The trustees of the world's oldest powerboat racing prize, the British International Harmsworth Trophy, have agreed to it being linked with the Honda Cowes Classic Offshore Powerboat Festival of Speed on August 22-25

The trustees of the world’s oldest powerboat racing prize, the British International Harmsworth Trophy, have agreed to it being linked with the Honda Cowes Classic Offshore Powerboat Festival of Speed on August 22-25.

Commissioned by Sir Alfred Harmsworth and first presented in 1903, it is now considered the powerboating equivalent of the America’s Cup. With its centenary in 2003, the contest is certain to attract contestants from Europe, Australia and particularly America where the Harmsworth is held in high regard.

The trophy was originally presented as ‘an effect means of bringing marine engine and hull design to a state of perfection’. At that time benefactors were trying to encourage mechanical perfection in all areas as a matter of national pride. Aviation saw the Schneider Trophy, trans-Atlantic travel the Blue Riband, yachting the America’s Cup with enthusiasts of the day spending fortunes seeking success. The Harmsworth Trophy was no exception.

The first race, organised by the Royal Cork YC, took place over an 8.5-mile course. It was won by a steel-hulled racer owned by Selwyn Francis Edge and powered by a 75hp Napier.

The Harmsworth quickly became the province of international competition with France and the United States taking part the following year. The trophy went back and forth with Britain notching up the greatest number of wins prior the outbreak of WW1 in 1914. Between the wars however the trophy spent most of its time in the United States in the hands of world water speed record holder, Garfield Wood.

Due to enormous costs and a change in powerboat competition it ceased to be a two-boat ‘winner take all’ contest between defender and challenger in 1950. Hence the contest has since altered considerably. Latterly in competitions for offshore and circuit boats the trophy has been won by Michael Doxford (GB), Stefano Casiraghi (MON), Jonathon Jones (GB), Billy Seebold (USA), Andreas Ove Ugland (NOR) and Hannes Bohinc (AUT) but in truth a permanent home has not been found for the Harmsworth until now.

From 2002 it will be presented to the nation fielding the fastest Endurance monohull in a series that pits man and machine against the ocean in a true test of seamanship, class of boat and where innovation is likely to be represented in tomorrow’s domestic motor cruiser.