In recent months, Carnival Cruise Lines has announced two matters of especial interest to all ocean liner enthusiasts.

First, the splendid promise of what the company has christened their Queen Mary Project, scheduled to enter service in 2002. Shortly after their absorption of the Cunard Line, Carnival announced that they are planning to build an 85,000-ton Cunard express liner capable of the requisite 28 1/2-knot speed to achieve traditional year-round, five-day North Atlantic crossings. According to Carnival's Director of Public Relations Tim Gallagher, the new ship, still in an embryonic design stage under the aegis of Stephen Payne, is definitely not intended as a replacement for Queen Elizabeth 2 but will sail as a consort.

And if the Queen Mary Project were not a sufficient ration of triumphant ocean liner news, a more recent Carnival event involves recreation of not one but two facsimile Hales Trophies. One, enshrined within a glass case, serves as the central decorative focus of the Blue Riband Library aboard Carnival's latest Fantasy-class vessel, Paradise.

The other, mirabile dictu, has been donated to the American Merchant Marine Museum out at King's Point in Long Island. Your Editor still recalls clearly a 1990 conversation with Frank Braynard, fellow Ocean Liner Museum trustee and director of the King's Point Museum. Frank was lamenting his recent but necessary decision to turn over the trophy to Hoverspeed, owners of the upstart SeaCat vessel that had usurped it.

"What there should really be," had opined Braynard, "is two trophies, the original for them as well as a replica that could remain here on display as testimonial to the United States Line's great 1952 achievement."

Now, thanks to the generosity of Carnival Cruise Lines and Kvaerner-MASA shipyard, Braynard's dream is about to come true. A second replica of the Hales Trophy will be restored to the empty glass case still awaiting it at King's Point eight years after the original was surrendered by the Museum to avoid the cost of a lengthy court battle to keep it.

Hales Trophy Replica
Replica of the Hales Trophy

From Miami, Joe Farcus, Carnival's resident interior designer, reports that both replicas were created by Latvian sculptor Matti Varik at his studio in Tallinn.

Carnival's and Kvaerner-MASA's gratifying donations came about this way. Joe Farcus had wanted to make a single replica of the trophy as focal point of the Blue Riband Library aboard that company's latest vessel. To obtain details about the size and shape of the original, he approached Tom Cassidy who is not only an Ocean Liner Museum member but also on the board of the American Merchant Marine Museum as well. Farcus needed photographs of the trophy, which Cassidy was only too happy to provide. Additional photographic studies of the original were made by Doris and Frank Braynard while they were in London.

Cassidy sent the photographs along and, over the telephone, wondered aloud to Joe Farcus if there might be a possibility that, since Carnival was replicating the original, they might see their way clear to making another for the Museum.

Farcus thought it a good idea and requested permission of Micky Arison, Carnival's chairman, who was generous enough to give his enthusiastic consent. Replicas of the famous trophy do not come cheaply--each costs $40,000. So the work was put in hand and the two simulacra arrived safely in the port of New York on board Paradise last month.

At a special ceremony in the library on Wednesday afternoon, November 18th, Frank Braynard was delighted to accept the trophy on behalf of the museum he heads. Scarcely had it been received than your Editor had made a formal request to borrow Frank's Carnival replica so that it could become a prize attraction at the Ocean Liner Museum's Blue Ribband exhibition, opening in May 1999. It is his hope that Braynard and the board of the American Merchant Marine Museum will consent. Certainly, it would provide a marvelous addition to Blue Ribband.

When Geoffrey Hales was an ambitious young motor engineer in England, he cherished three ambitions: First, that he hoped he would someday be in a position to save ten thousand pounds; second, that he would sit in the House of Commons; and third, that he would be able to "present a trophy which would serve as a stimulus to the craft of speed and mechanical perfection which I have loved so well."

As it happened, he made his first ten thousand plus many more but lost them all in the financial chaos at the outbreak of World War I.

However, he managed to recoup another fortune in India and returned to England to stand for Parliament as well as plan the design of the actual Hales trophy.

It would be designed by the firm of Henry Pidduck & Sons Ltd in Hanley and executed by the Sheffield silversmiths James Dickson and Sons. The trophy both firms completed to their client's specification would stand nearly four feet high, atop a green onyx plinth, elaborately sculpted.

The sculpted portion weighed 602 ounces, all of it solid silver, richly gilt. Dominating the design scheme would be a globe, supported by two figures representing Victory. Additional seated figures included Father Neptune, holding his trident; his wife Amphitrite sat nearby.

Atop the globe were two figures, the uppermost representing speed overcoming the Atlantic and, in the donor's words, "urging forward a modern liner." The Atlantic is represented in pale blue with the track routes picked out in red. The direction of the four winds is indicated by a quartet of sailing ships, similar to the ancient caravels of early Spanish and Portuguese explorers.

On a girdle encircling the central globe today are four enameled panels, bearing illustrations of four ocean liners : Great Western, Mauretania, Normandie and Rex.

Hales communicated his wish to the Italians to present the trophy (still not yet completed in the Sheffield works) to the Rex, which took the speed prize in August of 1933. But no sooner had they articulated their acceptance of the Englishman's trophy than Normandie, in June 1935, bested Rex's speed.

Hales and his International Committee, under the presidency of the Duke of Sutherland, hastily created an additional trophy rule, to whit: That a recipient whose crossing time had been improved on, would still be able to keep the trophy for a three-month period before surrendering it to the company that had fielded the faster vessel.

Thus it was that in Genoa, in the summer of 1935, the Hales Trophy was presented to the Italian Line aboard the Rex, even though by that time, the prize actually belonged to the French Line. Captain Tarrabotto accepted it on behalf of the line. Then Hales and his wife made a round trip to Naples and back to Genoa on the vessel. On his return to London, he received a letter of thanks from Mussolini as well as a specially struck gold medal housed within a casket of lapis lazuli, commemorating the occasion of his visit to Genoa.

That fall, Hales and his entire committee were invited to make a late-October crossing on board Normandie. Presentation of the trophy to the ship would take place just before the ship sailed from New York in the first class salle a manger.

"New York," Hales recalled in a later autobiography, "welcomed us with characteristic splendour, dazzling us with its huge skyscrapers, deafening us with the roar of its vast traffic, invigorating us with the tang of its electric air."

After a lavish luncheon, Signor Fedgrigoni, General Manager of the Italian Line in London, presented the trophy to Normandie's Commandant Pugnet. On the eastbound sailing that followed, the trophy remained on display atop a pedestal at the entrance to the grand salon.

When Cunard White Star's Queen Mary finally bested Normandie's fastest crossing time in 1938, the British company refused to accept or display the trophy, suggesting that they were more interested in a safe crossing than a fast one. So the trophy was returned to the Hales International Committee until 1952, when it was awarded to the United States which had crossed eastbound in 3 days, 12 hours and 12 minutes. The trophy became the property of the United States Lines and was ultimately enshrined at the American Merchant Marine Museum at King's Point. There it seemed destined to stay forever.

But in 1990, Hoverspeed Great Britain broke the United States's record, improving on her crossing time by three hours. Since the catamaran vessel was patently not an ocean liner, Braynard and his fellow trustees at the museum disputed Hoverspeed's claim. But it was pointed out to them that the original trust deed, drawn up in 1935, specified that the prize should be awarded to the fastest vessel making a surface, transatlantic crossing, be it ocean liner or experimental craft. In June 1998, the fast ferry Catalonia of Buquebus Line outraced the Hoverspeed vessel with a crossing time of 3 days, 9 hours and 40 minutes.

Most Americans are reluctant to recognize these latterday speedboats as legitimate holders of the trophy. But they should take comfort in the historic reality that the Blue Ribband still belongs firmly with the United States, unlikely ever to be relinquished, unless Cunard's Queen Mary project vessel to come has some surprises in store for us all.

Ironically, transatlanticist Geoffrey Hales drowned in the Thames in the autumn of 1942. His body was never recovered, only his overturned dinghy served to indicate his fate.


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