Goodbye to Howard Arneson, the man who made boating run

He had invented the homonymous propulsion system with surface-shaft propeller, today the most used in the world, from offshore racing boats to pleasure yacht and fast ferries.

They said it was the man who had sailed more in history at a speed of over 100 miles per hour, more than 160 kilometers per hour, 85 and more knots. He did not hold back and estimated that he had run at least 80,000 miles on the average ones. Let’s leave the maximum peaks alone, because one of his turbocharged catamarans had raised the bar above 270 km / h, a figure that even more frightens in knots: 147.

Howard Arneson, the inventor of the surface propulsion system that continues to bear his name today, and who revolutionized offshore and pleasure boating, died at the age of 99 in San Rafael, California, where he lived. He was born in Benicia, the same state, was married to Eva from whom he had a daughter, Christine. Dead from natural causes, no bad last run. Another historic name of the world boating and powerboat leaves with him, which has already recently seen Fabio Buzzi and Tullio Abbate pass to a better life in Italy. People who truly marked an era, on a par with masters like Sonny Levi, Raymond Hunt, Donald Arnow.

He was an inventor, Arneson. He owned something like 18 patents, one of the first, a sort of automatic pool sweeper, had made him rich (he sold the licensed use of the system in 1969 to Castles & Cook, owner of a number of companies including Dole Pineapple Corporation; he remained in the management of the company for 12 years) and allowed him to buy the boats he wanted, with which he was passionate. He liked the sea, after all he was born in a coastal town north of San Francisco, he had worked in a shipyard and had also been in the Navy, as a shooting instructor on planes. He then sold color televisions and was therefore called upon to develop a cleaning system for swimming pools. His automatic “sweeper” arrived soon after.

His boats? A 47-foot Concord Cruiser, a 28-foot Magnum and a 36-foot offshore Cigarette, the Boss O ‘Nova, which he held for a few years. In 1977 a 40-foot Arena Craft was purchased, which had a fixed shaft surface transmission. In one race the hull delaminates and he is forced to surrender. He senses the potential of the surface propulsion, but also understands from a short time that the fixed shaft creates problems in maintaining the attitude of the boat while driving, depending on sea and speed conditions, and needs a rudder. Hence the idea of ​​adjusting the angle of inclination of the propeller shaft, thanks to the development of a spherical joint coupled with a constant velocity joint.

The classic Colombo egg, because the adjustable surface helix allows a lower resistance compared to the conventional helix and a reduction of cavitation. The ASD (Arneson Surface Drives) system was born between 1979 and 1980, the prototype is installed and tested on an 18-foot Arena Craft, and it is a race that never stops. The 38-foot custom Cougar Cat with ASD led by Tony Garcia wins the Open Class world championships in 1983 and 1984. Subsequently its system will be adopted by pilots such as Tom Gentry, Al Copeland, Joe Mach, Fabio Buzzi, Dan Campbel, Chuck Norris just to name a few.

Wins and business. Initially, the ASD is mounted on smaller units by Borg-Warner, which obtains the license from Arneson, which instead manufactures the larger units with its company, Arneson Marine. Company which then sold to Castles & Cook and which, after several changes of hands, which also saw the Borg-Warner merging into the property, came into the hands of Twin Disc, based in Racine, Wisconsin, the current producer (but the patent remains with its inventor).

Arneson then goes on to develop gas turbines, which head on a 23-foot Arena Craft and a 23-foot Sanger catamaran, Alley Cat, and also takes away some satisfaction as a pilot. With a 32-foot Skater, driven by a 1323 HP turbine, he wins – alone, at 69 years old – a 1,039-mile race along the Mississippi River from New Orleans, Louisiana to St. Louis, Missouri, surpassing the previous record of over seven hours.

But his best race remains the ASD. Over the years, its surface propulsion system has become the most popular and used in the world, not only on race powerboats but also on patrol boats, fast ferries and of course pleasure boats. To think that his first job had been with a dredger to search for gold … When it is said, to have found it. Rip “master of motion”

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