The Outboard Outlook
By J. W. SHILLAN
I am often asked by people who have witnessed a motor boat race meeting whether it is a dangerous sport, and my reply is most emphatically in the negative. I believe that, in the last four years at least, three thousand five hundred outboard races must have been staged in America, whereas at least two thousand five hundred must have been held in other parts of the world of which possibly ten per cent. were held in the British Isles. In spite of this enormous total, I have never yet heard of a single fatality, neither have I heard of half a dozen serious accidents, although at most race meetings several of the competitors capsize and are thrown in the water.
Now, I maintain, there is no sport existing to-day which has the same thrill and is so safe as outboard motor boating. I have travelled round Brooklands in racing cars at over 100 miles an hour, and I have piloted outboard motor hulls at 40 miles per hour, and I know from personal experience that for a real thrill motoring on Brooklands cannot in any way compare with piloting an outboard motor boat. The sensation of skimming along on the top of the water with the hum of a four-cylinder two-stroke motor revving at over 5,000 r.p.m. must be experienced to be believed. In an outboard boat one is virtually sitting on the water because the sides of the average hydroplane are only a few inches deep, possibly on an average 12 inches—whilst the beam of the boat, if it is of average length, is about 4ft., and so the sensation when lying in this small craft travelling at a speed of about 40 miles per hour is that of tearing along the top of the water on a board. Then again, the turns. How skilful one can become at taking the turns at high speed and what a sensation one derives when there are other outboard hydroplanes racing alongside, possibly within a couple of feet of one’s own boat ! I have conversed with a number of motor racing enthusiasts who have taken up outboard motor boating, and they invariably have agreed with me that the fascination of this new sport is not to be denied, whilst the cost of it is infinitesimal compared with the cost of motor racing.
For 100 guineas to-day one can buy a complete outfit capable of 40 miles per hour, and after racing it for a season, the owner should have little difficulty in getting £60 for it, providing, of course, it has reasonably been taken care of. I do not know of any large inboard racing hulls that have a speed of 40 miles per hour which can be purchased under £750, and even at that there is nothing like the thrill in piloting an inboard hull that there is in piloting an outboard hull.
The progress in design and performance of outboard motors that has taken place during the last few years is nothing short of phenomenal. It is only five years ago since I won my first outboard race on the River Thames at Mortlake at the modest speed of 5 miles per hour, whereas during the past season I won the River Shannon Championship at Athlone at a speed of 41.58 miles per hour.
The motor with which I won the race at Mortlake was developing 1,400 r.p.m. and it only achieved this at the expense of taking out the silencer, whilst the motor with which I won the River Shannon Championship was developing 5,300 r.p.m. and was fitted with an efficient standard silencer.
Whilst I was in America a month ago I visited the Elto factory and there tried out a motor which at a secret test achieved a speed of over 50 miles per hour. When I took it out for test, this motor was equipped with an underwater exhaust which I was informed causes a reduction of less than 2% in the r.p.m. as compared with the open exhaust. Furthermore, this outboard motor was equipped with a simple yet effective electric self starter, the details of which I am not permitted to divulge, as this would be a breach of confidence. This engine, however, will actually be on the market for the public to buy next March, in fact it will be exhibited at the New York Motor Boat Show which is taking place during the latter end of January.
Now, when one considers that the Outboard Motor of five years ago was just a crude, noisy, inefficient unit, compared with the modern Outboard motor, I think you will agree that the designers of these unique marine units have been far from apathetic.
What of future developments in Outboard Motors ? I look forward to a mile a minute being accomplished before the end of the season of 1932. With the increase of power which is being built into Outboard Motors, we have changes in design taking place in the hull. It is now realised that with each different class of Outboard Motor a different type of hull must be used. For instance, it is no use putting an ” A ” class motor which has a capacity up to 250 c.c. on a ” D” class hull which weighs approximately 180 lbs., neither is it any good putting a ” D ” class motor having a capacity up to 750 c.c. on an ” A ” class hull, which weighs approximately 100 lbs. If an ” A ” class motor was used on a “D ” class hull, there would not be sufficient power in the motor to lift the boat to a point where it would plane on the surface. It would act similarly to the displacement boat and show a speed of anything from 3 to 6 miles per hour. On the other hand, by putting a “D” class motor on to an ” A ” class hull, the result would be that owing to the enormous power from the motor, the boat when meeting a ripple on the surface of the water would shoot through the air, and if the force of the motor did not tear the transom from the boat, the impact of striking the water on such a frail craft at such a high speed would probably knock a plank up, and if the pilot moved his weight too suddenly through that impact, the whole outfit would at once capsize. It would certainly be an impossibility to take such a complete outfit out and race, because in a race one has to negotiate the wake and wash left behind by the other craft which happen to be ahead of one. It is therefore essential to obtain satisfactory results to use engine and hull of the same class.
The 1930 Outboard Racing Rules which have just reached me from America now stipulate minimum weights for the hulls, which include the steering wheel and motor control. They are as follows :—
Class ” A ” ……………100 lbs.
,, “B” and “C”…..150 lbs.
,, “D”……………….190 lbs.
The reason why the ” B ” and ” C ” classes have the same weight of boat is that the ” B” class motor of to-day is practically as fast as the ” C ” class, although I have reason to believe that the 1930 ” C ” class motor will be much faster than in 1929, whereas the” B” class motors will show but very little difference in speed. The result of this will be that it may be necessary to raise the minimum weight of ” C” class hulls to 175 lbs.
Outboard Racing in Europe has no such restrictions as yet, but I foresee it may be necessary to do something of this kind in the near future.