The Duke of York Trophy
(the basis for this article was taken from Embassy Grand Prix Programme 1977)
Soon after WWI, under the unrealistically costly shadow of building and entering unlimited engined boats for the Harmsworth Trophy, a small group of enthusiasts decided to develop a class of boat costing no more than £300, by limiting the engine capacity to perhaps, 1.5 litres.
In 1922, Mr Jack Brooke of Lowestoft (uncle to Tom Percival) built the world’s very first 1.5 litre powerboat – a 30hp, 15ft hydroplane called Mr Poo with a maximum speed of 28.25 knots.
Then in 1923 the International Motor Yachting Union (forerunner of the UIM), based in Brussels officially recognised the 1.5 litre powerboat, calling it the Z/K Class – which soon became nicknamed the “Mosquito” Class.
In April 1924, it was officially announced that the Duke of York’s International Trophy was to be offered for 1.5-litre racing boats. A prize of 10 guineas was offered for the best trophy design, won by Messrs. Elkington and Co: this depicted a racing boat, cutting through the water at full speed with an intended figure of speed poised above it. Its pedestal was to be of dark oak with a silver dolphin at each corner and the Arms of the Duke of York “in Repousse” on the inscription shield.
One day, a wealthy millionaire by the name of John Edward Johnston-Noad was driving along the embankment in his 1.5 litre Bentley “when I saw just a silly motorboat going along the Thames. But from that moment on I got the bug. I joined the then British Motor Boat Club, which was working out some competitions for boats in the 1.5 litre class. So I bought a hydroplane called Miss Empire powered by a 1.5 litre Sunbeam engine and I raced that in 1923. Then that winter I commissioned Camper and Nicholsons to build me a hydroplane to the designs of C V Mackerow. I then had Bamfords, the propeller people at Stockport, install one of Lionel Martin’s 1.5 litre test engines, running this on Driscoll which was then very rare for racing engines. Also from Bamfords came my racing mechanic, Hanlon. He was a dour sort of a fellow but one of the best. We painted the boat my racing colours – blue and black – called it Miss Betty after my then wife, and won the very first 1924 Duke of York’s Trophy at an average speed of 35.44mph. Aston Martin were very pleased.
During the 1926 contest for the Duke of York Trophy, the Duke himself was present, and by way of showing his practical interest in the proceedings, he asked for a cruise over the River Thames course. I had Miss Betty standing by and he asked to come on board, so I took him down the course, with my wife sitting next to him in the stern.”
In 1929 the fastest 1.5 litre, 100-170hp powerboat capable of 50 knots plus was costing in the region of £4,000 and by this time focus had returned to the Harmsworth Trophy and an aero-engined boat called Miss England I to be piloted by Sir Henry Segrave.
The Duke of York Trophy was ‘revived’ in 1951, when Norman Buckley reorganised it on Lake Windermere. It was won by a Canadian entry, Costa Livin, a prop-rider powered by a 200hp Townsend Mercury conversion, which ‘Art ? Hatch drove against Buckley’s Miss Windermere I at speeds around 60mph. The trophy was again raced for in 1963 at Chasewater, this time won by a Frenchman. But it was not until 1971 that the Duke of York Trophy was properly revived. This involved the National Powerboating Authority, the RYA, approaching the Queen Mother to alter the ‘Deed of Gift’. For up until then, the trophy was awarded to inboard powered craft and the driver, boat and engine had to come from the same country.
By 1971 there were few, if any, inboard powerboats, and the majority of outboard engines were made in America. If the ‘Deed of Gift’ remained unaltered there would not be a British competitor. The Queen Mother (see letter) graciously agreed and for the next five years the trophy was hotly contested for at the Windermere Grand Prix, the last big Grand Prix of the racing season.
In 1971 the Italian ace and current World Formula 1 champion, Renato Molinari, won the trophy, with Britain’s Bob Spalding winning it the following year. 1973 saw the first mighty unlimited Rotary engines from OMC, and it was with one of these that the American team of Mike Downard and Tom Posey captured the trophy. It returnd to British hands in 1974 when Clive Hook and his South African co-driver, Bill Badsey took the chequered flag. The trophy remained in British hands, when Bob Spalding once again one it in 1975.
In 1977 this most coveted of awards was presented by Count Johnston Noad to Renato Molinari, the Formula 1 winner at the Embassy Grand Prix.
The trophy was won in following years by:
1924 - Joint winners, Count Johnston Noad "Miss Betty" and W V Webber "Lady Pat"
1925 - Woolf Barnato "Ardenrum Minor"
1926 - Betty Carstairs - "New G"
1927 - Mrs James H Rand Jnr and Ralph Snoddy "Little Spitfire"
1928 - Count Johnston Noad "Miss Betty"
1929 - James Talbot Jnr "Miss Rioco III"
1930 - F T Bersey "Minx"
1938 - Mortimer Averbach "Emancipator VII"
1951 - Arthur Hatch "Costa Lotta"
1958 - William G Braden (awarded posthumously) "Ariel V"
1959 - Harold Bucholtz "Tu Bad"
1962 - Charles Girard "Vainquer"
1971 - Renato Molinari (Windermere Grand Prix)
1972 - Bob Spalding "Lady Player"
1973 - M Downard and T. Posey
1974 - C. Hook and B Badsey
1975 - Bob Spalding
1977 - Renato Molinari
1978 - Billy Seebold (OZ)
1979 - Billy Seebold (OZ)
1980 - Renato Molinari (OZ)
1981 - Billy Seebold (ON)
1982 - Billy Seebold (ON)
1983 - Billy Seebold (ON)
1984 - Billy Seebold (ON)
1985 - Jonathan Jones (ON)
1986 - Chris Bush
1987 - Jonathan Jones
1988 - Chris Bush
1989 - Jonathan Jones
1990 - Mike Zamparelli
1993 - Michael Werner
2013 - Paolo Zantelli