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A story from the old days - January 1966

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Old 09-18-2003, 09:55 PM
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Default A story from the old days - January 1966

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Yachting Magazine / January 1966

Cruiser competition of the early 1900s has been revived as Offshore Powerboat Racing

By MEL CROOK

OFFSHORE RACING has been widely touted as the most fascinating of the new cate_gories of powerboat competition. At the outset, let’s make clear that it is far from new. Marine application of the internal combustion engine in the early years of this century was soon followed by “cruiser” racing in open water and over consider_able distances. By 1916 “cruisers” and “express cruisers” accounted for more than half of the races sanc_tioned by the American Power Boat Assn. And these were no sissified events. The 100-nautical-mile race from New York to Block Island was won at a speed of 23.78 nautical m.p.h.

Races of this type continued to play a dominant part in powerboat competition through the mid-twenties. In 1921 Gar Wood turned in four historic performances offshore in a boat named Gar Jr. II. He captured the race from Miami to Palm Beach and return at 32.8 statute m.p.h., topped the field from Miami to Key West at 37.3 m.p.h., turned in a solo run from Miami to New York at 26.6 m.p.h. and, again against time, ran from Miami to Detroit at 25.4 m.p.h.

But the first half of the 1920s wit_nessed a burgeoning interest in han_dicap races for cruisers. This mode of competition slowly took over from boat-to-boat races in open water events and, in turn, gave way to the more equitable predicted log contest. And thus offshore racing vanished so com_pletely that its revival in 1956 was generally considered to herald the ar_rival of something “new.”

What is offshore racing~
Offshore racing, of the current vintage, might more accurately be termed rough water racing. The courses and the dates of events are selected to provide rugged weather and sea conditions. Total distance in_volved varies from 140 to 280 statute miles. Participation, according to current APBA rules, is limited to “high performance, seagoing pleasure boats suitable for operation offshore under normal weather conditions.” Races are run at the scheduled hour unless small craft warnings are being displayed.

Technical restrictions vary among the several races now being run. Hulls are limited to a minimum of 18’ and a maximum of 40’ (or 50’) with little or no restriction on hull form. Some rules segregate hulls into “pro_duction” and “prototype” categories~ Engines arc classified according to piston displacement, with a general requirement (except for the Miami-Nassau Race) that they be of a type advertised and sold to the public as marine or automotive power plants. Inboard gasoline engines are limited to a total of 1,000 cu. in. of piston displacement per boat and inboard diesels, usually, to 2,000 Cu. in. Out_boards—eligible for offshore compe_tition where the race originates in the U.S.—are rated by displacement. Ac_cording to most rules, inboard en_gines may be hopped-up almost with_out limit.

The revival—Miami•to•Nassau
In 1956 the late Sam Griffith and Forrest Johnson, both active in the Miami area boat building industry and both veterans of closed course power_boat racing, met with international sport promoter “Red” Crise and con_cocted the idea of a powerboat race from Miami to Nassau. This contest, still tops on the annual calendar of offshore races, clicked from the very beginning. It provides the challenge of pounding 55 miles across the Gulf Stream, pin-point navigation for al_most 70 miles over the baffling Baham_ian shallows and then slugging a final 60-odd miles across the Atlantic depths into Nassau. Coupled with these natu_ral attractions was the flamboyant pro_motional skill of Crise, backed by the hospitality and publicity push of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.

On Dec. 4 of 1956, Sam Griffith and Richard Bertram teamed up to best a field of 14 in Jim Breuil’s Doodles II. They averaged 19.92 m.p.h to finish four hours and 20 min_utes ahead of co-originator Forrest Johnson, who placed third. Since then interest has increased with a peak num_ber of 52 crossing the starting .lune in 1963. Similarly performance has been stepped up to the point that 1965 winner Don Aronow posted a new rec_ord average speed of 55.6 m.p.h.

Around Long Island
In mid-summer of 1959 the Around Long Island Marathon Assn. inaugu_rated its 280-mile event starting and finishing off Jones Inlet on the island’s ocean shore. Entries, then limited to those belonging to members of the recreational marine industry, were pre_dominantly outboards. In six subsequent annual runnings this marathon has become more of an inboard race, although outboard starters are still nu_merous. Now open to all corners, entry lists range in the 25 to 45 area. Speed has stepped up to the current record of 54.8 m.p.h. set in 1964 by Odell Lewis driving Mona Lou.


Cowes to Torquay (England)
In 1961 the “Daily Express” (Lon_don) sponsored the first of its inter_national offshore powerboat races from Cowes, down the English Channel to Torquay. in subsequent years the length of the course has varied as al_terations have been made in some of the marks to be rounded. Most recently it was 198 statute miles. In 1961 there were 27 starters of which nine finished; the list has run as high as 53. The record for the race, set in 1964 by Jimmy and Charles Gardner’s Surf-rider, stands at 49.1 m.p.h.

Viaregglo (Italy)
There have been four runnings of the race from Viareggio to Bastia, Cor_sica, and return, a 1 90-miler. It at_tracts somewhat smaller fields than its elder brethren (12 in 1965). Jim Wynne drove Maritime to the current 49.4-m.p.h. record in last year’s race.

Miami to Key West
Late in 1963 the fledgling Off_shore Power Boat Racing Assn.— about which more, later—ran its first 140-mile Miami to Key West dash. Twenty-two started and 11 finished in desperately rough water. Capt. Jack Manson’s Allied GX (pictured at the beginning of this article) averaged nearly 40 m.p.h. to win, the event. The following year Manson, in Kami_kaze, topped a 29-boat fleet to average 42.25 m.p.h.

Miami.Lauderdale-Biminl-Gun Cay.Miami
First of these 145-mile Sam Griffith Memorial Ocean Powerboat races was run in February, 1964. So rough was the water that only three of the 15 starters completed the course. The win_ner was Dick Bertram in Lucky Moppie. The following year saw half of the 22 starters make the finish line. Victory and the current~ record went to Bill Wishnick’s Broad Jumper with an aver_age speed of 44 m.p.h.

Other rough water races have been run and show promise of becoming annual fixtures. Certainly worth watch_ing in this group are the shuttle back and forth across the lower end of Lake Michigan, one from West Palm Beach to Lucayan-Freeport and return and the zig-zag trip from Long Beach, Cal. around San Clemente Island, back around Catalina and thence to Long Beach.

Politics
Offshore racing, in common with most powerboat competition, has had its share of organizational problems and a touch of strife. Each of the early races—Miami to Nassau, Around Long Island and the English Channel dash— started out with its own set of rules and a single organization acting as both sponsor and sanctioning body. In short, there was no uniformity among races and none had an overseeing group to handle the inevitable protests. Following the 1963 Miami-Nassau event, a group of participants made known their desire to set up their own body and run some races in the Miami area according to their ideas. This stirred up short-lived acrimony be_tween the splinter group and “Red” Crise who handles the Nassau event almost as a one-man show. Meanwhile the dissidents incorporated the Off_shore Power Boat Racing Assn., set up their own rules and became the spon_sors (and sanctioners) of the first Miami to Key West and Miami-Lau_derdale-Bimini-Gun Cay-Miami races.

Shortly thereafter the American Power Boat Assn. made overtures to both Crise and the OPBRA, seeking to provide them with a rules-making and appeals body. Initial meetings pro_duced more heat than light, but the idea of having uniform rules through_out the U.S. with all the other advan_tages of a sanctioning group, continued to attract the OPBRA. Thus, late in 1964, the APBA organized an Off_shore Racing Commission and adopted a set of rules for this sort of competi_tion, OPBRA president Jack Manson became the first chairman of the new APBA body.

The promoters of the Around Long Island race had switched to APBA sanction even prior to this. The Lake Michigan and Long Beach events ran APBA from their beginnings. Thus, today, every U.S. offshore race runs under uniform rules.

Miami-Nassau and the Cowes_Torquay races continue to be quite in_dependent but their sponsors are un_derstood to be willing to follow rules of the Union of International Motor-boating when, and if, that world rules body adopts a suitable code for off_shore competition. Since APBA is the U.S. representative of UIM, all the major offshore races may soon be op_erated out of the same rule book.

Technical developments
No other event, activity or trend can match offshore racing for contri_butions to the development of hulls and engines. Even closed course rac_ing, often considered a fine breeding ground for technical advances, is un_able to challenge the offshore variety when it comes to developments trans_lated into features of stock boats.

Probably the best known result of research and development in offshore racing is the so-called deep-vee hull. Originated by the versatile architect Ray Hunt, the deep-vee has been per_fected in rough water competition by the Hunt followers (Bertram hulls) as well as by the team of Walt Walters and Jim Wynne (Formula, Donzi and Maritime hulls). Taking the Miami-Nassau Race as a prime proving ground, we find that every one of these events since 1960 has been won by one of these high-dihedral, longitudinally-stepped hulls.

As for hull materials, all common forms are being subjected to the cruci_ble of offshore competition. Among this years’ top winners Brave Moppie (Cowes Torquay) was wood, Broad Jumper (Long Beach, Cal.) was fiber_glass and Maritime (Palm Beach-Free-port) was aluminum.

Inboard engines have undergone a great step-up in power during the short history of offshore racing. Not all can be attributed to this avenue of de_velopment because (1) the entire au_tomotive industry—builder of the basic engines for marine use—has been in the throes of a “horsepower race” dur_ing much of the time and (2) stock car racing has played its part in en_gine development. Regardless of the relative contributions of these influ_ences, since late 1956 the top Chrys_ler marine engine has jumped from 275 to 415 hp. and Fords—as con_verted for marine use by Eaton—have climbed from 215 to 400 hp.

In the diesel field, where there have been no obvious outside influences other than offshore racing, the General Motors 6-71 engine, rated 271 hp. nine years ago, was credited with 550 untold varieties of equipment and accessories have undergone and are still undergoing improvements as a result of failures that developed under the stress of a high-speed rough water race. We have seen a radiotelephone torn asunder in a horizontal plane merely from the pounding of the boat. And more than a few transmissions have failed under the hopped-up power of engines used in offshore racing.

The men who take part in offshore competition have a common character_istic that sets them apart from most boatmen—they hope for, and thrive on rough water. Where most of us will stay ashore rather than take a chance or even be uncomfortable, this breed of competitor is happiest when the starting field is decimated by treach_erous water conditions.

During the ten-year history of this sport (as revived) there have been many outstanding owners, drivers and designers. Most of them have taken part primarily because they enjoyed the activity and incidentally because it directly or indirectly produced income for them. To select as outstanding any one, or three, or a dozen would likely be unfair to an equal number who were omitted. Their tribute will have to come through YACHTING’S regular coverage of their exploits, which ap_pears monthly on these pages.
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Old 09-19-2003, 08:53 AM
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Dave,

Great article-It's interesting to read the paragraph under "Politics". Isn't that the same crap that is going on now??? If one were to Interchange Red Crise's name for John (SBI), and interchange APBA for OPBRA, we have a very similar situation now....the more things change, the more they're the same......

On another note, I just delivered my boat, (1967 "Maltese Magnum") to Chicago to a new owner who is going to continue the restoration.
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Old 09-19-2003, 10:03 AM
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Default Re: A story from the old days - January 1966

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Originally posted by DaveP
For More Stories like this, visit our website: www.njppc.com
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Politics
Offshore racing, in common with most powerboat competition, has had its share of organizational problems and a touch of strife. Each of the early races—Miami to Nassau, Around Long Island and the English Channel dash— started out with its own set of rules and a single organization acting as both sponsor and sanctioning body. In short, there was no uniformity among races and none had an overseeing group to handle the inevitable protests. Following the 1963 Miami-Nassau event, a group of participants made known their desire to set up their own body and run some races in the Miami area according to their ideas. This stirred up short-lived acrimony be_tween the splinter group and “Red” Crise who handles the Nassau event almost as a one-man show. Meanwhile the dissidents incorporated the Off_shore Power Boat Racing Assn., set up their own rules and became the spon_sors (and sanctioners) of the first Miami to Key West and Miami-Lau_derdale-Bimini-Gun Cay-Miami races.

Shortly thereafter the American Power Boat Assn. made overtures to both Crise and the OPBRA, seeking to provide them with a rules-making and appeals body. Initial meetings pro_duced more heat than light, but the idea of having uniform rules through_out the U.S. with all the other advan_tages of a sanctioning group, continued to attract the OPBRA. Thus, late in 1964, the APBA organized an Off_shore Racing Commission and adopted a set of rules for this sort of competi_tion, OPBRA president Jack Manson became the first chairman of the new APBA body.

The promoters of the Around Long Island race had switched to APBA sanction even prior to this. The Lake Michigan and Long Beach events ran APBA from their beginnings. Thus, today, every U.S. offshore race runs under uniform rules.

Miami-Nassau and the Cowes_Torquay races continue to be quite in_dependent but their sponsors are un_derstood to be willing to follow rules of the Union of International Motor-boating when, and if, that world rules body adopts a suitable code for off_shore competition. Since APBA is the U.S. representative of UIM, all the major offshore races may soon be op_erated out of the same rule book.
Now remember - this was back in 1966...... the same beat continues today........
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