THE CEMENT OR THE SEA?
A Consideration of the Main Differences of Car and Motor Boat Racing.
By ARTHUR BRAY.
TO the ordinary layman, of course, there is a vast difference between racing on Brooklands Track and racing in a motor boat, but to the sportsman who pursues the wonderful performances of the internal combustion engine of to-day, there is a resemblance. On both, one can obtain that great thrill and enjoyment that speed brings, in one case propulsion being made through wheels and tyres—in the other through a fast turning object called a propeller.
Progress in design has helped, both with the automobile and the motor boat, to reduce engine size, while streamlining in the case of the former, and hull design in the latter, has also contributed to efficiency by reducing windage and skin friction respectively.
Twelve or fourteen years ago it was necessary to employ roo h.p. or more to obtain roo m.p.h. at Brooklands track, and about this h.p. or more, to obtain 40 knots at sea. To-day the story is different : we have tiny engines with a cubic capacity of only ri litres hurling these little chassis round the track at zoo m.p.h., while in the Duke of York’s Trophy Races at Torquay, we saw new type boats obtaining a very high speed, with the same sized engine. If we return for a moment to 1912 and 1913, there was the famous 21 foot class which was, to my mind, one of the most successful types of racing boats ever built in this country. Really high speed or what was then high speed engines were employed to propel a hull using “the wave collecting bow” design to help to lift them and reduce skin friction, instead of the previous hydroplane or step boat. These boats were fitted with an engine not exceeding 151 cubic inches and the engine usually ran direct coupled to the propeller at 2,600 to 3,000 revs, giving a speed between 26 to 31 knots, according to hull design. The successor to this class is the newly formed 14 litre class, which came into being
in 1922 at the Brussels Conference of the International Motor Yachting Union, and I have no doubt that it will interest all would be owners of x4 litre boats to know that it was fostered in its infancy by British parents. It is hoped, therefore, that this class will appeal to all those Brooklands sportsmen who may in the future decide to adopt the sea as a sport in addition to the track, as in the formation of this class, careful thought was given to the expense of sea racing and building a boat for this purpose.
Not Unduly Costly.
I do not for a moment believe that a boat of this size would cost any more than a Brooklands If litre car, while the impression of speed with the former is to my mind much greater than with the latter. To dwell for a moment with the human element, it is rather difficult to define which type of sport calls for the greatest skill in handling. On the track, of course, a good start is a very important factor for success, but this also applies at sea, as all races are of the flying start type and therefore a few seconds late over the line often means the loss of a race. Again, on the track, skill in changing gear comes to the fore, but at sea when starting a race, one has simply to study one’s watch, the throttle lever, and keep clear of other competitors who are all as eager as you to get over the line at gun fire. This latter point is by no means as easy as one would imagine when there are 12 or more starters. After the start at Brooklands, one’s mind is set on getting by the other fellow and missing the bumps which are so well known to all habitués, but at sea it is rather a different story. Nature has decreed that her several elements shall play an all important part in this wonderful sport, therefore it must be apparent that no two waves being of equal size, the skill of the helmsman must
be at its keenest in the navigation of his craft, while there is also quite a lot for the amateur to study with regard to tides, rounding mark boats, and other factors. The sea is ever an uphill job, with no easing down for these fast revving engines, so that every minute part of their construction is tested to the utmost during the period from start to finish. The strain imposed on the hull during racing in anything of a ” lop ” may be likened to the strain imposed on a chassis under similar
condition, and for this reason one need not feel alarmed, when travelling at great speed at sea, to notice the whole engine and hull ” working” in no uncertain manner.
A Corning Class.
There are as yet very few engine manufacturers who specialise in a ” pukka ” i litre marine engine, but I have hopes that in the future this class will develop to such an extent that manufacturers will concentrate their efforts in developing engines which will give their great power at much lower revolutions than at present. If this is done it will assist the hull designer considerably, and perhaps will also assist in abolishing the present gearing down of propellers, which adds to the weight of the whole boat in consequence of the necessary gear box.
A few years before the war a propeller designed to turn at 2,500 revs, was thought an impossibility, but to-day there are propellers running in boats at over 3,000 r.p.m. But I think here the limit has been reached, as I feel certain that no naval architect or designer could ever compete with 4,000 to 5,000 r.p.m., as such geniuses as Coatalen, Martin and Green have given us during the last few years. Another point to consider is that of weight. At Brooklands windage would appear to be as important to study as weight, and here again a favourable comparison can be made with a motor boat, as skin friction really replaces windage, while the weight question remains common to both. I believe that many of the 1i litre cars which compete on the track weigh considerably under ro cwt. complete, but in some of the
boats which have just been completed, this figure has not yet been exceeded complete with fuel, helmsman, etc.
With regard to Brooklands habitués who have taken to the sea, I can mention Woolf Barnato, who originally owned a 3-litre boat and who now owns one of the three fastest ri boats, ” Ardenrun II.” which has a Sunbeam engine. In addition, there is Sir Algernon Guinness, Bart., well known in the Isle of Man and Brooklands before and after the war. He drove a boat in the last British International Trophy, fitted with his favourite engine, the Sunbeam, but although he finished, he was not quite fast enough for the flying ” Yanks ” who came over complete with bow rudders and showed us a few things about hull design which apparently we did not then know.
A Great Sport.
There is also Major Tate who was frequently seen at Brooklands before the war at the wheel of a Mercedes. He drove the fastest English boat in the last British International Trophy race, but without success. He also endeavoured to fetch the cup back from America the year after, and might have done so, had not the hull been dropped and strained in transit. I have no doubt, and sincerely hope that this list, from memory, of Wive sportsmen will be considerably augmented next year, when still more ti litre boats will be built (there are 7 or 8 at present), and I can promise all those that may be sceptical that there is just as much fun for them in navigating a boat as there is in driving a car round Brooklands track. The expanse of the sea is unlimited— there are no punctures or bursts and it is just as much yours as anybody else’s. The “flop, flop” of the hull on the waves while travelling through the water, the song of the salt breeze
in your ears, the sunlit spray flying past you, is not this an exhilarating change from the hot track, the smell and the roar ?
You do not have the excited crowd, nor as yet, “Long Tom” laying the odds, but you do have the freedom of the sea to spur you on, the joy of speed and plenty to occupy your mind, while you are trying to catch the fellow in front.
The 15 minute gun has gone, we must start to get the old ‘bus warmed up. A swing or two, she’s off. “Let go aft,” and now for 30 minutes or so of real life !