How The Miss Conception Came To Be
 The September and December 1997 issues of BRIGHTWORK carried an article by Morley Smith in which he described the finding and recovery of a derelict old race boat. At the time, its authenticity as a true race boat was somewhat suspect by both Morley and readers of the article. This story is the sequel to that first article and should lay many early suspicions to rest. Photos accompanying the story are of a replica of the boat now under construction. Exclamation points are mine. -Ed.
Miss Conception is being built at John Ford's School of Wooden Boat Building in Union Springs New York
MOST RACE BOATS LEAVE A WELL- DOCUMENTED history of their racing careers, but very little information about their design. Most designers kept their work top secret. Miss Conception is quite the opposite. I have not yet found any racing record, but I have found very extensive information about how she was
designed. This makes her a very rare boat, indeed. This is the story of how two odd characters managed to steal ideas from the best boat designers of their time and incorporate them into a unique boat which they called Miss Conception. In the early days of boat racing, it was common for the boat owners (sportsmen) to drive their own boats and to take an active interest in their racing activities. One such sportsman was Hoccus Hoodwink( !) .(Because all the of the history of Miss Conception has not yet been confirmed, some names have been changed or created to protect the guilty and to confuse the innocent.)

Hoccus was a tall robust fellow, full of curiosity with a bent for engineering. He was in the business of designing and building transmissions and machinery for gasoline engines, cars and boats. Hoccus decided to become involved in boat racing as a means of demonstrating his engineering prowess. He wanted to enter the most prestigious and prominent competition available, the Harmsworth Trophy Race.

The two most prestigious boat racing  awards at that time were the American Powerboat Association's Gold Cup and the British International Trophy, the Harmsworth Trophy. The Harmsworth was an international race with each competing country entering a team of up to three boats. The United States and Great Britain were usually the competing countries and the winning yacht club would host the next race.

Hoccus wanted his boat to embody all of the latest concepts and technology available, and to make the
Miss Conception one of the most unusual boats ever designed. To help design such a boat, Hoccus enlisted the services of Professor Percival Pettifogg( !!) a sometime Canadian from Cornell University who was widely recognized for his expertise in coggery and hydrodynamics.

In 1912, race boat design was in the midst of a period of rapid development. One writer described it as
"the zenith of the hydroplane craze." It was an exciting time. Everything from basic size to hull shapes and propulsion systems was changing. There were twelve boats competing for one of the three positions on the US Harmsworth team. Nearly every one of the these boats incorporated some form of design innovation. The task at hand for Hoccus and Professor Pettifogg was to determine which innovations were most promising and then to incorporate them all into a single hull. It was a good theory if they could make it work.

 I can just visualize the twelve competing boats sitting on wooden cradles on the shore being prepared for the elimination races. Hoccus and the Professor would be on their knees looking under the hulls or climbing ladders to look into the boats and inspect the engines. They would stop to compare impressions and take notes before proceeding to the next boat. Their conversations might have gone as follows: "Did you notice those large bent copper tubes inside the Baby Reliance boats? Why do you think Chris Smith did that? Is it a good idea or is it a correction for some inherent flaw in the basic design?" (Half of all design features fall into this category of "flaw correction" even today.) "Should we incorporate tubes in the Miss Conception? "

It was necessary to take precautions because some owners did not take too kindly to the idea of strangers taking measurements or photographs of their boats. Sometimes Hoccus would stand guard or he would act as a decoy to distract the owner while the Professor took some measurements.

When they were done, the Miss Conception was supposed to be technically the most advanced boat of her
time. Her shape was very unusual and unique. Judged on her looks, she just didn't fit in. She looked weird.

The maximum length allowed for Harmsworth and Gold Cup race boats was 40 feet. Early round-bottomed displacement boats were built to the maximum length because longer hulls made faster displacement
boats. As engine designs improved, it became possible to make a hull plane over the surface of the water rather than cut through it. Length was then no longer important to boat speed. Shorter boats were lighter and thus could go faster if the water conditions were favorable.

In 1912, Big Balsam was the only race boat near 40 feet in length. Four of the twelve competitors that year were about 26 feet long and five were only 20 feet long. Hoccus and Percival felt that they could make a short hull more seaworthy by modifying the hull cross-section. Miss Conception is slightly more that 20 feet long.

The long narrow displacement hulls had difficulty negotiating sharp turns. Typical race courses were arranged with very long straight stretches of three and a half to five miles so that turning ability would have less influence on the outcome of the race than outright speed.  Nevertheless, the turns were the most dangerous portion of the course even at 30 MPH. To improve turning ability, hulls were made wider.

Ankle Deep (designed by Trams, Lemoine and Crane, as was Restless II) was only five feet, eight inches wide when first built. She capsized and sank during her first race so extensions were built along each side to increase her beam to seven feet.

Peter Pan V ( a George Crouch design) was originally only 4 feet wide. She had eleven inch-wide extensions added to each side to increase her beam to almost six feet. Minnow also had side extensions.  With a six feet, six inch beam Miss Conception would be the second widest of the 20- foot hulls.

Stepped Hulls
A stepped hull looks as though a conventional monohull had been cut crosswise at about mid-length, and the forward half of the hull had been lowered relative to the aft half. In profile, the line of the keel has a step in it.
The concept of the hull step is to reduce the wetted area of the hull when underway. A stepped hull has one small wetted area forward of the step and a second small wetted area at the transom.
Nine of the twelve competitors in 1912 had stepped hulls, but only two of the five 20-foot boats were configured that way. Three of the stepped hulls had metal steps as though the step was a feature added after the original hull had been built. A metal step had the advantage of being changed easily without altering the rest of the hull. This was a period of feverish experimentation.
The concept of smaller wetted areas says that a stepped hull should be faster, yet the fastest US boat in 1912 was Tech-Jr. and she had no step. Tech-Jr. had averaged 40.4 MPH for six runs over a one mile
course. This was much slower than the mile-a-minute speeds spoken of by Boris Bowgus(!!!) with regard to Miss Conception.

Step Ventilation
Water flowing past the step in a hull tends to drag air with it. If a good flow of air does not enter the area behind the step, negative pressure is created. This suction draws the hull deeper into the water and slows it considerably.
The Baby Reliance boats had round bilged hulls with a single step.(They were designed by Christopher
C. Smith then of the Smith-Ryan Boat & Engine Co.) It was found that when these hulls struck large waves, the bow wave would run along and up the side of the hull blocking the side opening behind the step. (You could always spot a Baby Reliance coming down the race course be cause of the large cloud of spray she threw up every time she struck a wave.)
Using a very deep seven inch step on Baby Reliance did not completely solve the problem, so the boat was fitted with large bent copper air tubes running from inside the boat through the bottom of the hull and into the area behind the step.
Hoccus and Percival saw many options. Should they use a seven inch deep step or a three inch deep one like Peter Pan V or Minnow? Should they plan on vent pipes? After reviewing the many possibilities, they chose a unique alternative, Miss Conception was given a step that was three and a half inches deep at the keel and more than twelve inches deep at the chine to insure good ventilation

Click here for Part 2 of the story