"I finally made it; it took about an hour. And I half stood, half crouched in that little space and peeled off all my clothing. Every single, soaking-wet stitch until I was completely naked. And then I opened the box and put on that Givenchy coat and wore it the rest of the way to Naples."
"She marched up the dock wearing just that coat and nothing else," says Rene, "with a certain noble majesty. If anyone had said anything to her, she would have killed them with a glance." Mrs. Long also took the rest of her clothing ashore, hired a car and drove the rest of the way to St. Petersburg Beach. "I will never, I promise you, never get on one of those little boats again," says Mrs. Long. Gale sometimes wonders why she herself gets on the boats. "It's exciting, but it's insane," she says, happily.
Gale does most of the driving while Mama rides shotgun. The reasoning behind this arrangement is simple enough: "Mama isn't tall enough to see the compass," Gale explains. "But, then, I have my own problems, too. North and south mean nothing to me. I can't navigate my way out of a paper bag. And Mama is getting pretty good at reading charts. Of course, she did spill a whole bottle of Faberg� into our chart bag, and now we have the sexiest maps in racing."
But the sensations of racing, to Rene and Gale, are all powerful and luring. "I love to go fast," says Gale. "On the water, it is a kick like nothing else in the world. With the engines roaring, you can't hear anything; there is this marvelous noisy silence in your ears—like flying alone or skin diving very deep. Wild, crazy, funny thoughts run through our heads while we're racing."
On the days when they race, Mama Rene sets aside her champagne mink stole and jeweled dinner rings and puts on clothes until she looks stuffed. White duck trousers, a knit shirt, two sweaters, a quilted ski parka, oilskin-slicker, bib overalls and coat. Then she tugs a life jacket on over it all. Her arms stick almost straight out. Gale slips into much the same outfit. In the Hurricane Classic she was wearing a blouse, mohair sweater, wool slacks, a sweat shirt, parka, foul-weather gear and life jacket. She looked like a bear playing Wallace Beery.
The girls finish each race keyed to the breaking point. Instead of pulling right into the dock, they lie slightly off the committee boat—a situation that often annoys race officials considerably.
"Look at them out there," said one after a recent race. "They do that every damned time. Know what they're doing? They're changing their clothes and combing their hair and putting on lipstick, that's what they're doing."
"I'll tell you what we're doing," says Gale. "We're shaking, that's what we're doing. Sure, we stop and comb our hair, but, actually, we need that time to get back under control and calmed down.
"I always shake and shake for hours after a race. I get so damned keyed up. Mother and I always have words when we finish a race. 'Don't you think we ought to dock now?' she'll say, and I'll shout back, 'In a minute, Mom.' But first I have to get calm enough to dock the boat."
Between races Mama Rene—who wears a diamond wedding ring set that could be used as a searchlight at sea—and Harry live on Miami's posh Belle Meade Island. Their house has lipstick-red carpeting on the inside, and the outside fronts on Biscayne Bay. From their terrace they can look across the water to the apartment house where Gale lives with one roommate and two poodles, Stormi Gale and Scoti Gale.