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George Stone, The Legacy

Back to the racing though and George, far from cowed by the criticisms over the winter, was carrying on with exactly the same approach as before. He was however experiencing problems that would afflict his boats through most of the domestic season. At Blackheath in July neither ‘Babs’ nor ‘Rodney’, now fitted with a Rowell motor, could better 39mph for the timed laps, although ‘Babs’ did speed up after the timed run was over (doesn’t it always happen this way?). The 10cc class was won though by none other than Charlie Cray with a new boat that recorded 43.9mph for the three laps.

At the MPBA International at Victoria, ‘Babs’ had been left at home but George had ‘Lady Cynthia’, reportedly with a 5cc Dooling motor for D class and ‘Rodney’. The 10cc boat managed just 35.4mph for third place behind Colin Stanworth and long time rival from South London, Mr A Stone. Wilf Rowell was actively supporting hydroplane racing at this time, which may explain the choice of motor for ‘Rodney’.

                                                                Right: George with the Chevrot Brothers and Gems Suzor

In an attempt to advance the cause of the Rowell and other British engines, George issued a challenge through the pages of Model Engineer to pit ‘Rodney’ against any other boat fitted with a British motor. Sad to relate, the motors available never came within a country mile of the performances produced from the Hornets, McCoys and Doolings.

With George being the current holder of both the Hispano-Suiza and Ford cups, these two trophies, were raced for at a regatta run by the Derby Club at Allestree Park, Derby over the weekend of 12th 13th August. George, along with Mr E. Clare of the Derby club was responsible for much of the preparatory work in organising the event, which owed much to the generosity of Sir Robert Bird who contributed handsomely to the financial aspects. Several other companies also added to the prize list including Hispano-Suiza, Phenoglaze (who provided the paint for George’s boats), Rowell Motors, Wakefield (Castrol), and Albon, the model engine manufacturers.

After being opened by Lady Bird the first event was for the Hispano Trophy. Despite running another boat besides ‘Babs’, both that and ‘Rodney’ petered out on every occasion they were got away successfully so not recording a single run. The drizzly weather affected most boats with only eight times being recorded throughout the event. The trophy was won by Pierre Chevrot with his brother Jean-Louis second and Colin Stanworth 3rd.

The Swiss clean sweep continued in the Ford Mechanics event with Jean-Louis taking first and second places and Pierre third. George failed on all attempts although ‘Babs’ did show amazing speed before climbing almost vertically and then diving in. All the Swiss team were using American Hornet motors with magneto ignition. Multiple entries were allowed in regattas until relatively recently.

At the Grand regatta in September George ran ‘Rodney’ and ‘Cynthia’ but had no luck with either.

Following an invite at Derby from Gems Suzor, George with ‘Babs’ and ‘Cynthia’, along with George Lines (Sparky) and Ken Williams (Faro) travelled to France for the Paris International. George seemed to be followed by his jinx from Derby as neither boat got away in either of the scheduled rounds.

An extra round was put in and he got ‘Babs’ away at last for a startling display when it leapt clear of the water at well over 70mph yet landed right way up and carried on, only for it to happen again a lap later. It was asking too much of providence to expect the boat to repeat the trick, at which point it dived in.

Sir Robert Bird accompanied the British contingent, along with his grandson and two fast and stable straight running boats that they demonstrated to the crowd.

In October, the Kingsmere Club held its inaugural regatta at the Kingsmere Pond on Putney Heath. George with ‘Babs’ comfortably won the C class at 62.6mph, the best performance by this boat at a British regatta during the season and breaking a season long run of bad luck and failures for George.


George continued to make alterations to his boats and their set-up, including experimenting with a fully streamlined engine cowling, although the promised ‘Lady Babs III’ never appeared, unless it was the new, more streamlined version of ‘Babs’ that he named ‘Bill Barnes’ after a very good friend of his who was shot down and killed in 1943 while flying with the RAF. The hull of 'Bill Barnes' had been slimmed down significantly and the sponsons were now outboard of the hull, although still integral.

The South East Association regatta at Brockwell Park in June saw ‘Babs’ die on the first run and then perform aerobatics that brought the second run to an end. Victoria organised a one off, two-day regatta to celebrate the Festival Of Britain in early July with the hydros running on the Sunday. Unfortunately, strong winds were responsible for many of the smaller boats coming to grief, including both of George’s entries, ‘Bill Barnes’ and ‘Lady Babs’, one of them suffering a classic ‘flip’ when the wind got under the hulls.

This had proved to be a constant problem with the relatively large surface area of the twin hulled boats and continues to be a major cause of accidents with full sized circuit catamarans from their introduction right through to the present day. Both Stan Poyser and Bill Everitt did however manage to keep their boats on the water to take the first three places in C/R.

George with Cynthia and the streamlined Lady Babs

Many regattas featured novelty events, most of which were no longer suitable for the faster boats, but at the Blackheath annual regatta in July George ran ‘Babs’ in the ‘quick start event’ but was narrowly beaten by George Lines and ‘Sparky’ one of the most successful of the 15cc boats. George did however win C/R with ‘Bill Barnes’ in its first competitive event where it did a speed of 50.3mph over the 300yd run.

‘Bill Barnes’ was marginally quicker at the combined St Albans and North London Regatta, winning C Restricted with a run of 54.8mph and George also taking second with ‘Lady Babs’ at a very leisurely 29mph. Interestingly, the C class at this event, which was for home built 10cc motors only, was won by Dickie Phillips at 61.38mph who had claimed a national record for the class at 66.64mph. The motor that he had built was however an almost exact copy of the American McCoy.

At Brockwell Park in September, Meridian (John Benson) noted in Model Engineer that George had ‘at last returned a high speed with ‘Lady Babs’ at a home regatta’. The run of 58.7mph beat Bill Everitt by no less than 27mph.

The last domestic regattas of the season were the Grand at Victoria Park, the South London Open and George’s home club event at Kingsmere Pond. In the course of the month George ran his entire stable of twin hulled boats. At the Grand he ran ‘Rodney’ in the ED Trophy event, only to have the knock off do just that when the boat was showing a good turn of speed. ‘Bill Barnes’ was on the line at Brockwell Park and won C/R with a run at 61.6mph beating Leslie Pinder, to be followed by another class win at Kingsmere, this time with ‘Lady Babs’ at a speed of 54.4mph.

Following this run of events, George once again journeyed to France for the Paris International at Le Vesinet with Ernie Clark and Ken Williams. George was first in the 10cc Class with a sparkling run from Babs of 74.6mph. In the second run he recorded the fastest lap ever, only to have the boat dive in and wreck another Dooling motor, so bringing his participation in this event to an end. Jean-Louis Chevrot with Folbrise VII was again second to George, nearly 5mph slower.

With ‘Babs’ apparently on top form again, George flew to Geneva on the Friday for the two-day regatta where he recaptured both the Hispano-Suiza and Ford Mechanic’s cups that he had lost the previous year. In an article in Model Engineer, similar to the one that had stirred up such a hornet’s nest two years previously, George started of by stating that apart from settling the argument about home-built versus commercial engines, the 69mph recorded by Dickie Phillips and ‘Foz’ with its hand crafted motor was one of the best performances anywhere.

In the Ford event ‘Lady Babs’ recorded the highest speed to win, with Pierre Chevrot second by less than ¾ mph at 73.8mph, and Dickie Phillips fourth, setting a new British C class record. The following day was the Hispano-Suiza race and just one start was required for ‘Lady Babs’ and George to secure the Hispano-Ford double for a second time with ‘Lady Babs’ recording her highest speed ever at 75.57mph to set another new British record. Henri Barraud was 2nd at 70.1mph in his first ever International event and Dickie Phillips 3rd at 69mph.

In the conclusion to his article, George almost seems to sign off and build bridges with the following statement. "For me, the past two years since ’the Swiss International Regatta 1949’ have been an interesting and instructional period of trial and error, of changing luck, a new understanding of the spirit of the MPBA, absorption of useful and constructive criticism and thankfulness for kindness and help received."

Not included in the ME article but prominent in an article published in Mechanics was an acknowledgement that the trip was made possible by the kindness of Sir Robert Bland Bird with whom George has been conducting a series of high-speed trials.

The name of Sir Robert Bland Bird and Lady Bird crop up regularly in relation to both tethered hydroplane and tethered car racing. As the name suggests he was of the Bird’s Custard family and was a great patron and sponsor of modelling events and took an active interest, turning up at events all round the country. He was known to be a close friend and private customer of Basil Miles.

Although the heated discussion surrounding approaches to ‘international racing’ and George’s original article had died away, it seemed to intensify over similar issues related to tethered car racing and become equally polarised. It is odd to think that 65 years on these opposed attitudes still exist and manifest themselves on regular occasions in relation to model boats, cars and aeroplanes.


In a Model Engineer article in July entitled ‘Jinxes and Hoodoos’, John Benson comments on George’s ‘Lady Babs’ being proverbially unlucky at home regattas, which he puts down in part to the hull, ‘which rapidly becomes airborne unless the water is very calm. ‘Lady Cynthia’ is of an entirely different design, and with the addition of outrigger sponsons ‘looked like being a good boat for disturbed water conditions’. ‘Lady Cynthia’ had undergone some radical surgery over the winter having had the integral sponsons removed and new ones fitted on outriggers so creating an entirely ‘modern’ hydro. In addition, as well as being a very elegant shape, the new sponsons were adjustable to enable their angle of attack to be changed to suit wind and water conditions. In so doing, George had created one of the most attractive boats of all times.

With George having won both the Hispano and Ford trophies in Geneva in 51, the St Alban’s Society undertook to run the event over two days in August at the Verulamium Lake. Unfortunately, there were no competitors from abroad in the 10cc class and only Gems Suzor with his 30cc boat in the Ford race. After the official opening on the Saturday, again by Sir Robert Bird, the 10cc boats ran off for the Hispano but George could not get ‘Babs’ to run at all and he later discovered that another Dooling motor had succumbed to a cracked crankcase. ‘Lady Cynthia’ did manage three runs, the best at 63.9mph, only good enough for third place. Bill Everitt with ‘Nan’ won the event at exactly 70mph, the first time this speed had ever been achieved in a competition in this country as opposed to a specific record run.

The Ford Mechanic’s Trophy is open to all classes, and again it was Bill Everitt who won, but only after a run off with George Lines and his B Class ‘Sparky’. With a wrecked motor ‘Babs’ was not able to compete and ‘Lady Cynthia’ failed to return a time on either attempt so bringing an end to George’s efforts to retain the trophies.

The destruction of three Dooling 61 motors must have been something of a financial hammer blow for George and relative lack of success by his standards seemed to have dulled his enthusiasm somewhat. Apart from the European trips and the domestic ‘international events’, he never ventured far from South London to compete and even then only entered a restricted number of regattas. The 1953 season would see his boating activities curtailed even further. By then all but one of the South London clubs had lost the use of their water for circular course racing, and George’s liking for Victoria where most of the regattas were now taking place was well known.


As far as can be traced from his own notes and contemporary reports, George’s only appearance during the 53 season was at St Albans. With Bill Everitt having won the Hispano and Ford trophies the year previously it was again down to the British venue to host this prestigious event. Verulamium Lake in September was again the scene of this fascinating contest. George was running ‘Lady Cynthia in both events, but could only finish third in the Hispano Suiza behind Bill Everitt and Ken Hyder at 67.28, 66.41 and 63.92mph respectively. The first home built motor to finish was George’s long time club mate, Basil Miles. In the Ford Mechanic’s race over two rounds, George was in first place after round one little more than 0.3mph in front of Brightwell’s mighty 30cc four-stroke boat. The only person to increase their speed in round two was Bill Everitt to beat George by just 0.8mph to make it a double win for the second year running.

What is remarkable is that although several others had taken his lead in using commercial 10cc motors they were yet to reproduce the speed that George’s boats had been reaching over the previous three seasons.

In fact, it was to be another three years before his 10cc record was broken and even then it was, ironically, by Dickie Phillips with his home built copy of the Doolings that George had been running. It was not until 1957, that Ken Hyder broke the outright record with his McCoy engined ‘Slipper’.

George's four boats on display at Staines Town Hall

With British competitors having won the Hispano and Ford Trophies for the last three years and international support having dwindled to zero, it appears that the MPBA decided to pass the trophies back to the Paris Model Yacht Club and the donors, so bringing to an end this event and seemingly, George Stone’s involvement with the sport. His daughter Cynthia suggests that perhaps ‘he had done that’ and with the cost and lack of availability of spares and motors he retired, taking up golf by way of recreation. George died in May 1984 but does not seem to have been accorded a mention in either Model Engineer or Model Boats, which is a sad reflection, given his achievements and the impact he had on tethered hydroplane racing.

76.71mph. Fastest speed by a British boat until 1957.

The Legacy

The sport George left was very different to the one he had joined five years previously. The large four-stroke engines and ‘kipper box’ boats of the pre war era were dying out, small American style three point hulls with integral sponsons or outrigger sponsons were the order of the day. Two-stroke motors were the norm in every class and speeds were rising rapidly. The catamaran style hull of George’s was tried by several competitors, but was soon abandoned, only to reappear in full sized circuit and offshore boats from the late 1960s. The 10cc class became pre eminent and intensely competitive throughout the 50s, continuing right through to the present day. Indeed the outright record was held by a 10cc motor for all bar two weeks in the last sixty years and that brief period was in June 2014 when it fell to an A/B Class boat with a commercial 15cc motor. Apart from one competitor, every 2.5cc, 5cc and 10cc motor that has been run in Britain since 1975 has been supplied commercially and that has been the most lasting benefit to the sport. It introduced many who had no engineering or model engineering background and enabled them to take up tethered hydroplane racing without having to build a motor. The British A and B classes still require the engines to be home built although it is doubtful though whether the sport would still exist if it had not been for the introduction of the commercial motors?

Somewhat surprisingly, the divisions that became evident after George’s very successful entry into the sport are still in existence. As was pointed out at the time, George was not the first person by a long way to use a commercial engine; it was just that he got the hull, engine, props and everything else working perfectly together. Being too successful can still cause friction, and not just with tethered hydros. It still holds true in just about every competitive model discipline and many technical sports beyond, that there will always be those who are more comfortable with things as they are, and those that want to progress and are quite happy to use the very best equipment available in order to achieve that.

Apart from one occasion at Victoria where someone else ran ‘Babs’, with George on hand to supervise, nothing more was seen or heard of the boats, in spite of regular enquiries being made.

It was a very welcome surprise when a hull that Keith Bragg had spotted on eBay turned out to be ‘Rodney’. The Rowell motor was missing, which was not surprising as they were changing hands for far more than any hydroplane would, and the foredeck and cowling were missing.

Other than that, the name, registration, Union Jack and green Phenoglaze paint were all intact. The hull was obtained by a member of the Retro Racing Club and restored, using a slightly ‘moth-eaten’ Rowell that was to hand and featured on OTW in Nov 2010. (Above right)

Did this mean that the others were ‘out there’ somewhere or had they been destroyed, as not a whisper of them had ever been heard?

An email from George’s grandson James contained the very best of news, ‘Lady Babs II’ complete with its fitted travel box, ‘Lady Cynthia’ and ‘Bill Barnes’ were all still in existence in excellent condition and retained within the family.

‘Cynthia’ and ‘Babs’ are complete with Dooling 61 motors but ‘Bill Barnes’ is currently engineless. In addition, the family still has George’s album and scrapbook from his racing days, and it is all this plus the incredible help we have received from James that has made this article possible.