A Look Back at the Birth of the Go-Fast Boat

This commodore hit 60 knots in 1917.
Whip-po-Will Jr.
The hydroplane Whip-po-Will Jr. in 1917. Yachting

One might think the grin-inducing exhilaration from a 60-knot vessel is a relatively recent experience, but Yachting‘s January 1918 issue proves otherwise.

In 1917, the hydroplane Whip-po-Will Jr. (above), owned by American Power Boat Association President Commodore Albert N. Judson (below), hit 69.39 miles per hour, or 60.3 knots. It was a record, during an age when yacht racing was all the rage.

“A hydroplane, while known to be fast, had never been reckoned capable of showing the remarkable speed of 70 miles an hour.” – “The Swing of the Speed Pendulum,” Yachting, January 1918

Albert N. Judson
From the 1918 Feature: “A little motor-gnome poked his head above the polished rim of a priming cup and, springing lithely upon the lever, sat straddle-legged on the shiny brass arm. ‘Some speed!’ he confided to his mate, the boat-gnome. ‘Snappy work, old Top,’ he of the boat replied. ‘We showed ’em what teamwork could do,’ the first diminutive chap answered, puffing out his ruddy cheeks, whereat both laughed merrily for the sheer joy of putting pep into the motor-yachting racing sport.” Yachting

Yachting argued that racing, the ultimate test under the highest possible speed, was an important means of standardizing the marine engine. That said, Judson predicted that a 100 mph (roughly 87-knot) speedboat would hit the water within a few years. In reality, it took more than a decade, achieved first on March 20, 1931, when legendary racer and boatbuilder Gar Wood hit 102 mph in Miss America IX, the winner of the 1930 Harmsworth Trophy.


It all goes to show that innovation and ingenuity are age-old in this sport.