Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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The Legacy of the Baby Bootlegger: A Racing Boat That Revolutionized Marine Architecture

Contrary to its whimsical name, the Baby Bootlegger isn’t a seafaring smuggler of infants; it’s a vessel that not only raced its way to fame but also left an indelible mark on marine architecture.

Crafted in 1924 by the skilled hands of George Crouch, this racing boat was commissioned by Caleb Bragg, a prominent Wall Street banker of the era. Bragg wasted no time putting his new acquisition to the test, competing in the 1924 and 1925 APBA Gold Cup races. Impressively, the Baby Bootlegger clinched victory in both events, triumphing over competitors by significant margins, including a remarkable one-minute and 16-second lead in 1925.

Originally, the Baby Bootlegger boasted a potent 1,000-cubic-inch V-12 Lycoming engine. However, in recent years, this powerhouse was replaced by a water-cooled Hispano-Suizo V-8 marine engine, churning out approximately 300 horsepower. The boat’s design features seating for two in the aft cockpit and an additional two in the bow cockpit, with the engine strategically mounted amidships to uphold balance and stability during high-speed maneuvers.

The survival of the Baby Bootlegger into modern times owes much to the relentless dedication of Mark Mason. For decades, Mason tirelessly researched the vessel until he eventually located it in a Miami junkyard, where it had languished beneath a weathered canvas for a quarter-century. Moved by its enduring beauty, the junkyard owner refrained from scrapping the Bootlegger, confident that someone would eventually seek her out. Mark Mason’s restoration efforts in 1982 brought the Bootlegger back to her former glory, earning him numerous prestigious accolades in the process. Today, Mason oversees The New England Boat and Motor Company, specializing in the restoration and replication of vintage racing boats.

Owning a Baby Bootlegger today demands a considerable investment, often reaching upwards of $1,000,000. However, enthusiasts with a penchant for craftsmanship can embark on the journey of building their own. Thanks to the efforts of individuals like John, who operates Classic Wooden Boat Plans, the faded blueprints and design drawings of the Bootlegger have been digitally resurrected using advanced CAD software. These meticulously crafted plans have empowered individuals worldwide to construct their very own Baby Bootleggers, ensuring that the spirit of this iconic racing boat lives on for generations to come.

The Baby Bootlegger’s story serves as a testament to the enduring allure of maritime history and the unwavering dedication of those who strive to preserve it. As its graceful silhouette cuts through the water, the legacy of the Baby Bootlegger continues to inspire awe and admiration in all who encounter it.

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