THE SPORT AFLOAT.
SOME OUTBOARD RACING SUGGESTIONS
—Some ways of encouraging entries are put le rward by our contributor, who expresses the amateur’s point o/ view. BRIEF consideration of the outboard races and meetings held during 1931 shows that, if entries and attendances can be admitted as evidence, the popularity of this sport
has considerably declined. Even the International events held in London, and elsewhere, were very poorly supported. Exceptions exist, of course, but in general the above is in no way overstated. All sorts of reasons have been advanced for the gradual disappearance of competitors and the limitation of entries to a very few enthusiasts. One cannot entirely blame this on the financial crisis through which the country is passing, although this must have had its inevitable effect. Nor can the fault be laid with the organisation of the sport, which generally has been fairly efficient.
From a consideration of the opinions of the competitors and others interested in the sport, it would seem that the present rules, governing racing in this country, have been drafted with the object of discouraging outboard motor-boat racing.
This statement may seem very sweeping, but an examination of our racing rules soon justifies it. In brief, only standard enginesmay be raced at any official meeting. There are, of course, a whole host of other necessary or unnecessary rules, but that is the crux of the matter. As a result, competitors are debarred from making any alteration to their engines, although they may be racing against engines of later type, which embody the very alterations they desire to make. The only changes which can be made are as follows :— Propellers of any design may be fitted. Plugs may be changed, piston rings may be replaced. Silencers must be of an approved type, but this is perfectly justifiable and necesssary. Now let us consider how all this affects the man in the sports car’ who is really the ‘man in the street’ of outboard racing. He buys, in a moment of enthusiasm, the latest production of the Buzoff Corporation, and,
after learning to start the thing, decides to take up racing. He enters for one or more races, and perhaps makes a decent showing during the rest of the season.
So far, so good.
During the winter he meets several friends, and succeeds in persuading them that outboard racing is worth while. They buy, as a result of his introduction, the latest Buzoff.
Then what happens ? Obviously, if handled with reasonable intelligence, the later engine walks away from our enthusiast. What can he do ? He can, shall we suppose, make a sports car of ancient vintage behave like an up-to-date model. Why not tune the outboard in the same way ?
Then he reads the racing rules, and usually decides to sell his outfit and spend the proceeds on a new set of tyres for his three-year-old sports car, which he can enter, although it is completely and essentially nonstandard, in a limber of sporting events.
It is true that a number of handicap events would be available to our enthusiast, but no handicapping system has yet been devised to give any real satisfaction. Alternatively, he might obtain an even later Buzoff than his friends. This is an expensive process, and at once destroys the claims of outboard racing to be a cheap sport. In any case, it seems inevitable that he will become dissatisfied, and will eventually desert outboard racing for something where he can get value for money.
The only way to revive interest in outboard racing is to get rid, for all time, of all racing rules which restrict the skill and inventive genius of the individual.
A set of rules, somewhat as follows, could be framed which would allow anyone with reasonable timing ability, to put up a good show against the latest factory productions. (1) Engines over twelve months old may be tuned by their owners in any way, provided they comply with the following conditions (a) Cylinder capacity must not exceed the rated
cylinder capacity of the class in which the engine is to race, i.e. Class A, 250 c.c. ; Class B, 350 c.c. ; Class C, 500 c.c. ; Class D, 500 c.c. upwards.
(b) If superchargers are fitted, the engine shall be considered as having a cylinder capacity of 30% greater than its actual swept volume capacity, as in the R.A.C. Tourist Trophy regulations.
(c) All engines must be startable by the pilot or driver without the use of starting devices not carried in the boat.
(d) All engines must be efficiently silenced.
(2) Compression ratios may be increased or reduced as desired by the owner. provided that standard cylinder blocks are used. These may, however, be modified as desired.
(3) Crankshafts, flywheels and reciprocating parts may be rebalanced, but must basically consist of standard parts, except pistons, which may be replaced if desired.
(4) Ignition systems may be modified as desired, provided that the altered systems are applied to the engine without serious structural alteratices.
(5) Any carburettors may be fitted.
(6) Any propeller may be fitted, and gear ratios between propellers and drive shaft altered as desired, provided that standard housings are employed.
(7) Any size or type of fuel tank may be employed, and any fuel feed system fitted.
(8) Any fuel may be used. The above rules place no restriction whatever on the
skill of the individual, but prevent the redesign of major parts in such a way as hopelessly to increase the factor of cost. Under these rules, our enthusiastic friend would be able to compete on nearly equal terms with the owners of last-word productions. Another type of enthusiast, who has hitherto been lacking, would enter the field. Those who could not afford the high cost of new engines would be able to purchase year-old motors, and pit their skill and ingenuity against the hard cash of those able to buy the latest models.
There is no question that meetings held under the rules suggested would meet with hearty support. Old hands who have been unable to keep pace with the everincreasing cost of racing would again enter the field. Others, thanks to the removal of the same handicap, would be able to take up the sport. The effect would be cumulative and wholly beneficial, not only to the sport, but to those interested in the motor boat industry. The possibilities are limitless, the difficulties negligible.
All we require is sufficient courage to throw overboard a collection of restrictive rules which are about as popular as D.O.R.A. In conclusion, a word of warning : it is no use waiting to see what will happen this year. Another year under present rules, and outboard racing will be on a par with the lamented 4-litre class. [Without suggesting that our contributor’s plans are ideal in every detail, we agree that a determined effort on these lines to make outboard racing more attractive to the impecunio as but mechanicallyminded, would be of great benefit to the sport and the industry.—ED.]
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