Many will recognise that the Frederick Challener murals in the Billiard Room depict the hobbies and pursuits of the McLaughlin Family. A favoured among our guests is the painting above the snooker score board, an image of Lake Ontario by the Scarborough Bluffs with one of the McLaughlin family yachts, the Eleanor, out for a sail. Rarely have I spent much time musing on the other crafts depicted, which is my oversight, because knowing RS McLaughlin and his commission of Challener to capture family interests and the like, I should not have been surprised when I happened to stumble upon an interesting find the other day, the identity of the lapstrake motorboat, otherwise known as a gentleman’s runabout in front of the Eleanor.

According to a 1926 Globe article, “Some Unique Painting for McLaughlin Home“, which provided the epiphany of identity, we are viewing the Rainbow IV,   “Built in 1924, she had a most distinguished, if controversial, racing career, having won the 1924 Gold Cup race, only to be disqualified by the APBA” (Mark Howard, Early Lakes Region Boating).  I should also state that the Rainbow IV was designed by George Crouch, identified in my research, as one of the greatest authorities on speedboat design in the world circa 1924.

The Rainbow IV was built by Ditchburn Boats a manufacturer of wooden pleasure craft launches and racing boats located in Gravenhurst. At one time the company was the largest boat manufacturer in the Great Lakes region.  Ditchburn is particularly known for producing high quality mahogany launches which have become highly prized by collectors in recent years. Ditchburn was in operation from 1871 to the 1930s, becoming victims of the Great Depression.  It surfaced after and contributed to the war effort, but the days of the mahogany ‘get- abouts’ was over.

The Rainbow series of motorboats was commissioned by Hamilton native, and industrialist, known ashis originality resulted in the development of a hydroplane, which made boating history. As his enthusiasm for the sport grew, his true talent began to shine. He rocked the power boat word in the Roaring Twenties, shattering world records for speed and endurance. His active racing career dated from 1904 to 1929, but his contribution to the sport through various associations and governing bodies continued for many years.”
the father of Canadian Powerboat Racing, Harry B Greening. According to the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, “
Greening liked to compete powerboats in the APBA Gold Cup Races, part of the mecca for power boat racing, the Detroit Gold Cup Regatta. The Gold Cup being the oldest active trophy in motor sports, hydroplane racing. In fact, the first major race to be run on the Detroit River was the 1916 APBA Gold Cup, which saw both American and Canadian crafts in the mix.


The 1924 Gold Cup Controversy 
Greening’s Rainbow IV had apparently won the race but was seen by some as being a hydroplane rather than a displacement hull. And so, a protest was filed.
The craft’s bottom was of lapstrake construction, which was technically permitted by the rules. The APBA decided, however, that the strakes had been installed for the express purpose of achieving a hydroplane effect. In other words, Greening had followed the letter of the rules but not the spirit of them.
As a result, Rainbow IV was disqualified and Caleb Bragg’s Baby Bootlegger was moved from an overall second to first position. This action effectively ended the Gold Cup career of Harry Greening. He never raced for the cup again.

However, Greening did not shrink away, and from all the articles that I have subsequently read about the Commodore, which is what he is called in “polite circles” ( Robert H Combs, Breaking World’s Record, 1925), Greening was a tenacious fellow. He set out to beat a world record which he already held, the following references Greening breaking the world record from The Canadian Magazine, May 1926;

               “At the long distance speed test of Rainbow IV
                I was present, and shortly after noon hour Rainbow 
                IV  completed her 1064th mile and with more hours to go was on
               every lap creating a new world’s record. A brisk breeze was blowing along the
               Muskoka Lakes, and Rainbow IV was tearing off additional mile after mile towards
               a new international record, which may stand for a long time unless Greening
               himself decides to better it.
               The last I saw of Rainbow IV on that day, Herbert Ditchburn, her builder
               was at the wheel and the little boat was touching only the high spots as she reeled
               off miles almost while we were thinking about it. At the end of the 24 hours
               Rainbow had established a new world’s record of 1218 miles, and Greening was 
               again vindicated.”
The following is a summary of the 24-hour run of Rainbow IV, Muskoka Lakes, Oct. 2nd, 1925: Length of lap, 19.5 miles; number of laps, 62; total time, 24 hours; total miles, 1218.88; average speed, 50.78; average running speed, 53.1; fastest lap speed, 54.0; length of boat, 27 feet; beam of boat 6 feet 10 inches; horse power, 400; gasoline used, 600 gallons of Shell; lubricating oil used, 18 gallons; total running time, 22 hours, 56 minutes; total time stopped, 1 hour, 3 minutes.
Having been newsworthy for several years in the early twenties, along with being an industrialist, a Canadian breaking ground in sport, and frequenting Muskoka, it is not a surprise that the Rainbow IV makes an appearance in the mural at Parkwood.  I haven’t yet made a definitive chummy relationship between RS McLaughlin and HB Greening, but they certainly would have crossed paths, even if it was just being among the names to own a Ditchburn Boat.
To read more: ditchburnboats.ca has a wonderful history, including chapters of a book on its history.