"Let's go," said House.
Since offshore racing rules prevent Aronow from risking his neck solitarily (each boat must contain at least two men), it is not surprising that there is occasionally some resistance when Don goes looking for crewmen. "Going out in a boat with Aronow isn't the healthiest thing you can do," confirms Mark (Big Dirty) Raymond, a Hollywood, Fla. fireman, ocean driver and sometime motorcycle racer who owes his nickname either to his knack for getting covered with oil during races (his version) or to his disdain for racing etiquette (a rival's version). "You go down inside the hull to fix a fuel line or something during a race, and Aronow isn't able to see you or hear you. You're bouncing around down there, but he never slows down. The guy is all go. He wants to win, and you can't blame him for that. It's just not very healthy, that's all."
"The other guy in the boat is completely reliant on you," Aronow concedes. "You've got your hands on the wheel and the throttle, and you can anticipate the waves, but the other guy is at your mercy. The question is how far will you push the boat and whether you'll take a chance of hurting somebody. That can be a tough decision to make.
"I guess I've hurt a lot of people in boats. I've broken Skitch Carroll's ribs, and I've broken Dave Stirrat's nose, and there was the time I hit a wake while Stu Jackson was lying on the engine, and he hurt his back pretty badly. I wouldn't take my son out in a race with me, because I wouldn't want to take the same chance with him that I would take with myself. You have to find somebody who feels the same way about racing as you do."
Aronow's favorite partner in recent years, and one who meets his exacting demands, has been House, a short, sturdy fireplug of a man who wastes few words and puts the energy thus conserved to good use, having in the course of a variegated career been a wrestler, a lacrosse player, a 12-year Navy man and a motorcycle racer. "Knocky's a charger like I am," Aronow says. "Whether during a race or in a strange bar or a strange country, I know I can count on him."
As Aronow's shotgun-riding mechanic, navigator and general troubleshooter, House enjoys a certain job security, since most others in his line feel that one or two rides with Aronow will suffice a lifetime.
Another man who has ridden with Aronow—once—is Allan Brown, president of Miami's Nova Marine Company. Brown blithely accompanied him on the 1966 Houston Channel Derby, which has the reputation of being a calm-weather race. What Brown failed to take into account were the huge wakes that oil tankers and oceangoing tugs churn up in Galveston Bay's ship channel.
"Going over those wakes was just awful," Brown recalls. "We were jumping so fantastically high in the air that it seemed we could have flown over the tankers themselves. We were running second when we hit some really incredible waves, and that crazy Aronow never let go of the throttle. Within the space of three or four miles we went from a mile behind to a mile ahead. And that was going out in the channel. Coming back, jumping those wakes from the other direction was even worse. We were flying 100 feet out of the water."
"We won a real good trophy," Aronow says.
Such escapades are a test of equipment as well as men, and Aronow has met the need for fast, durable boats with his usual directness—by building them himself. Over the past six years he has founded three different boatbuilding firms—Formula, Donzi and Magnum—and used them to develop some of the hottest hulls afloat. When it suited his mood, he calmly sold each of the companies at a nice profit. Building boats for his own needs has helped Aronow win races. The rigors of racing, in turn, have suggested ways of building better boats. Working basically with standard deep-V racing hulls, Aronow and the designers he has teamed with—notably Jim Wynne, Walt Walters and Peter Guerke—have been responsible for many small but important refinements that have made boats lighter and faster, yet still rugged enough for offshore racing.