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Since 1906 . . . a long time ago.
Now, Day’s intent was to im-
prove both sailing yacht design
and construction, and sailors’
confidence in going offshore.
(Back then, it was generally
large, fully crewed yachts that
ventured off soundings.) Few
would argue that Day’s Ber-
muda Race hasn’t achieved its
goals. Folks currently think little
(perhaps too little) of making
offshore passages on very small
sailboats indeed.
The Forgotten Race
Sadly, it’s largely forgotten that
the very next year (1907 naturally) the irrepressible Day,
sponsored a powerboat race from New York to Bermuda.
Not only did he initiate the race but he skippered one of the
entrants. Again, Day’s intent was to prove that small internal
-combustion-engine craft were safe and reliable offshore.
This was—at the time—a downright crackbrained point of
view. Steam was the only power plant suitable for ocean
work . . . everyone knows that!
To put 1907 in perspective: The cinema—forget the movies;
Hollywood was just a sleepy little village—was brand new.
The airplane was barely four years old. The first Model-T
Ford wouldn’t roll out of Ford’s plant for over a year. Indeed,
the few fantastically expensive early cars in operation on
Bermuda had been banned—too noisy and obtrusive—in July
of that very year. It’d be nearly forty years in the future be-
fore Bermuda relented on it’s condemnation of the automo-
Those Reliable Infernal Machines
The 1907 Bermuda Powerboat Race had two entries, the
Ailsa Craig
and the
. Both were long, slender 60-
footers. The
Alisa Craig
was powered by a single 65-hp gas
engine, and the
by a 25-hp machine. You’d think that
wouldn’t have stood much of chance—what with the
power difference—but there was a handicap formula that
a reasonable shot to win on corrected time.
Nevertheless—in this case—the
(skippered by none
other than Fleming Day himself) did win. Winning time w
2 days, 16 hours, and 20 minutes—a nice, leisurely ocea
passage. If two boats taking between two and three days
run 650 miles doesn’t seem impressive remember the y
The reaction from the boating world, even the world at la
Until the finish of the race, the name ‘internal combusti
engine’ was a joke, only good enough to understudy ste
The race has demonstrated to the whole world that the
internal combustion engine is reliable, and if it is reliabl
it is adaptable to all commercial purposes!
This first offshore powerboat race was critical in convinci
people to buy new powerboats of all types.
This wasn’t the last Bermuda powerboat race. One was h
every year except 1911 up to 1914 (including a return ra
back from Bermuda in ‘09 and in ‘12), when the War To
All Wars, finished the competition for good. From 1912 o
however, the race started in Philadelphia, rather than Ne
A Good Influence Lost
It wasn’t only the bigger fellows who won this race, by th
way. In 1912,
a 40-footer with just 9-foot beam
and a single 16-hp engine (yep, only 16 horses)—beat its
foot competitor, the 25-hp
. These power ratin
give one indication of the reason it’s such a pity that the
Bermuda Powerboat Race has been forgott
Ailsa Craig
, with fully 65-hp (the most
power entered in the race’s history), consu
about 4.5 gallons per hour, burning up a tot
of 290 gallons on the entire trip! Compare t
to airplane fare for your entire family. If only
the Bermuda Power Boat race had continue
after World War I, modern cruising powerbo
would likely be rather different—somewhat
slower, longer and more slender, and very f
efficient. Superb seaboats as well.
Typical ultra slender motorcruiser of the nineteen-teens and twen-
ties. This 66-footer is 10 ft. 7 in. beam. She was built by Consolidate
Imagine—57-ft. Voyaging Motorcruiser
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