From the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey to the American Century Golf Classic filled with celebrities, there are a lot of summer traditions that happen around Lake Tahoe. Back in the 1930s and 40s Carnelian Bay was a popular spot for boat racing and recreational boating. Formal boat racing no longer takes place, but there are still some really cool events featuring vintage boats of that era.
South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic
This weekend marks the 9th Annual South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic! The theme of this year’s event is: Ladies and Gentlemen, you have a race. Boat racing used to be prominent. The Tahoe Yacht Club hosted regattas in Tahoe City, Homewood and the famous Chamber’s Landing course. Because of this, you will see watercrafts from the time that haven’t been seen in decades! The list includes favorites such as Miss Notre Dame, Hurricane IV and U-17 John Francis My Sweetie.
1939 Miss Notre Dame
Containing the 24-cylinder Duesenberg engine it will be a sight to behold
A movie star from the 1950s with an Allison V-1710 aircraft V-12 engine
U-17 John Francis My Sweetie
Built by renowned Hydroplane builder Les Staudacher. The 32′ hydro carried the unlimited racing number of U-17 and only raced for the 1954 and 1955 seasons.
Friday July 29th
Show – 12pm – 5:00pm
Saturday July 30th
Show- 9am – 5:00pm
Concours D’ Elegance
In its 44th year, the Lake Tahoe Concours D’ Elegance is the shining example of what this style show is about. This “Super Bowl,” of Wooden Boat week in Lake Tahoe comes with multiple social gatherings and judging events that determine which boat in its class fit these extremely tight standards. The boats that win are not just considered great, but world class. This week of fun is also open to public and gives everyone the opportunity to judge for themselves.
The two major days to check out the vintage boats are as follows:
Friday August 12th
Show – 10am – 4:30pm
Awards Ceremony- 6pm
Saturday August 13th
Show- 9am – 4:30pm
For an introduction to some of these boats check out our guide for beginners below:
Vintage Wooden Boats
To help introduce beginners to this world, here is a quick guide to some boat manufacturers you might see at the South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic & Concours D’ Elegance
From the 2013 South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic – Image taken by Steve Natale
Started in 1874 this company based in the Detroit area originally made power boats for the likes of Henry Ford and William Randolph Hearst. They also were the first to mass produce power boats, making owning a boat not just for the wealthy anymore. The middle class could actually afford to buy one too! By the 1950’s Chris-Craft was still considered one of the finest boat manufacturers in the world and offered over 159 models covering the entire spectrum of people’s incomes.
Century Boat Company
Started in 1926 in Milwaukee their company specialty was ability to make extremely fast wooden plank hulls. They were so fast that one of the hulls set the world record in 1930 with their boat called Century Hurricane, which recorded a speed of 50.93 mph. That’s fast in a wooden power boat!
Garwood Industries aka “Gar Wood”
Garfield Wood the owner of Garwood Industries was what you could consider the classic 1920’s “showman.” He was always trying to drum up business with a new gimmick or a flashy way to do what he loved doing most… going fast. He personally broke the world speed record five times in a boat and won five straight Gold Cup races between 1917 and 1921. He continued to build wooden power boats until 1947.
Hacker Boat Co.
The oldest builder of wooden motorboats in the world was founded by a man named John Ludwig Hacker in Detroit. He was a naval architect and one of the most famous motorboat designers in the world. His out of the box thinking for engineering and motorboat design is still seen in all boats today. The most famous design is the “V”- hull. Before Hacker motorboats had round narrow hulls, which caused the boat to “squat” instead of “plane” through the water. People thought “planing” was dangerous and needed to be avoided at all costs. He proved everyone wrong by building the “Au Revoir” with his revolutionary V-hull design. In 1908 it was considered the fastest in the world. With this success, Hacker Boat Co. was born.