SI Vault
Bob Ottum
February 14, 1966
Or perfume stain the charts—but such are the hazards of offshore powerboat racing when Rene Jacoby and her daughter Gale put to sea to challenge the men
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February 14, 1966

A Lipstick May Fall In The Bilge

Or perfume stain the charts—but such are the hazards of offshore powerboat racing when Rene Jacoby and her daughter Gale put to sea to challenge the men

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In 1958 the girls turned up for Miami's nine-hour endurance race with a little runabout all fitted with flowered-chintz interior, the kind of rig that makes men groan and slap their foreheads. But when the nine hours were over, the girls had broken the world record for their class and placed 14th overall in the field. "It was a pretty little boat," Rene recalls, "with that lovely flowered design. But in 1960 a prop broke off in a race, came up through the bottom, and we sank it. We were kind of glad, really, because we needed a new boat anyway."

While the girls were racing their little speedboats, Harry had new kickers installed in the 31-foot Miss Amazon. The new engines, twin 427 Interceptors, made the old boat sort of like a jet-powered Stanley Steamer. "Well, girls," said Harry one night over dinner. "It's become a pretty fast old boat. I have—uh, I have entered it for you in the Miami-Nassau race." It was Harry's way of saying, "I surrender, dear."

"The next thing I knew," says Rene Jacoby with wide eyes, "it was June of 1963 and we were racing for Nassau. We didn't know our way. Daddy had never let us play with the big boat before. Gale couldn't dock the thing, and neither could I. We could barely run it. But there we were. So we ran like wild and finished 25th."

The Jacoby girls have been running like wild ever since, and the end of it all is inevitable. They have a new boat now—a deadly 32-foot Prowler with a planing hull and a pair of new 400-horsepower Interceptors pushing it along. The engine box lids, the battery, the radio antenna, all the pieces of equipment are firmly fastened down and unlikely to break loose as they did that day off Miami. Moreover, the girls have a new glint in their eyes that seems to say the last fortress of virile manhood will soon fall. The Jacoby girls are going to beat the men at their own game.

The rough-water men have seen this coming; they watch it with hypnotized fascination. Retired Racer Jim Meyer, a muscular man who is built along the lines of the 79th Street jetty, saw it coming in the Miami- Key West Race two years ago. "I mean to tell you it was rough out there," he says. "Savage, hammering seas. The kind of weather that shakes the fillings right out of your teeth and knocks you silly. Boats were scattered all over the ocean and a lot of the drivers were dropping out. I was churning ahead as best I could. Frankly, I was not entirely sure I could survive it. But so help me, here came the Jacoby girls past me. That old boat of theirs was standing first on one end and then the other. I glanced over at them in my misery to see how they were making out, and—honest to God—they were both hanging on to the overhead cabin struts and swinging back and forth like monkeys, going to beat hell."

In that race the Jacobys placed third overall. In the Miami-Bimini race that same year they finished 11th (they were leading the pack on the second leg, but one engine conked out); they were 11th in the Around Miami Beach Race, with a first in their class.

If there were those who still doubted, the handwriting on the boathouse wall became still clearer last July. Italian Boatmaker Sonny Levi, clearly smitten, asked the Jacobys to drive his 24-foot Settimo Velo Speciale in the Viareggio race. With just half an hour of practice in the boat, Rene and Gale blasted it across the sea to a marker off Corsica, wheeled it around smartly and finished second overall and first in class—almost scaring the winner, Jim Wynne, out of his beard (SI, Aug. 2).

Over their jolting, bouncy career the Jacobys have been in 11 major speedboat and 16 ocean races. If they don't sink (which has been an ever-present possibility), they finish. In their two races with the new Miss Amazon Rene and Gale finished third in last November's Miami- Key West run and fifth in the glamorous new Hurricane Classic off St. Petersburg Beach.

Two weeks from now they will be heading out in the Sam Griffith Memorial Race, running a torturous course from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, to Bimini and Cat Cay and back to Miami. The affair is happily billed as the world's roughest ocean race, taking the contestants around 360� of the compass and twice across the choppy Gulf Stream. The race is always punctuated by calls to the committee boat from lonely racers that begin, "Where the hell are we?"

Always being faced with fierce male competitors is an unnerving business in itself, but the Jacoby girls provide some crazy touches of their own to keep the rest of the field jumping. When they began racing, they would often tie a red rose to the top of their aerial. Then, after one grinding race in which one man was stricken with a heart attack and several others came in with broken ribs and bleeding hands, the Jacoby girls climbed out of their boat and did a little cha-cha-cha step up the dock. They turned up at the post-race cocktail party in matching Chinese silk dresses and furs and danced the night through.

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