The One-And-A-Half Litre Class. Its Rise and Fall from Popularity Discussed.
AQUESTION which has been frequently debated but never settled, is whether the 21 footers of pre-war days was a more popular class than the post-war International 1i-litre Class. The partisans of the former are largely those whom we hope will not mind being referred to as the veterans of the sport. Their protagonists are those of the newer school who claim that no class has ever met with the spontaneous and International support that was accorded the 11 litre class immediately upon its inception. It is all very much like the eternal question—is Hobbs a better batsman than W. G. Grace ?
The introduction of the li litre class was a matter of historic importance in the motor boat racing world and the auspices under which it was launched will always remain an important land mark in marine motoring. The class was first introduced at the International Conference on marine motoring held in Brussels in September, 1922, and was unanimously adopted as an International Class by all the nations represented there.
It may be of interest to readers to record the fact that this very important conference, which was attended by delegates from practically every country interested in the sport,—was the direct outcome of the tireless energy of that most ardent racer of pre-war days —Commander Morton Smart, D.S.O.
At the end of the war the M.M.A. was to all intents and purposes, defunct, but Commander Morton Smart gathered together what remained of the Association and the real enthusiasts, and put forward his proposals for the reviving of the M.M.A. and his plans for an International Conference. The result was completely successful in both instances. The delegation to represent Great Britain was representative of every branch of the sport, and is not without interest. The principal delegate was, of course, Commander Morton Smart and the two delegates with power to vote were Mr. Fred May and Mr. Torn Thomycroft. They were supported by Technical delegates composed of Messrs. Mawdsley Brooke, Arthur Bray, C. V. Mackrow and Frank Maynard. Other delegates representing the clubs and the sport were Mr. George Paxton, Col. B. Millard, Capt. J. A. Holder, Commander T. Fox and the late ” Jonnie ” Ward.
The adoption of the 14 and 3 litre classes at the Conference immediately produced one boat for each class. The first 14 litre boat was that eventually named “Mr. Poo,” which was built by Mr. Brooke and the 3 litre boat was the” Ardenrun major,” built by S. E. Saunders, Ltd., for Capt. Woolf Barnato. That was the only boat built to the larger class which did not find any further adherents until it was adopted by several members;of the Windermere M.B.C. some years later.
The li litre class, however, immediately went ahead. Within a few days a boat was laid down for the late Mr. Gordon Bolton. This was “Miss Empire,” and turned out to be one of the most successful boats in the class. The next event was the presentation of a trophy which
now constitutes the Blue Riband for hydroplane racing in Great Britain—i.e., H.R.H. the Duke of York’s International Gold Trophy, which was to be raced for by boats of the 14 litre class.
The first race for this was held at Torquay in 1923 and the eliminating race for the selection of the British team was run over the “boat race” course and this was the first time that hydroplane racing had ever been permitted on the upper reaches of the Thames.
The following boats entered for this event :—” Miss Betty” (winner), ” Ardenmn minor,” “Cockleshell,” “Miss Empire,” ” 2.L.0.”, “Lady Pat” and “Miss Walton,” a stepless boat.
By this time a number of boats had been built on the Continent, but owing to transport difficulties only one entry from France was received, that being “Pierre de Lune “, owned by the Marquise de Casa Maury.
Within a period of two years from the inception of this class the race for this Trophy produced an entry which has probably never been equalled by any other class. Boats representing no fewer than seven nations competing for the Trophy. This particular race was again held on the Thames over the” Boat Race “course, but in spite of this wonderful entry was one of the most unlucky events that ever took place. Eleven boats started on the first day, but owing to damage by floating obstruction and mechanical breakdown, the starters for the final heat numbered only two, ” Newg ” (Miss Carstairs, Great Britain) and ” Sigrid ” (M. Greuger, Germany).
The ” growth ” of the class up to this time had been almost phenomenal, and there is no doubt it would have continued to increase had there been a greater number of important International events organised—and greater encouragement given to people to build or run their boats more frequently. The support of the class began to dwindle after only four years, but during its short life the 14 litre class was extremely successful and had it been fostered in the same way that the 21 footers had been it would have lived a long time and been extremely popular.
Some of the best known British boats are given in the following table. NAME OWNER DESIGNER “Mr. Poo” M. Brooke J. W. Brooke
& Co. Miss Empire G. Bolton C. V. Mackrow Ardenrun W. Barnato S. E. Saunders Miss Betty E. Johnston C. Y. Mackrow Noad Lady Pat Maj. Webber J. W. Brooke
& Co. Newg Miss 13. CarS. B. Saunders stairs Cockleshell T. Desnos J. NV. Brooke
& Co. 2.14.0. Fred May F. Maynard Miss Walton F. Barnard P. Barnard Bulldog H. Tevis J. W. Brooke
&Co. Miss Olga G. E. T. EyC. V. Mackrow ston Bela P. T. Bersey C. V. Mackrow Little Bela F. T. 13ersey C. V. Mackrow BUILDER ENGINE
J. W. Brooke Brooke & Co.
Chester Boat Talbot Co. g. E. Saunders Sunbeam Camper & Aston Martin
Nicholsons, Ltd. J . W. Brooke Brooke
& Co. S. E. Saunders Sunbeam J. W. Brooke Brooke
& Co. P. Maynard Green Walton Launch Green
Co. H. W. Brooke Brooke
& Co. Walton Launch Aston Martin
Co. Walton Launch Laystall
Co. Walton Launch Laystall
A boat was built for the late J. G. Parry Thomas to take one of his 8 cylinder Thomas Special engines, but his untimely death occurred just as the boat was completed, and was never used.
A point of interest as regards “Miss Betty” is that she was the winner of the first race ever held for the Duke of York’s Trophy, at Torquay, and then after a lapse of five years succeeded in winning the Trophy again , in what turned out to be the last time it was competed for by boats of the 11 litre class.
The reason for suggesting that the decline of this class was due to the want of serious competitions is based largely on the fact that practically all the boats built to this class were owned by members of two or three clubs situated on the S.E. coast and included in a comparatively small area, and big entries would undoubtedly have been obtained, had the events for the class merited the cost of transport. With the exception of the ” Brooke ” boats, all the others had their home ports, between the Thames and Southampton. The 21 footers used to obtain better entries for the ordinary regatta events, but the fact must not be lost sight of that the difference in cost of transport from one regatta to another before and since the war is very great
and had the effect of restricting the activities of the owners very considerably.
Given equal conditions and facilities there does not seem to be any doubt that, with the greater number of boats of the lf litre class, it would have proved the more popular and successful class.
There were, in all, about sixteen boats built to the class in Great Britain alone and the same number between France, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Holland, while three or four were built in U.S.A. and one in Canada.
It is a matter for regret that what might have been the biggest International class by a wide margin, should have been allowed to “peter out” through lack of sufficiently important events.
The Duke of York’s Trophy was last year competed for by the 3 litre class, and those who attended “at the bedside” of the once famous 11 litre class murmured “the l litre is dead, long live the 3 litre.”
Through an unhappy circumstance the 3 litre event nearly died at birth. This year there is no race for the Duke of York’s Trophy at all, and the 3 litre class seems to have been deposed or forced to abdicate. Is this to be the creation of a marine republic ?—C.V.M.
“MISS ENGLAND’S” NEW RECORD.
EVER since the International Meeting at Gardone, mechanics have been at work on Miss England II, and whenever the boat was taken out it was some small detail that prevented Don from proving conclusively that Lord Wakefield’s boat is at present without a rival. Recently, when a new cylinder block was being conveyed to Italy by special aeroplane, interest was focussed on our little camp there because the pilot of this aeroplane was lost for a day due to a forced landing. It was then that Mr. Fred Cooper, the designer of the boat, said publicly that he was confident that within the next few days Miss England II. would do close on 110 m.p.h.! Almost prophetic, for on 9th July Mr. Kaye Don put up a magnificent show by averaging over both ways of the mile course exactly 110 m.p.h. His outward run was accomplished at 112.06 m.p.h., and the return at 107.94 m.p.h. As on previous occasions, Don took considerable risks, for there was much driftwood about, and one can never be sure that the course is quite clear, however well inspected.
Prior to leaving Italy, Don tried out various propellers in preparation for his American visit for the B.T.trophy races. Never was our chance more rosy of at last bringing it back to England, and our boat has more than justified the original points in her design. It was not many years ago that propeller speeds of over 3,000 r.p.m. were considered unsuitable, for it was thought that at higher rates of rotation propeller efficiency would be necessarily low. Mr. Chapman’s 11-litre Duke of York’s trophy challenge was the first boat to break convention, for on this craft the prop turned at 7,000 r.p.m. It has now been demonstrated that Miss England IL, with a
single propeller turning at 12,000 r.p.m., must have a very high propulsive efficiency, even after making allowances for the exceptional power of the Rolls-Royce aero engines.
The first ” 1k-litre.”
Full and frank disclosure
There’s something about drivers from relatively humble beginnings that means they never lose sight of the bigger picture, and I class Steve Soper as one of them. Open and honest,…
Club News, November 1947
We Hear J. Lindsay Hatchett has an overhauled 1922 G.N. chassis, with twin Amal track-racing carburetters and two-plug alloy-bronze heads, for disposal for £50, including another engine and miscellaneous spares.…