1910

The  Duke of Westminster figured in an exciting accident in Cowes Roads at about three o’clock this afternoon and had a miraculous escape from drowning owing to the capsizing of his new fast hydroplane, in which he had gone out for a trial spin.

This peculiar looking craft – which is forty feet long – was launched only yesterday from the works of Messrs. S. E. Saunders and Co. (Limited), at East Cowes, where the Duke of Westminster’s famous motor boat Ursula – which holds the world’s speed record – was built.

This morning the hydroplane went out for a spin, and was the object of considerable interest to many people who were on the Cowes parade and too many members at the Royal Yacht Squadron.

The craft darted through the waves at a terrific place, throwing up a high volume of water on either bow like two fountains. She has been built specifically to represent Great Britain in the international races in America next month.

This afternoon the Duke of Westminster joined the boat at East Cowes, and the hydroplane had a grand run across the Solent, attaining speeds of nearly 35 knots. There were on board Mr Robins, a representative of the firm which supplied the engines, and two engineers.

Everything went finely, and the hydroplane was returning to East Cowes when, in making a sharp turn in Cowes Roads, almost in direct Line with the Royal Yacht Squadron Castle, the boat suddenly capsised, filling with water. Almost immediately she went down, stern first. The Duke, who was steering, and Mr Robbins were precipitated into the water. The two engineers clung to the side of the boat. Fortunately, the Duke and Mr Robins are good swimmers, and they managed to keep themselves afloat until the rescue party arrived.

Motor boats and other boats from the yachts in Cowes Roads immediately went to render aid, including those from the steam yachts Portia and Belinda. The first, however, to arrive on the scene of the accident was the Duke of Westminster’s own motorboat Loxwood, in which was lady Crichton, who had been watching the progress of the hydroplane.

The Duke and Mr Robins were rescued apparently little the worse for their immersion, and the two engineers were also rescued and taken ashore.

An attempt was made to tow the half-submerged hydroplane to shallow water, but she sank out of sight in several fathoms of water.

The tugs Irishman and Malta put off to the scene of the accident on endeavoured with a long grapple to raise the hydroplane, but failed to locate her. The Duke of Westminster landed at East Cowes, and, after getting a change of dry clothing, caught the 4 o’clock boat on return to London. He seemed unharmed by his adventure, and was quite cheerful.

The hydroplane was valued at over £3,000 pounds.

Statement by the Duke

The Duke of Westminster arrived at his London residence Grosvenor House at about 8 o’clock last night. He was accompanied by his half-brother, the Hon. Percy Wyndham. His grace had recovered from the serious effects of his emersion.

Colonel Lloyd, his secretary, made the following statement to a representative:-

The duke had a very narrow escape. He had been in the North of Scotland fishing and came back to London, going on to Southampton and then to Cowes, on purpose to test this hydroplane.

Fortunately, he was followed behind by the motorboat of his half-brother the Hon. Percy Wyndham. The hydroplane, however, made faster speed and soon left the other boat behind, and in the course of time got about one mile to a mile and a-quarter ahead. Turning round; the hydroplane suddenly went over, and the duke, Mr Robins, who was steering, and the two engineers were thrown into the sea. The engineers, being only lightly clad, were able to cling to the side of the hydroplane, but the duke, encumbered by a lot of heavy clothing – Macintosh, jersey, etc. had difficulty in keeping above the water. Mr Robins helped him to keep afloat, but twice the duke went down, being pulled up by Mr Robins each time. Finally, the Loxford came up to the duke and took him aboard. Just in time, for he was nearly done, and they had to apply artificial respiration to bring him round in the motorboat. The Duke was only just saved. Needless to say, he is very grateful to Mr Robins, who he considers saved his life.

The Duke of Westminster was born in 1870 and succeeded his grandfather in 1800. In 1901 he married Constance Edwina, daughter of Mr cor West. He served in the South African war as aide de camp to Lord Roberts. Lady Crichton is his aunt. He has taken a great interest in motor boat racing and the Ursula referred to by our correspondent won the Coupe des Nations in the Monaco motor boat meeting last April, exhibiting a speed of about forty-three land miles per hour.