Hales Trophy

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The Blue Riband – Hales Trophy of 1935

The Hales Trophy (officially the North Atlantic Blue Riband Challenge Trophy[1]) is an award for the fastest Atlantic crossing by a commercial vessel. It was created in 1935 by Harold K. Hales a British politician and owner of Hales Brothers shipping company, and he donated the trophy.[2] to be a permanent, tangible expression of the Blue Riband, the unofficial accolade then given for this feat. Hales also wished to formalize the rules regarding the contest, which up to then had no official form, though they were, by tradition, widely recognized. The rules for the Hales Trophy were different from the traditional rules for the Blue Riband (for example, the Blue Riband, dating back to the 19th century, was originally only awarded for westbound records[3]), starting in Liverpool or Queenstown and ending at Sandy Hook, New York, but changed several times thereafter. The Hales Trophy, on the other hand, could be gained on both eastbound and westbound sailings, and was awarded to just three Blue Riband holders during the express liner era; to the Italian liner Rex in 1935 (average speed 28,92 knots), the French Normandie in 1935 (av. speed 29,98 knots) and in 1937 (av. speed 30,58 knots), and the American United States in 1952 with a staggering average speed of 34,51 knots and a passage in just 3 days 12 hours 12 minutes. Cunard's Queen Mary, Blue Riband record-breaker in 1936 (av. speed 30,14 knots) and again from 1938 (av. speed 30,99 knots) until 1952, did not receive (or accept) the award. The captain of the Queen Mary allegedly stated that We do not believe in racing on the Atlantic or in Blue Ribands and the like. This insult caused Harold Hales to change the rules so that the trophy could only be won by a non-British ship. When the United States won the trophy in 1952 its location was unknown, but it was refound at the very Sheffield goldsmith’s where it had originally been crafted. It was presented to U.S. Lines at a ceremony attended by 400 guests and was displayed at their headquarters in New York until the United States was taken out of service in 1969. Then the award languished until 1979 when it was transferred to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy as a relic. It was fully revived in 1990, albeit not for a proud, classic liner like those in the past, but for the Incat passenger/car ferry Hoverspeed Great Britain when she established a new speed record for a commercial vessel on her eastbound delivery voyage without passengers that year.[4] The trophy has been won twice since then, each time by an Incat-built fast ferry / catamaran, see History below.

The trophy[edit]

In 1935, Harold K. Hales (1868–1942), a member of the UK Parliament and owner of a shipping company, commissioned a Sheffield goldsmith to produce a large trophy to be presented to the fastest ship crossing the Atlantic.[5] The four-foot-tall, nearly 100-pound Hales Trophy is made of solid silver and heavy gilt fashioned with a globe resting on two winged figures of Victory standing on a base of carved green onyx, with an enamelled blue ribbon encircling the middle, and decorated with models of galleons, modern ocean liners and statues of Neptune and Amphitrite, god and goddess of the sea. The trophy is surmounted by a figure depicting speed pushing a three-stacked liner against a figure symbolizing the forces of the Atlantic, which is represented in blue enamel with the traditional ocean liner route indicated by a red enamelled line.[2]


The rules for the trophy did not correspond to the traditional rules for the Blue Riband, in that the Blue Riband was to be awarded only to a surface passenger ship achieving the fastest speed in the westbound direction, whereas the Hales Trophy could be won in both directions.[3] Other rule changes further complicated the situation. For example, before the trophy was finished, Hales made arrangements to present the trophy to the Rex. In the meantime, Normandie took the record and Hales changed the rules so that any new claimant must wait three months to give the current holder a chance to beat the new record.[6] In August 1935, the trophy was presented to the Rex,[7] and then transferred to the Normandie two months later.[8] Cunard White Star's Queen Mary was the next winner, but Cunard White Star refused to accept the trophy. The Queen's captain explained that, "We don't believe in racing on the Atlantic, or in blue ribands, or trophies and the like."[9] Hales again changed the rules so that the trophy could only be won by a "non-British ship".[1]

Hales died in 1942 and the location of the trophy was unknown when the United States Lines (USL) started planning the maiden voyage of its new record breaker, the United States. The trophy was found at the Sheffield goldsmith where it had been originally made.[10] In 1952, USL accepted the trophy at a ceremony attended by 400 guests.[11] It was displayed in USL's New York City headquarters until after the United States was taken out of service in 1969. Ten years later, the trophy was transferred to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's museum as a relic.[10]

In 1986, Richard Branson was successful in setting a new eastbound transatlantic speed record in the powerboat Challenger II. He was not awarded the Hales trophy because his boat was not a commercial vessel. In 1990, the 242-foot (74 m) catamaran passenger/car ferry Hoverspeed Great Britain was scheduled to take a delivery voyage from her Australian builders to begin cross channel operations. Her owners confirmed with the Hales trophy trustees in the UK that their vessel would be eligible for the trophy if they beat the United States record, even though the ship would not actually carry passengers on the trip. The trustees ruled that the ship still met the criteria. After Hoverspeed Great Britain's successful voyage, the Maritime Museum considered challenging the decision on the grounds that Hales donated the award for ships providing Atlantic passenger service,[4] but decided not to because of the cost of legal fees. The trophy case at the academy remained empty for the next eight years until Carnival Cruise Lines loaned the museum a replica of the trophy.[10] In 1992, the Italian powerboat Destriero made a voyage at 53.09 knots (98.32 km/h), breaking Challenger II's record, though she was not awarded the Hales Trophy either. In June 1998 the trophy was won by Catalonia, delivery voyage (without passengers) at 38.9 knots (72.0 km/h), followed a month later by the current holder of the Hales Trophy, the catamaran Cat-Link V (now Fjord Cat) for a 1998 delivery voyage at 41.3 knots (76.5 km/h).[10]. The trophy resided on the premises of the owners of Cat-Link V, Scandlines, until 2010 when they lost interest in having it. The Danish Shipowners' Association, of which Scandlines was a member, then agreed to display the trophy in the entry hall of the Association's mansion in Amaliegade 10, Copenhagen. An inter-active screen was created and installed, telling the highlights of the trophy's history, and a longer printed version with illustrations was placed next to the trophy case for all interested to take home. The trophy was then placed in storage after a couple of years before ending up in its current location.

INCAT, the builders of the last three winners of the Hales Trophy have possession of the trophy at their shipyard offices in Hobart, Tasmania. The formal records of the Hales Trophy Trustees are now lodged with Lloyds Register in London. Anyone wishing to access the formal records should contact Lloyds Register regarding obtaining permission to inspect the Hales Trophy Trust records.[12] [13]

Table of Hales Trophy winners[edit]

1935 to 1969 winners[edit]

Ship Flag Year Dates Line From To Distance Days, hours, minutes Speed
Rex Flag of Italy (1861–1946).svg 1933 11 – 16 August Italian Gibraltar Ambrose Light 3,181 nautical miles (5,891 km) 4 d, 13 h, 58 m 28.92 knots (53.56 km/h)
Normandie Civil and Naval Ensign of France.svg 1935 30 May – 3 June CGT Bishop Rock Ambrose Light 2,971 nautical miles (5,502 km) 4 d, 3 h, 2 m 29.98 knots (55.52 km/h)
(Queen Mary) Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg 1936 20 – 24 August (Blue Riband run; Hales Trophy not awarded) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Normandie Civil and Naval Ensign of France.svg 1937 29 July – 2 August CGT Bishop Rock Ambrose Light 2,906 nautical miles (5,382 km) 3 d, 23 h, 2 m 30.58 knots (56.63 km/h)
(Queen Mary) Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg 1938 4 – 8 August (Blue Riband run; Hales Trophy not awarded) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
United States Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg 1952 11 – 15 July USL Bishop Rock Ambrose Light 2,906 nautical miles (5,382 km) 3 d, 12 h, 12 m 34.51 knots (63.91 km/h)

Post 1969 winners[edit]

Steamer Year Dates Line From To Distance Days, hours, minutes Speed
Hoverspeed Great Britain 1990 23 June Aegean Speed Lines Ambrose Bishop Rock 2,924 nautical miles (5,417 km) 3 d, 7 h, 54 m 36.6 knots (67.8 km/h)
Catalonia 1998 9 June Buquebus Manhattan Tarifa, Spain 3,125 nautical miles (5,788 km) 3 d, 9 h, 40 m 38.9 knots (72.0 km/h)
Cat-Link V 1998 18 – 20 July[14] Scandlines New York Bishop Rock 2,815 nautical miles (5,213 km) 2 d, 20 h, 9 m 41.3 knots (76.5 km/h)[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kludas, Arnold (2000). Record breakers of the North Atlantic, Blue Riband Liners 1838–1952. London: Chatham. ISBN 1-86176-141-4.
  2. ^ a b Steve Birks (22 January 2008). "Hanley – Stoke-on-Trent Districts". The Potteries. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b Kludas p17
  4. ^ a b Barbara Lloyd (15 July 1990). "YACHTING: Suit May Be Filed Over Hales Trophy". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  5. ^ NY Times (10 November 1942). British writer-merchant missing.
  6. ^ Time Magazine (29 July 1935). Card's Cup.
  7. ^ NY Times (21 August 1935). Rex gets blue riband.
  8. ^ NY Times (24 October 1935). Ocean speed trophy goes to Normandie.
  9. ^ NY Times (26 August 1936). Queen Mary Scorns Actual Pennant.
  10. ^ a b c d N Y Daily News (20 November 1998). Award makes splash at Maritime Museum.
  11. ^ NY Times (13 November 1952). Ship speed trophy is presented here.
  12. ^ http://www.marinelink.com/news/decades-record-world334661.aspx
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 January 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ staff writer(s) (20 July 1998). "Danish ferry sets new Atlantic-crossing record". Reuters. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  15. ^ no by-line. "The Blue Riband and the Hale's Trophy". TeamGreatBritain.com. Retrieved 20 June 2015.