Happy, indeed. While the big boat grew barnacles on her bottom, mother and daughter were churning up a storm in speedboat competition. By the time she was 15, Gale was expertly wheeling a 17-footer around as Rene hung on smiling gamely.
In 1956 the late Sam Griffith, a grizzled powerboater acknowledged to be the father of offshore racing, cornered the Jacobys in an unsuspecting mood at a cocktail party at the Pelican Harbor Yacht Club. "Why don't you enter the Gold Coast Marathon?" he asked Rene.
"Not on your life," said Rene.
The Marathon, a race Griffith invented, runs from Miami to West Palm Beach along the Florida coastline, where the water is rough. The entrants who make it to West Palm are subjected to a cocktail party that is the pride of the Southland, and the survivors who make it beyond that event are then required to race back to Miami the next morning. Some people call it the Hangover Classic.
"Besides," explained Rene, "I can't navigate. I couldn't find our way to West Palm Beach."
"There are markers all the way," insisted Griffith. "You follow them. It's easy. You don't stop for gas; you simply pour in more gas opposite Boca Raton."
"But," Rene protested, "I'm not strong enough to pick up a big gas can."
"I'll fix that," said Griffith, and he showed her how they could rig up a plastic hose apparatus so that even Rene could pour in more fuel off Boca Raton—wherever that was—and so, almost before they knew it, the Jacobys were in their first ocean race. So were 214 other boats, but Mama Rene and Gale finished 15th and were the first women entrants to cross the line.
That was 1956, and Gale and Rene entered the Around Miami Beach Race that same year. The water was so rough that one man came jouncing along close to shore and jumped right out of his boat. He swam to the dock, climbed out of the water and made an important announcement. "The hell with this," he said with finality. But Rene and Gale Jacoby hung on and finished eighth overall against the men.
About this time Harry Jacoby began to get the feeling that he had, like Dr. Frankenstein, created a monster. There was nothing to do but feed the beast and try to keep it happy.