By Fred Farley
Unlimited Historian
Competition for the Calvert Trophy was an Ohio River institution from the 1930s to the 1970s. Most of the races took place in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, at the foot of Fourth Street. A new interstate and bridge construction forced the race to move across the river to Jeffersonville, Indiana, in 1965. 

 The now-defunct Falls Cities Motor Boat Racing Association hosted the Calvert Trophy, which served as the headline event for the annual Marine Derby Regatta. Although, on two occasions(in 1938 and 1939) the trophy was staged by the Ohio Valley Motor Boat Racing Association of Cincinnati. 

Originally sponsored by the Calvert Distillers Corporation, the inaugural race for the Calvert Trophy took place in 1937. The race consisted of a single heat of 5 miles in length. This was the first organized power boat regatta in Louisville since 1924. 

Before an audience of 50,000, "Wild Bill" Cantrell became the first Calvert Trophy winner with WHY WORRY. Cantrell, who would become a racing legend, averaged 45.000 miles per hour enroute to victory. He finished one tenth of a second ahead of Warnie Anderson in WARNIE and two seconds ahead of Bill Nall in WHO CARES. 

WHY WORRY, WARNIE, and WHO CARES were all members of the 725 Cubic Inch Class of inboard hydroplane. The 725 Class was the Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association (MVPBA) counterpart of the American Power Boat Association (APBA) Gold Cup Class, which allowed a maximum of 732 cubic inches of piston displacement. The 725s were a popular regional class but seldom enjoyed the level of media attention of the generally more expensive and more exotic-looking Gold Cup Class rigs. 

After World War II, the 725s and the Gold Cuppers combined and changed over to the APBA Unlimited Class. 

Cantrell's WHY WORRY was a home-built! single-step hydro. Powered by an 8-cylinder Hispano-Suiza ("Hisso") engine from out of a Spad aircraft, WHY WORRY could do about 61 miles per hour flat out on the straightaway. 

With the scene shifting to Cincinnati for 1938, owner/driver Marion Cooper, riding mechanic George Davis, and co-owner Turley Carman won the second annual Calvert Trophy with HERMES III, another 725 Class rig. Defending champion Cantrell finished second with WHY WORRY, followed in third by Chuck Wilkinson in PIN BRAIN III. 

In later years, Cooper achieved fame as the original driver of the first MISS MADISON during 1961 and 1962. Davis drove the popular IT'S A WONDER between 1951 and 1957. 

HERMES III was a step hydroplane, painted black and yellow with orange checkers on the foredeck. She measured 22 feet by 5-1/2 feet, had a sharp curving bow and a deep notch across the bottom amidships. The craft utilized a three-bladed brass propeller that turned 3600 revolutions per minute.! HERMES III had a 15-gallon fuel tank and used one gallon of fuel every three-quarters of a mile at racing speeds. 

The engine was a 1914 vintage Hispano-Suiza power plant that developed 240 horsepower. Although intended for 1800 rpm, the Hisso did 2400. The gear ratio was one revolution of the motor for every one and a half revolutions of the propeller. 

Bill Cantrell found himself back in the victory lane in 1939 with a new WHY WORRY, the first-ever winner of the Calvert Trophy to use the new-fangled three-point design (two sponsons and a propeller). 

A product of the famed Ventnor Boat Works of Ventnor, New Jersey, WHY WORRY was originally a 225 Cubic Inch Class hull, beefed up to handle a 725 Class Wright/Hisso V-8 engine. 

About the only part of WHY WORRY that wasn't homebuilt was the bare hull itself. In certain places, baling wire was used in the craft. The gears dated back to 1925, and a second-hand automobile wheel with wire cable constituted the steering mechanism. 

As the story goes, the engine cost driver Cantrell $175. When he discovered that the type of pistons that he needed would cost $700, he did the work himself at a cost of $3.50 per piston. 

Finishing second to WHY WORRY in the 1939 Calvert Trophy was his good friend Marion Cooper in MERCURY, another new boat that year, which likewise utilized the three-point design. 

MERCURY was wider than WHY WORRY and most of the sponsons were built underneath. Only about four or five inches of the sponsons stuck out from the sides. MERCURY differed from the Ventnor design, which had the sponsons all to the outside. 

The Hisso-powered MERCURY used eight dual Stromberg carburetors. 

After time out for World War II, competition for the Calvert Trophy resumed in 1948 with a victory by Bob Ballinger in BALLYHOO. The first Unlimited winner was Horace Dodge, Jr.'s MY SWEETIE in 1949. A John Hacker-designed step hydroplane piloted by Bill Cantrell, the Allison-powered MY SWEETIE was the only Unlimited in attendance. She lapped the second-place boat FRANKIE'S BOY, a 225 Class hull, piloted by Bruce Smith. 

Another Unlimited hull from the drawing board of John Hacker, the MY DARLING, captured the 1950 Calvert Trophy. Owner/driver Andy Marcy was the class of a four-boat field. Oliver Elam finished second in his 7-Litre Class MERCURY, while a couple of 225 Class entries (Al Brinkman in SEABISCUIT and Bob Smith in LITTLE COLONEL) failed to finish. 

MY DARLING was back in 1951 but bowed to Bob Rowland in the 225 Class YOU ALL, one of the top boats of its day, designed by Henry Lauterbach. 

The Unlimited Class more or less abandoned the Calvert Trophy after 1951 inasmuch as the race did not count for Unlimited National High Points. The lone Thunderboat to race at Louisville in the ensuing years was George Davis's IT'S A WONDER. A former 725 Class rig, the WONDER showed up every year from 1951 to 1957 but never achieved a victory. 

The Calvert Trophy became quite a coveted prize among the larger Limited classes over the next quarter century. 

Some of the more prominent winners included Marion Cooper in HORNET in 1954 and 1955, Sam Guarino in WATER BUG in 1956, George "Buddy" Byers in MISS DESOTO in 1957, Gene Whipp in BALLYHOO in 1960, Byers in CHRYSLER QUEEN in 1961 and 1962, Bill Sterett in MISS DESOTO in 1963 and MISS CRAZY THING in 1965, Dean Chenoweth in SAYONARA in 1967, David "Salt" Walther in COUNTRY BOY in 1968, Bill Seebold in LONG GONE in 1969, and Jim Kropfeld in STREAKER in 1975. 

Marion Cooper of Louisville who won the Calvert Trophy three times as a driver (in 1938, 1954, and 1955) captured the 1966 renewal as owner of the 7-Litre Class LOUISVILLE KID, piloted by Bill Cousins. The race was a close one that year with Cousins defeating Jim Davis in HORNET, 75.885 miles per hour to 73.170. 

Retired from competition, the Calvert Trophy (officially inscribed as the "Calvert Marine Derby Perpetual Trophy") now rests on display at the APBA Historical Society Museum in Eastpointe, Michigan. 


 Back to Historical