1953 Red Bank Regatta
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One of the traditional "big three" of speedboat regattas, the annual Red Bank National Sweepstakes Championship, will have another site and sponsor this year. This two-day event on the Navesink River, popular for more than two decades with the speedboat pilots and voted two years ago as "best regatta of the season" has been abandoned at least for this season by the moguls, solons and badge-wearers for a variety of reasons.
Ostensibly, the main reason is because the Red Bank municipal government declined in this year's budget to include an item of $3,500 toward the $12,000 regatta expenses. A special committee headed by Edward Conway, president of the Chamber of Commerce, and which had raised deficit funds before by creating a "Red Bank Admirals' Club" for donors, decided that local merchants should not be asked this year to make special gifts.
Boat-racing devotees in North Jersey have been criticizing the decision roundly. They call Red Bank's loss of this major regatta just as tragic as was Poughkeepsie's loss of the intercollegiate rowing regatta. They poiunt out that Red Bank, which uses the slogan "River Sports Center of the East," has been obtaining practically all of its favorable publicity because of this annual regatta of national importance, which ranked along with the regattas at Detroit and on the Potomac at Washington in attracting American, and frequently foreign, speedboat daredevils.
Several of the major trophies were contributed by Mexican statesmen and other officials including former President Miguel Aleman. Speed craft among winners at Red Bank have been those driven by Guy Lombardo, by the late Jack Cooper of Kansas City, those owned by Horace Dodge, by Joe Van Blerck, Bobby Rowland, and a host of others. Last year's regatta was marred by two serious accidents in the probably too fast 135 cubic-inch class, putting John M. Kipp of Baltimore and Sam Owens of Columbus, Ohio into Red Bank's Riverview Hospital for weeks of resting and recuperation.
1927 Race Was Hazardous
Modern speedboat racing at Red Bank dates from 1927 when a New York Battery-to Red Bank outboard race across the rough Upper and Lower New York Bays had forty-three starters. This proved to be so hazardous, however, that the Coast Guard warned against another contest.
One of the drivers was Lou Eppel, now of Cedar Grove, NJ and president of the American Inboard Association, went outside instead of inside Sandy Hook, followed buoys down the Ambrose Channel and according to Thomas S. Field Jr of Red Bank was headed for England when rescued by the Coast Guard near Ambrose Lightship, miles at sea.
In 1929 and 1930 Red Bank was chose for the gold Cup races and the National Sweepstakes Race itself started out in life at that period as a twenty-mile two-heat event for boats of unlimited power. The famous sweepstakes trophy, originally acquired from a New York museum, is a large bronze depicting the Greek runner delivering the laurel wrath of victory after his twenty-six mile run from the Battle of the Marathon.
Some of Red Bank's real estate people, including the cruiser skipper Ralston (Swede) Waterbury, feel Red Bank's action this week was particularly tragic. The point to the lively increase of Red Bank's population during the past twenty years and attribute it to the regatta, which has brought many new home owners from among yachtsmen.
Where the sweepstakes will go for 1953 is anybody's guess. The expected dates were to have been Sept. 12 and 13, one week ahead of the President's Cup Regatta. The nearby city of Long Branch, through Ken Adams of the Long Branch Ice Boat and Yacht Club is seeking to utilized the Sunday, Sept. 13 day for its regatta. But it is likely some larger race meet will also make representations to the American Power Boat Association for the allocation of the dates freed by Red Bank. This might be cities that have had successful recent regattas such as Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield, Lake George, Buffalo, Hudson, NY, Philadelphia, Cambridge, Md., Baltimore, Lake Hopatcong, etc.
(Reprinted from the New York Times, March 29, 1953)
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© Leslie Field, 2002