold Cup and Unlimited Class mainstay over the next thirteen years. Rafale VI pilot Maurice Vasseur would perish a few years later in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

As an added insurance against another fiasco, such as occurred at Lake George in 1936 when only one boat finished all three heats, the Detroit Gold Cup Committee invited a delegation of 725 Cubic Inch Class boats to run at Detroit.

The 725s had headlined the Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association circuit for over a decade. There was a considerable fleet of them around the Cincinnati and Louisville area at the time. The majority were powered by 1914 vintage Hispano-Suiza ("Hisso") aircraft engines. They had names such as Mercury, Hermes, Warnie, Pin Brain, Why Worry, Who Cares, My Buddy, Bid Shot, and Miss Fern Creek.

Often referred to as the "Haywire Class," the 725s were a fine example of low-cost grassroots level boat racing. They met the minimum requirements for the APBA Gold Cup Class, but were in no sense Gold Cuppers as boats of that class were generally thought of being. The "G" boats were more expensive and more exotic-looking than the homebuilt 725s…and usually faster.

Throughout its history, the MVPBA tended to attract the "blue collar" participants, while the APBA was more "yacht club" oriented. Socially, the APBA and the MVPBA was not a good mix. Upon arrival in Detroit, the 725 Class people were assigned their own pit area (actually, a parking lot) and were denied access to the Gold Cup Class pits.

A Detroit newspaper reporter, Harry LeDuc, had chanced to witness a 725 Class race on the Ohio River at Louisville. LeDuc had been extremely impressed with the level of competition among the 725s and strongly urged the Detroit Committee to include them on the program.

A number of prominent boat racers made their first impressions in the 725 Class. These included the likes of "Wild Bill" Cantrell, Marion Cooper, and George "It's A Wonder" Davis.

Ostensibly, the 725s were invited to Detroit in 1937, 1938, and 1939, to put on their own race, run the same weekend as the Gold Cup. But the obvious intention was to have these boats available on a stand-by basis to fill out the Gold Cup field, should that become necessary.

Fortunately, the Gold Cup Class had its house in order at Detroit. The Gold Cuppers, augmented by the 12-Litres, were able to pull their own weight without having to rely on the 725s for support.

The three 725 Class races run in conjunction with the Gold Cup were won by Cooper in Hermes III, Jim Anderson in Warnie, and Cantrell in Why Worry respectively. All three races were well received and provided the 725s with their finest national showcase.

Notre Dame, owned by Detroit industrialist Herb Mendelson and driven by Clell Perry, held off the foreign challenge en route to winning the 1937 Gold Cup. Alagi finished second overall with a victory in Heat Two. Then came Hotsy Totsy III in third, followed by Miss Canada II, Rafale VI, Delphine IX, and Miss Cincinnati, Jr. in that order, while Impshi and Aradam failed to finish.

Notre Dame used a 24-cylinder Duesenberg power plant, one of the more expensive engines to be used in a Gold Cup Class boat.

This same Notre Dame hull, designed by Perry, also triumphed in the 1935 and 1937 President's Cup contests.

[See also 1937 APBA Gold Cup --LF]

See also:
Gold Cup Class Revisited : 1938
Western Boys Are Heroes of Gold Cup Race

For 1938, a new Notre Dame was entered but never made it to the starting line. Driver Perry flipped the boat on the day before the race. He was badly injured and suffered a crippled arm. Count Theo Rossi, driver of Alagi, was reported so distraught after the accident that he (Rossi) considered withdrawing from the race.

Motor Boating Magazine suggested that perhaps the rudder design was responsible for the crash. But twenty-four years later, in 1962, Shirley Mendelson McDonald, daughter of Herb Mendelson, reported to interviewer Fred Farley that Notre Dame had met with foul play at the 1938 Gold Cup. She insisted that someone whose identity was known to the Mendelson team had deliberately "sawed away part of the step."

Whatever the explanation, no official action was ever taken against the alleged saboteur and the 1938 Gold Cup was run as scheduled. Rossi and Alagi took the top honor and established a 3-mile lap record of 72.707.

Second-place in 1938 went to a homebuilt boat from San Francisco, the Miss Golden Gate, which was one of the first hydroplanes to utilize the new-style three-point design (two sponsons and a propeller), from the drawing board of owner/driver Dan Arena.

Another three-pointer, the Excuse Me, owned by Horace Dodge, Jr., fared less well at the 1938 Gold Cup. With the respected Bill Horn driving, Excuse Me resembled a hump-backed ping-pong bat. She was supposed to be a trendsetter for a new line of racing hulls, to be produced by Dodge. However, the boat wallowed along in last place and quite literally fell apart. She sank before completing a single heat.

Horace Dodge was so soured by the Excuse Me experience that, for the balance of his career, he concentrated almost exclusively on step hydroplanes. The only other three-pointer to carry the Dodge colors into competition was the short-lived Hornet of 1951.

The new Miss Canada III led for several laps in Heat One of the 1938 Gold Cup but had to withdraw on account of a faulty oil scavenging pump. Delphine IX dropped out with a blown gearbox.

Count Rossi had arrived in the United States with a fast, perfectly tuned, and painstakingly assembled engine and a boat that did everything asked of it without falling apart. The 19-foot 7-inch Alagi, powered by half of an Isotta-Fraschini aircraft engine, was the boat of the hour and the first craft from another continent to ever win the Crown Jewel of APBA racing.

In claiming the runner-up spot, Miss Golden Gate had posted the highest finish ever, up to that time, by a West Coast boat in the Gold Cup series. (Californian had finished third in 1931. The first Western boat to win the Gold Cup was Seattle's Slo-mo-shun IV in 1950.)

Miss Golden Gate driver Arena and riding mechanic Danny Foster impressed mightily at the 1938 Gold Cup. Truly, a lot would be heard from both of these young men, barely out of high school, in the years to come. And the story of their finish in Heat Three would be told and re-told. That was when, for the last eight laps, Foster had to hang precariously out of the cockpit into the engine compartment, holding the gas controls open with his hands after the fittings connecting the foot throttle with the carburetors went adrift.

Rossi hoped for back-to-back triumphs at Detroit and Washington, D.C., that year. And so he did. Unfortunately, no other Gold Cup boats showed up to contest the President's Cup. Alagi ran one 15-mile heat unopposed and was awarded the trophy by default.

In an exhibition race at Washington against some of the 225 Cubic Inch Class boats, Rossi and Alagi set a Potomac River lap record of 70.866 on a 2-1/2-mile course. This translated to approximately 75 miles per hour on the faster 3-mile course used at Detroit.

The Italian Count's presence on the late 1930s APBA tour generated lots of favorable publicity for the sport. Rossi was clearly the most popular foreign driver since Kaye Don, driver of Miss England II, in 1931.

Years later, Rossi would donate the Martini & Rossi National High Point Trophy, which to this day is presented annually to the High Point Champion Unlimited hydroplane team.

Will She Take the Gold Cup This Month? (So-Long)
War Crisis Keeps Rossi Abroad
Speed Boats to Start in Labor Day Classic
Pilot of Delphine IX Killed as Boat Sinks
Why Worry First in Detroit Regatta [725's]
Miss Canada III Choice to Beat Five Rivals
Simmons Sets 90-Mile Speed Mark
The Gold Cup Class Revisited - 1939

The first Gold Cup victory by a three-point hydroplane occurred in 1939. Unlike the step hydroplanes, the three-pointers rode on the tips of two pontoon-like running surfaces called sponsons and a completely submerged propeller. (Not until the late 1940s would the boats start to "propride.") The concept would forever alter the course of competitive power boating.

My Sin, a product of the famed Ventnor Boat Works of Ventnor, New Jersey, won all three heats of the 1939 race with owner Guy Simmons driving. The other three-pointers in attendance were Bill Cantrell's Why Worry, Lou Fageol's So-Long, Marion Cooper's Mercury, and George Davis's Hermes IV.

The Ventnor company had popularized the three-point design when they introduced Miss Manteo II, a successful 225 Class hydroplane with vestigial sponsons, in 1936.

Why Worry, a Ventnor-built 725 Class rig, was the biggest surprise of the race. She won the 725 Class contest at Detroit hands down. Then, in both of the first two Gold Cup heats, driver Cantrell was an unexpected leader before being forced out both times by propeller failure.

The 1939 Gold Cup was the first major appearance by Cantrell who would become a Gold Cup legend. He was the winning driver in 1949 (with My Sweetie) and drove his last Gold Cup in 1965 (with Miss Smirnoff). "Wild Bill" remained active in Gold Cup competition as an owner as late as 1982 (with Miss Kentuckiana Paving).

The unsuccessful Notre Dame of 1938 was back, after being redesigned by John Hacker and rebuilt by new driver Dan Arena. She managed an overall third in 1939 behind My Sin and Miss Canada III. But Notre Dame owner Mendelson was dissatisfied with the hull and ordered a new boat, to be designed and built by Arena, for 1940.

On September 1, 1939, the same weekend as the APBA Gold Cup Regatta, World War II began over in Europe with the German invasion of Poland. The long-feared global conflict was now an ugly reality. American involvement was inevitable but did not occur until Pearl Harbor Day, two years later.

For the time being, APBA and MVPBA racing continued. A full field attended the 1939 President's Cup, which was won by Harold Wilson in the beautiful mahogany Miss Canada III. But no one could deny the presence of war clouds on the horizon.

An early "casualty" of WWII was the absence of Count Rossi from the 1939 Gold Cup. The defending champion was unable to obtain a visa to get out of Italy, because of the imminence of the war crisis. This was most unfortunate, because Alagi had already been shipped to Detroit and was awaiting Rossi there.

In addition to losing the Italian defender, fate would sadly prevent another entrant from participating in the race. Pilot Joe Schaefer was stricken from the list of the living when Delphine IX capsized in trials on the Detroit River. Riding mechanic Ed McKenzie survived, but Schaefer achieved the tragic distinction of being the first fatality in Gold Cup history. He would not be the last.

Columnist Sam Owen, in a 1950 article for Lakeland Yachting, took Delphine IX's forward-cockpit configuration severely to task as being unduly hazardous. Owen had the same criticism of the 1938 Notre Dame and also of the 1931 Miss Philadelphia in which driver Billy Freitag was fatally injured at the 1931 President's Cup.

bullet Speed, Spray and Spills
bullet More R.P.M. [July 1940]
bullet Hotsy Totsy III Takes Gold Cup In A Walk
bullet Hotsy Totsy Wins in Race For Gold Cup
bullet Gold Cup Stays In The East
bullet More R.P.M. [Sept. 1940]
bullet Gold Cup Class Revisited : 1940

The 1940 Gold Cup winner, Sydney Allen, had never driven anything faster than a runabout. He had only just purchased the old and obsolete Hotsy Totsy III from the estate of the late Vic Kliesrath.

The race, at Northport, Long Island, was a classic case of the tortoise and the hare. Hotsy Totsy III wasn't the fastest boat in the world, but she was reliable. Allen emerged victorious after Dan Arena (Notre Dame), Lou Fageol (So-Long), Hugh Gingras (Gray Goose III), Eddie Hudson (Miss Syndicate), Guy Simmons (My Sin), and Gar Wood, Jr., (Tinker Toy) all fell by the wayside with mechanical difficulties.

The new Notre Dame, powered by the same Duesenberg engine as her predecessors, had a successful 1940 season, despite not being able to finish at the Gold Cup. The Arena-designed step hydroplane won the President's Cup and set a supercharged Gold Cup Class straightaway record of 100.987, which stood until 1946. (This compared to the Unlimited record of 141.740, set in 1939 by Sir Malcolm Campbell's three-point hydroplane, Bluebird K-4.)

A couple of 725 Class boats (Mercury and Why Worry) made a try for the unsupercharged Gold Cup Class straightaway record in 1940…and came embarrassingly close to the supercharged record.

Marion Cooper and Mercury turned 98 miles per hour at Washington, D.C. This mark stood exactly two hours. Then, Bill Cantrell and Why Worry went out and did 99.

After eighteen years of Gold Cup Class rules, the "G" boats had seen their better days. There were no suitable engines being manufactured in the sizes prescribed by the then-current rules (600 to 732 cubic inches). Power plants, such as the 36-year-old Hispano-Suiza, were no longer available in quantity.

In the late 1930s, the most vibrant inboard group was the 225 Cubic Inch Class. Most of the top 225 Class hydros were Ventnor three-pointers and used Lycoming engines, which were both powerful and plentiful.

At the 1937 national Sweepstakes Regatta, the 225s and the Gold Cuppers raced against each other for the first time. And the winner was Jack "Pop" Cooper's Ventnor 225 Class Tops II (the future Slo-mo-shun I).

In both 1938 and 1939, the Gold Cup Contest Board voted down a proposal to lower the Gold Cup cubic inch minimum to 225.

The quality of Gold Cup racing in the years just prior to the outbreak of World War II had been generally good. But the problem of what to do about the dwindling supply of engines wouldn't go away.

But by 1941, the tribulations of the Gold Cup Class seemed inconsequential in light of the increasingly perilous international situation facing the country.

No President's Cup was run in 1941. And the Gold Cup almost wasn't. After Detroit declined to host the race, the Red bank committee agreed to run the Gold Cup between heats of the National Sweepstakes.

And then, only one boat (My Sin) showed up to answer the starter's gun! Following the precedent established at the 1938 President's Cup, Guy Simmons ran one 30-mile heat unopposed and was declared the Gold Cup winner by forfeit.

This marked the end of APBA Gold Cup Class activity for the duration of the war. The MVPBA, however, continued to sanction 725 Class races throughout 1941-and even a few in early 1942. But this likewise was halted when gasoline rationing--and the military draft-went into effect. No organized power boat racing of any description occurred again until after V-J Day in late 1945. Competition for Gold Cup and 725 Class boats didn't resume until 1946. The 732 cubic inch piston displacement limitation was quickly abandoned in order to take advantage of the huge supply of government-surplus Allison and Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engines, developed for the war effort.

In summary, the Gold Cup Class, vintage 1922 to 1941, by all accounts, put on many more good races than bad. In terms of prestige, the Gold Cuppers were second only to Gar Wood's Harmsworth hydroplanes of the 1920s and early 1930s. The Gold Cup Class was the APBA's showcase category at least until the 225s came on in the late 1930s. Only on rare occasions did the "G" boats as a group ever embarrass themselves.

Throughout the Great Depression, the Gold Cup Class helped to keep big-time boat racing alive during a time of great economic uncertainty. Then, after World War II, the Gold Cuppers and the 725s combined and changed over to the Unlimited Class. The Gold Cup Class foreshadowed the Thunderboat tradition that continues to the present day.

Fred Farley. For reprint rights to this article, please contact the author at <fredf@hotmail.com>


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