Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum

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1924 Gold Cup Remembered

By Fred Farley - Unlimited Hydroplane Historian

In between the World Wars, Unlimited hydroplanes were barred from participation in the APBA Gold Cup. In their place, a new category of racing boat was created: the Gold Cup Class.

Not until after World War II would the Unlimiteds again be allowed to compete for the APBA's top award.

The original Gold Cup Class boats were so-called "gentlemen's runabouts." Hulls with "steps" or "shingles" on the underside were outlawed. The engine size was likewise limited to 625 cubic inches--although this was later changed to 732 cubic inches.

One of the more bizarre chapters in Gold Cup history occurred at the 1924 contest. Canadian sportsman Harry Greening had apparently won with his Packard-powered RAINBOW IV, which was seen by some as being a hydroplane rather than a displacement hull. The craft’s bottom was of lapstrake construction, which was technically permitted by the rules.

The APBA decided, however, that the strakes had been installed for the express purpose of achieving a hydroplane effect. In other words, Greening had followed the letter of the rules but not the spirit of them.

As a result, RAINBOW IV was disqualified and Caleb Bragg’s BABY BOOTLEGGER was moved from an overall second to first position.

Outraged, Greening returned to Canada and never raced for the Gold Cup again. He did, however, remain active in power boating for many years.

In 1925, Greening established a never-to-be-equaled distance record for a single-engine hydroplane with RAINBOW IV on Lake Rosseau. In 24 hours, Greening covered 1217.88 miles at a speed of 50.780 miles per hour.

And in 1929, Greening set a 12-hour record on Lake Rosseau with RAINBOW VIII. He covered 723.92 miles at a speed of 63.170 miles per hour.

Both distance records were set with a Liberty engine.

BABY BOOTLEGGER used a V-8 Hispano-Suiza engine in 1924, specifically the licensed Wright-Hisso version. Built with 719 cubic inch piston displacement, the engine was sleeved to meet the 625 cubic inch maximum of the day. The popular "Hisso" was used in the Spad aircraft during World War I.

The construction of BABY BOOTLEGGER was unique. The sides of the hull were rounded into the deck with a gradually changing curve from stem to stern. The advantage of this design was that it permitted the construction of a light and strong hull with a minimum of wind resistance.

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