Lewis with Vulture and E. C. Griffith Trophy
* above photo donated by Max Lamb
|John Lewis with the 1975 E. C. Griffith Trophy and certificates|
View Vulture take the checked flag for the 1975 E.C. Griffith Cup
and John Lewis approaching the reporters after the race
Video may take some time to down load with dial up connection (1.62 MB)
TAKES GRIFFITH CRUSHER'
STORY AND PICTURES BY TED MADDEN - MODERN BOATING MAGAZINE - MARCH 1975
an old saying in sport —”they don’t come back.”
Either it is I not true in speedboat racing, or Victorian John Lewis is
the exception that proves the rule.
When John, limp and unconscious, was carried from the water after being thrown from his runabout, Vulture, on Griffith Cup day, 1971, nobody thought that he would ever race again.
When, after recovering from serious injuries, he raced at Melbourne’s Albert Park six months later, everybody thought he was a fool.
They were right; the runabout kited on him again, and once more he was carried ashore unconscious. John Lewis dropped out of competition then, for more than a year. But he hadn’t given the game away. He had sold the cranky runabout, and was building a hydro.
When it was ready to race, midway through the 1972-3 season, he found that he had lost his nerve. So he raced his way back in his new hydroplane also named Vulture, whenever he could get a start — usually finishing well back in the field.
Whenever I asked him what the trouble was, he would answer frankly: “There’s nothing wrong with the boat. It’s me.”
However, by racing, being consistently beaten by bigger and faster boats, but always racing. John Lewis kept trying. Gradually he recovered confidence, and the skill and judgment which, right from his first year in the sport, had marked him as a champion of the future.
This season, he has at last reaped the reward of courage, sportsmanship and consistency.
Because he has always been willing to compete in any and every race open to an unlimited class boat, no matter how daunting the competition, the titles have started falling to him one by one.
Victorian unlimited open champion, Australian 400 cubic inch open champion. Australian unlimited hydroplane champion, Australian unlimited open champion. And all in a 5-litre hydroplane.
That was because the 5-litre hydroplane was always in where the action was. The bigger, faster boats were absent, or immobilized in the pits.
Because he was in where the action was, on Griffiths Cup day, 1975, John Lewis wrote his name among the immortals of the sport.
In a grueling race, run in very rough water, the bigger, faster boats broke down. Vulture, which does not go much faster than 100 mph, but never goes much slower, kept going, and John Lewis inherited the Griffiths Cup.
It was a race of sensations, although the first heat gave no inkling of the sensations that were to come. The hot favorite, Solo, won it as she liked from the Gippsland runabout, Tiger (Ben Prajbisz) with Vulture nosing the NSW hydroplane. Tortoise, out of third place.
The big aircraft-engined hydroplane clocked 8minutes 45sec for the journey — a time that was not to be equaled — without getting out of a canter. The Cup looked a foregone conclusion.
Soon after the start of the second heat, however, things happen to happen. Ernie Nunn’s Wasp Too, the only boat given a chance of beating Solo, was dicing with Electra, a runabout from Griffith, NSW, driven by Neil McNabb. Electra, originally built by Dave Gill to accommodate a 5-litre motor, had been engined with a 454 Chev; in the rough water, it proved not enough boat for too much motor.
Nosing in suddenly, the bow snapped right off, and flew through the air; McNabb catapulted forward through the hole where the bow had been.
This gave Gordon Turvey what he admitted was the greatest fright he’d ever had in all his years of speedboat racing. He buttoned off so suddenly that he blew the lot. Wasp’s Maserati came to a dead stop, with oil and water all over the place.
McNabb was picked up by the VSBC crash boat, Sandpiper, using an inflatable stretcher. Taken to Bendigo Base Hospital, his injuries proved to be six broken ribs, and
two breaks in the lower left leg. At time of writing, the possibility of internal injuries had not been fully investigated.
Only five boats fronted for the re-run second heat — Jane IV, Ospray, Rebel, Tantrum and Super Rat. Since only five had finished the first heat, all were assured of a place in the final.
The result was a boat race.
Geelong clubmates Neil Northfield and Ray Smith loped along together all the way. Smith using Jane’s superior speed only in the last few meters to nudge ahead and win the heat, for the record. She took a leisurely 9-55 for the journey. The others loafed, even more outrageously.
When the flag dropped for the final, there were only five: Solo, Vulture, Chevvy, Jane and Tantrum. Rebel, which had beaten Vulture fair and square in the 5-litre Scratch race, broke a steering cable in her heat, and Geoff Lewis had to stand on the bank and watch victory go to brother John.
Tiger, a real hot-shot in the conditions (she had clocked 8-55 to Solo’s 845 in the first heat) failed to start when Ben Prajbisz turned the key, somebody had apparently left the ignition on and flattened the battery. Ospray did start when Neil Northfield hit the button, but promptly blew up.
Stan Jones wasn’t worried when Vulture took the lead from him, early in the piece. In fact, he held Solo back, to make the race look good. After a lap or so, he began to feel that the big boat ought to be up in front, where she should be.
He tramped it. The propeller flew off! It was the same sort of thing that had knocked Solo out of the World Championship in the United States last year. But this time she made a proper job of it — only part of one blade left, shaft hopelessly bent, skeg carried away.
Some members of the syndicate believe that the skeg was the basic problem, reasoning that it carried away first, causing the shaft to bend, and then the screw to disintegrate. Whichever way it happened, it stopped Solo like a shot duck.
This left Vulture to go on and win the race. Even so, John Lewis nearly gave it away.
His big danger, on paper, was Jane. But the Geelong runabout’s shaft bearing had loosened; she was a long way back, with Smith nursing her along, unable to ask for more revs. The NSW runabout, Tantrum (John Allen), was tailed off, last.
That left Chevvy (Len Harris), a runabout in the race at Vultures own weight — 302 cubes. The advantage in speed eves with the hydroplane, but the conditions were all in favor of the runabout.
And so ensued a tight, head-and-head struggle, with Lewis, driving with great judgment, chancing his arm just enough to push Vulture to a clear, if narrow lead at what he thought was the finish.
But it wasn’t, it was the end of the fifth lap. As he pulled into the center, Chevvy shot past, and Lewis realized his mistake.
It was Sydney or the bush, now. Thrashing Vulture, Lewis regained the lead going into the final turn, lost it round the buoys, and lined up for the judge two boat lengths to the bad. Asking for everything the motor had, he caught Chevvy half way down the straight to win by three seconds.
Lame Jane was third, finishing more than a minute later. Tantrum was the only other boat to see the race out.
WATER FOR GRIFFITH CUP'
AUSTRALIAN SEA SPRAY MAGAZINE - FEBRUARY 1975
(John Lewis) won the E.C. Griffiths Cup on Lake Eppalock in a race of sensations,
scoring by a matter of only a few yards from the runabout ‘Chevvy’
(Len Harris) with ‘Jane IV’ (Raymond Smith) third.
Run in rough water, which recalled memories of the 1965 Griffiths Cup, which had to be postponed, the grueling event took toll of all but four of the field. Tantrum (John Alien) was the only other boat to finish.
The huge aircraft-engined hydroplane ‘Solo’, in line for her third successive Griffiths Cup win, threw her propeller as Stan Jones accelerated to take the lead in the final.
Ernie Nunn’s ‘Wasp Too’, regarded as the only boat with a chance of beating ‘Solo’, blew up in the second heat after a sensational smash in which the runabout ‘Electra’, driven by Neil McNabb of Griffith, NSW, broke in two.
Accelerating in an attempt to hold off ‘Wasp Too’, which was pushing through on the inside, ‘Electra’ nose-dived in rough water; the bow snapped off and flew high into the air.
McNabb was catapulted forward through the hole where the bow had been.
Said ‘Wasp Too’s’ driver, Gordon Turvey:
“When I saw that bloke flying out through the nose of the boat, I got such a shock I buttoned right off. Racing motors don’t like that kind of thing,”
McNabb was taken to hospital with six broken ribs and two breaks in the lower left leg.
And then in the final John Lewis, left in front when ‘Solo’ broke down, miscounted his laps and pulled into the center after completing the fifth lap.
It was only when ‘Chevvy’ shot past him that he realized his mistake. He set out after Len Harris, caught him going into the final turn, lost the lead rounding the turn, and only got up to snatch victory right on the line.
Lewis’ victory was a triumph for courage, determination, and sportsmanship. Four years ago, on Griffiths Cup Day, serious injuries sustained in a race smash in his old runabout. ‘Vulture’, nearly put him out of the game for good,
He came back for the first race of the 1971-2 season, six months later, only to be involved in another smash at Albert Park. This put him out until early in the 1972-3 season, when he began racing his new ‘Vulture’, a hydroplane.
It took him more than a season of competition to regain his touch and confidence.
This season, he has raced whenever and wherever an unlimited class boat could race, regardless of the fact that ‘Vulture’s’ 302 cubic inch motor is outgunned by most of his opponents.
John Lewis has never been deterred from starting in a race by the knowledge that he was up against bigger and faster boats. This season, he has reaped his reward,
‘Vulture’ doesn’t do much more than 100mph. but she is reliable, and does it all the time. This season her reliability, and John’s willingness to compete, has won him every title an unlimited class boat can hold.
With the Griffiths Cup (the Australasian unlimited open championship) he now holds the Australian unlimited open, the Australian unlimited hydroplane, and the Australian 400 cubic inch open championships, as well as his State (Victorian) unlimited open title.
The first heat of the Griffiths Cup contained no hint of the sensations that were to come. ‘Solo’ won it as she liked, in half a canter, from the Gippsland runabout ‘Tiger’ (Ben Prajbisz), with ‘Vulture’ third.
‘Tortoise’ (Des Radburn, NSW) and ‘Chevvy’ were the only other boats to finish.
After the red flag in the second heat, ‘Wasp Too’ and ‘Big Benzol’ did not appear for the re-run. ‘Big Benzol’, after going like a bird in practice, simply refused to fire. A day later, driver Johnny Egar was still trying to find out why.
The re-run second heat turned out to be a duel between the two Geelong runabouts, ‘Jane IV’ and ‘Osprey’, with Ray Smith using ‘Jane’s’ superior speed to nudge ahead on the line. ‘Tantrum’ was third, ahead of ‘Rebel’ and ‘Super Rat’.
Only six boats were able to appear in the final — ‘Solo’, ‘Vulture’, ‘Chevvv’, ‘Jane’, ‘Tantrum’ and ‘Osprey’. Osprey blew up at the start.
Stan Jones wasn’t worried when ‘Vulture’ took the lead from him. ‘Solo’s’ big Rolls-Royce Merlin was only loafing when he decided to go to the front.
But the propeller disintegrated.
The race then became a cut-throat duel between the hydroplane ‘Vulture’ and the runabout ‘Chevvy’. Lewis had a handy margin in speed, but was unable to risk using it in the rough water.
Driving with excellent judgment, however, he had established a clear lead at the end of the fifth lap — which he believed to be the last. Then he threw it away.
He had to throw caution to the winds in the short dash from the final buoy, to catch ‘Chevvy’ just on the line, The winning margin was three seconds.
‘Jane’, a distant third, might have been right up with them hilt for the fact that the shaft bearing had shaken loose, and Ray Smith couldn’t give the motor full revs.
Hard luck stories also came from Geoff Lewis (‘Rebel’), and Red Prajbisz (‘Tiger’). ‘Rebel’ beat ‘Vulture’ on her merits in the 5-litre scratch race. However, her steering cable parted in the heat, and Geoff Lewis couldn’t tackle his brother in the final.
‘Tiger’ clocked 8minutes 55sec in finishing second to ‘Solo’ (8.45) in the first heat
compared with ‘Vulture’s’ 9.27 in the heat and 9.19 in the final.
Unfortunately, ‘Tiger’s’ ignition key was left on during the interval, flattening the battery, and the motor would not start for the final.
Right: Photo donated by David Bienvenu
100 ci Scratch:
1, Wasp (GrahamRodgers).
1, Frantic Too (TomBarnes),
2, Super Roo (Leon Doyle),
3, Bat Outa Hell (Tom Szekeres).
Formula Ford Scratch:
1, Bo-Weevil (Rud Lindley),
2, Frantic Too.
1, Chinook (Vein Arnott),
2, Hydromania (Neil Howe),
3, Fast R.
1. Hydromania; 2, Fast R.
1, Gemini (Cohn Mogford);
2, Kimbatan (John Monshouwer);
3, J’Arrivee (Jim Willis).
1, Psycho (Alan Beale);
2, Kaos (Ray Harrison);
3, Miss Chit (WaIly Cooper).
1, Rebel (Geoff Lewis);
2, Vulture (John Lewis);
3, Chevvy (Les Harris).
1, Lobo (Stephen Day);
2, Psycho (Alan Beale);
3, Happy Hooker (Ian Marr).
E.C. Griffiths Cup:
First Heat: 1, Solo(Stan Jones) 8.45;
2, Tiger (Ben Prajbisz)8.55;
3, Vulture (John Lewis) 9.27.
1, Jane IV (Ray Smith) 9.55;
2, Osprey (Neil NortnHeld) 9.56;
3, Tantrum, NSW (John Allen) 10.16.
"E.C. GRIFFITH CUP HISTROY"
BY THE MELBOURNE RUNABOUT & SPEED BOAT CLUB PROGRAM 1987
The E.G. Griffith Cup is the trophy for the Australasian Motor Boat Championship Unlimited, open to inboard engined propeller driven boats of unrestricted hull design and unlimited engine capacity/modifications. It is conducted under the jurisdiction of the Australian Power Boat Association. First contested in 1910, the Griffith Cup is annually conducted on the waters of the last year’s winner.
Engraved names on metal plates surrounding the base of this coveted award reflect tribute to the winners who have competed since 1910, the most consistent winner being Mr. Len Southward from New Zealand — 1949 to 1959 with his hydroplane REDHEAD. Since then the trophy has been held by N.S.W. five times and by Victoria nine times.
Prior to 1913, the Australasian Championship carried with it the Griffith Shield which was not a perpetual trophy and could be won outright by any boat posting two successive victories. A.H. Davies won the inaugural running of the Griffith Shield in 1910 with FAIRBANKS — powered by an engine with the same name and equipped with a displacement hull with a round bilge. Anthony Hordern’s KANGAROO gained permanent possession of the Shield with back-to-back triumphs in 1911 and ‘12. (The single step hydroplane turned heat speeds at slightly better than 30 miles an hour with the aid of a Brasier four cylinder engine rated at between 90 and
150 h.p.) KANGAROO also garnered the initial offering of the Griffith Cup on Rose Bay in Sydney Harbour with victories in two straight heats on January 11, 1913. (Both heats consisted of two laps around a 9.54 mile course.)
By far the most successful Griffith Cup champion of the pre-Second World War era was the famous TORTOISE II (owned by the Rymill brothers) which emerged victorious on five occasions in 1925, ‘26, ‘29, ‘30 and ‘33. TORTOISE II was a single step hydroplane conceived by the famed American designer John Hacker. Powered by a 450 h.p. Liberty V12 engine, the craft won the 1933 Griffith Cup meeting at an average speed of 62 miles an hour compared to the 56 miles an hour velocity posted by EL LAGARTO in the Gold Cup Race during the same year on the other side of the globe.
With the advent of World War II and gasoline rationing, competition in virtually all classes of power boating the world over was suspended. When racing resumed in 1946, a huge supply of converted aircraft engines produced by the war was in evidence.
These were big 12 cylinder 27 litre, V-type aircraft engines which gave the free world air superiority in World War II. P-Si Mustangs, Spitfires and Hurricanes ruled the skies powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin that today push over the water speeds close to 200 m.p.h.
Dave Tenns AGGRESSOR had quite an impressive record during the 1971-72 racing season and posted 10 wins including the Griffith Cup from 11 starts.
MISS BUD is on the way to establishing new records by virtue of an unbeaten record in 17 starts with Bob Saniga at the wheel. Since arriving in Australia from the United States of America, where it had a great string of successes under it’s former name of MISS BUDWEISER, MISS BUD also has the distinction of being the only boat in the history of speedboat racing to have won both the E.G. Griffith Cup and America’s Gold Cup.
From 1976 to 1985 a decade the Thunderboats dominated with MISS BUD winning the Cup seven (7) times and BAYSWATER BULK winning three (3) times, and as you can well imagine the boaties with the conventional type boats were starting to wonder whether these thunderboats could ever be beaten, so you see apart from the personal satisfaction that Keith Harrison driving THE RAT obtained, he also put an end to what must have been a strangle-hold on the Cup. Everybody loves to see and hear the thunderboats but Australians also love the under-dog.
John Lewis with the E.C. Griffith Cup Trophy after winning the 1975 Griffith Cup**
Donated by 'Graeme Morley' from the Hazelwood Speedboat Club
Vulture after the winning the 1975 E.C. Griffith Cup - with flower garland on deck**
1975 E.C. Griffith Cup Draw
BY THE MELBOURNE RUNABOUT & SPEED BOAT CLUB PROGRAM 1987
FAIRBANKS Mr. A.H. Davis (N.S.W.)
TORTOISE Mr. A. G. RymilI (S.A.)
1940 CENTAURUS Mr. R. Pickering (N.S.W.)
1947 Mr. Bert McFarland (N.S.W.)
1948 WASP Mr. E. Nunn (N.S.W.)
1949 Inclusive REDHEAD
1959 Mr. Len Southward (N.Z.)
1960 MYSTIC MISS
1961 Mr. B. Stevenson (N.Z.)
1962 ELRAY Mr. L. Appleton (N.Z.)
1963 WASP Mr. E. Nunn (N.S.W.)
1964 VENUS Mr. Alan Fordham (Vic.)
1965 WASP Mr. E. Nunn (N.S.W.)
1966 MYSTIC MISS Mr. A. Baker (N.S.W.)
1967 ASSASSIN Mr. A. Baker (N.S.W.)
1968 WASP Mr. E. Nunn
1969 ASSASSIN Mr. T. Mathews (Vic.)
STAMPEDE Mr. S. Jones & R. Saniga (Vic.) (Second
Place to Vulture-John Lewis)
1971 STAMPEDE Mr. S. Jones & R. Saniga (Vic.)
Mr. D. Tenny & L. Scott (Vic.)
S. Jones & R. Saniga
1974 VS41 (SOLO)
S. Jones & R. Saniga
1975 VULTURE John Lewis
1976 MISS BUD
Norman Putt (dr. R. Saniga)
1977 MISS BUD
Norman Putt (dr. R. Saniga)
1978 MISS BUD
Ron Burton (dr. R. Saniga)
1979 MISS BUD
Ron Burton (dr. A. Saniga)
1980 MISS BUD
Ron Burton (dr. R. Saniga)
1981 MISS BUD
Ron Burton (dr. R. Saniga)
1982 BAYSWATER BULK
R. Carnie, S. Jones
Images from the early 1980's CUP
1983 BAYSWATER BULK
R. Carnie S. Jones (Driver B. Baberton)
1984 BAYSWATER BULK
A. Carnie, S. Jones (Driver B. Baberton)
1985 AUSSIE BUD
Ron Burton (driver W. James)
1986 THE RAT
Owner-driver Keith Harrison
SHAMROCK P. Joyce/Con Cunningham B. Halliday (St George Motor
Boat Club) Club conducting Event: MRSBC at Lake Learmonth
of Gift of the E.C. Griffith Cup &
1974 Briefing Instuctions
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