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Two Stroke Takeover.

Any sport will have niggles and aggravations, especially when someone seems to gain an advantage by not quite ‘playing the game’, and tethered hydroplane racing was no exception. The very act in 1908 by Herbert Teague of tethering a hydroplane was enough to start some serious harrumphing, end of the sport, not the behaviour of a gentleman, unfair etc. Running scows and functional boats was also considered to be heinous in certain circles and as for the use of ‘noisy, smelly petrol engine’, scandalous. There were inevitably factions that disagreed with each other to a greater or lesser extent, often airing their opinions through the pages of Model Engineer, but it took the actions of just one man, to totally upset the applecart and change the sport forever. By 1948 the outright speed record had risen to 51.17 mph, held by ‘Faro’, a 30cc ‘A’ class boat and engine that had been built in 1935. A year later a 10cc ‘C’ class boat held the record at 70.1mph, nearly 20mph faster.

How had George Stone achieved this quantum leap? Horror of horrors, he had bought an engine manufactured by the Dooling Brothers in Los Angeles. Now this was not the first commercial motor to be seen on the water by a long way, but its performance caused a deal of unrest. What he had done was turn the ‘old order’ on its head. Real racing was with home built engines involving years of development and hundreds of hours of designing and machining. Now all this could be bypassed by the simple expedient of buying a motor, and this did not sit well in some areas.

George soon proved that this was the way to go by raising the record another 5 mph, and despite the best efforts of all concerned the record would be held by 10cc two strokes for the next 60 years.

As the four-stroke IC motor eclipsed the flash steamers in the 30s, so they in turn were consigned to a supporting role by the highly developed two-stroke motor. The use of two-stroke motors was far from new as they had been utilised in boats almost from the word go, and as far back as 1925, Gems Suzor surprised all concerned with a 16mph run at the Grand Regatta. This was not fast in the scheme of things, but with an engine of just 17cc was enough to make people take notice. Suzor continued to develop the two-stroke theme, along with Andrew Rankine and his highly successful ‘Oigh Alba’ and a raft of others, such as messrs Row, Mitchell, Bowden, Buck and Duffield to name but a few. It was George Lines and his ‘Sparky’ engine that really boosted the popularity of the two-stroke as here was a motor, simple to build, very fast, as his string of successes would attest to, and easily scaled up or down for A, B or C class racing. It would be difficult to even estimate how many engines were built to this basic design, but the essential element was that they had to be constructed from scratch.

George Stone, who was based at the Malden Club, circumnavigated this long and involved process by going the commercial route and using Dooling motors for his boats. The American motors had the advantage of several years of intense development in tethered car racing and were far in advance of anything being produced in Britain at that time.

Right: George's Dooling engined 'Lady Cynthia'

George, having taken his twin hulled ‘Lady Babs II’ to the Swiss International meeting in August 1949 and won the Hispano Suiza trophy, wrote an article about his ‘success’ in the Model Engineer and pointed out the impossibility of achieving high speeds on the waters currently being used for racing in Britain. The letters pages showered vitriol on him for his perceived attitude, and his criticism of the venues, some of it being quite personal. For weeks after, letters followed that further attacked him, supported him, sought conciliation, prophesied the death of the sport and voiced every stance between. 60 years on, his article hardly seems that contentious, but it certainly stirred up a hornets (or was it McCoys) nest then.

A series of articles is now on the site dealing with George Stone's tethered hydroplane career

Once the dust had settled, a true ‘British’ compromise was reached. The ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’ classes would be for home built engines only, while a new class, ‘C’ restricted, would exist purely for the commercial engines. Gradually the numbers of competitors running four-strokes dwindled, and the two-stroke came to dominate the larger classes as well, but the arrival of the ‘over the counter’ engine allowed a whole new generation of competitors into the sport. Happily there were those who did, and continue to, build their own 10cc motors, either through being unable to afford or get a commercial motor, wanting to uphold the ‘spirit’ of the sport or because they believed that they could do better. Home built engines would feature significantly in race results for several years, but from 1947 to the present day, only Dickie Phillips and Terry Everitt have realised the ultimate achievement of breaking the outright British record with engines they had created themselves.

R.A (Dickie) Phillips, like so many other hydro exponents was a toolmaker by trade. Although he had been racing at Victoria for a number of years, he came to prominence with his Foz series of boats and in particular Foz 2. The first Foz was a fairly conventional hull with a 10cc single cylinder motor that Phillips built, based on a McCoy.

This combination was relatively successful, but around 1951 the radical Foz 2 appeared. The picklefork hull was a masterpiece of boat building with the ‘pickles’ planked to give the shape and each sponson made from no less than 19 separate pieces of material.

With the motor transferred from the earlier hull, Phillips had an extremely fast boat. In the 51 Speedboat Competition it easily won class C at 69 mph and was just 1 mph short of Ernie Clark’s 30cc Gordon 2. Foz 2 remained competitive for many years to come and was more than a match for the McCoy and Dooling powered boats, winning the Speedboat competition on numerous occasions.

Successful though the motor was, Phillips had other ideas on his mind and a couple of years later produced a superbly engineered 10cc engine, based on the Dooling design. This motor took a bit of sorting, but proved to be even quicker, taking the outright record from George Stone in 1955 at 76.6 mph.

Throughout the 50s, the 10cc class was dominated by three people, Phillips, Bill Everitt and Ken Hyder.

Phillips eventually went to work for the Hyder’s, and when their business moved to Hemel Hempstead, both he and Ken joined the St Albans Club. Phillips continued to run Foz very successfully until around 1958 when Foz III appeared, which had a GRP (fibreglass) hull. Foz 2 was sold to Stuart Robinson, who ran it with equal success until it became outclassed.

Unfortunately the hull was stolen from a garage in Bedford some time later, but happily the motor survived, being stored elsewhere at the time. Foz 2 lost its record to the McCoy powered Slipper 5 of Ken Hyder in 1957, who held it for 5 years before loosing it to Terry Everitt.

Right: Stuart Robinson starts 'Foz 2' at Southampton, assisted by Ted Blacknell

Terry started his racing career in the 1950s and has been competing at the top level of the sport ever since. Not only has he broken the British record on three separate occasions in three consecutive decades, but he is also an exceptionally fine engineer who has built numerous superb engines. Terry first broke the British record in 1963 with a run at 81.1 mph, using a McCoy motor.

By then the American McCoy and Dooling were very long in the tooth design wise, but their relatively simple porting meant they were copied extensively by the home builders either in 10cc form or scaled up to 15 and 30cc sizes. Two-stroke technology was on the move however, with the introduction of the Zimmerman disc valve, schnuerle porting and finally the tuned pipe to take advantage of it all.

In the late 60s, the Italian OPS incorporated all these ideas into a very powerful racing motor, but as it was intended for aircraft use the exhaust was facing the wrong way and could not be changed.

Having already produced McCoy style engines from scratch, Terry now set about designing and building a new 10cc motor that incorporated all these latest practices but with the exhaust exiting over the flywheel to give a straight run to the tuned pipe.

With the move from loop scavenging to schnuerle porting and side to rear exhaust this involved changing the orientation of all the ports, making patterns, core boxes and then producing castings for the crankcase, front and back plates and the cylinder head. A great deal of time and care is required to machine up all the components of a modern engine to the required degree of accuracy, but this is the type of precision engineering that Terry excels at.

At Woburn on the 17th May 1970 this engine broke the class ‘C’ and outright record at 88.94 mph so securing Terry Everitt a place in the annals of tethered hydroplane history.

Terry remains the only person since 1957 to have broken the outright record with a home built engine although John DeMott came within 2mph of the record in 2000, which by then stood at 135mph, set with an OPS.

Towards the 100mph mark

Terry's landmark record did not last for long however, as 7 weeks later in Ulm, Stu Robinson put in a run of over 95 mph with an Italian Rossi motor. This mark lasted for two years until another Rossi; this time in the hands of Arthur Wall added 1.2 mph to the record at St Albans in August 1972.

Five weeks later, on the 1st of October at Woburn, Arthur made a run at 98.33 mph. On the 28th of October 1972, again at Woburn, Arthur achieved the first official run at over 100 mph, with his Rossi engined hydroplane ‘Petit Chat’ covering 500yds at 100.52mph.

Left: Arthur Wall

Right: The Rossi motor that powered the A3 hydroplane 'Petit Chat' (above) to the first 100mph run recorded in the UK.

Left: MPBA Technical Certificate for 'Petit Chat'

Of these record breaking boats, only Slipper 5 has survived, but happily, the motors that set the marks have been retained and our thanks go to Terry Everitt, Stu Robinson Arthur Wall and John Hyder for help in preparing this article. Thanks also to Terry for the photographs of his engines and John Reynolds for the photos of George Stone and his boats.