The Jeffrey - 1939 custom-built Greavette "gentleman's racer"
There are usually a few “gentleman’s
racers” among the many sleek craft on display at the annual Vintage Boat Show in
Gravenhurst (July 11 this year) – like The Jeffrey, pictured above.
They are the thoroughbreds of their era,
a time when motorboats were constantly evolving to satisfy the quest for speed,
and racing was immensely popular as a spectator sport as well.
Harry Greening's Rainbow IV
One of the most renowned and respected gentlemen
in the international racing fraternity was the genteel Harry Greening, who
summered in Muskoka and is seen here in his Ditchburn-built Rainbow IV being
paced by a seaplane at 60 mph. Harry twice set the world speed and endurance
record on Lake Rosseau, the second one, in 1925, at an average of 50 mph over
two 12-hour-long runs, which he and his team did in Rainbow IV.
One of my characters is a friendly rival of
Harry’s, but his racing experiences are also loosely based on Greening’s.
Muskoka would see more world-class racers
when Harold and Lorna Wilson took to the lakes in the 1930s. The husband-wife
team won three world championships and two speed records. For more info about
their incredible story, see this
Muskoka’s connection to boat racing would
not be complete without mention of eccentric British heiress Marion
“Joe” Carstairs, “the fastest woman on the water” in the 1920s. In 1928, Herb Ditchburn, the
boat builder, helped to modify her newest boat in Gravenhurst. In preparation
for the Harmsworth Trophy race in Detroit, Carstairs zoomed noisily around Lake
Muskoka at up to 94 mph. Flamboyant as well as fast, I expect she made quite an impression.