After winning the 1965 Sam Griffith Memorial race in February, the Broad Jumper Racing Team led the Miami-Nassau race for a while, until we broke. Owner Billy Wishnick was now tied for the lead in the UIM Offshore World Championship, compliments of his 9 points from the Sam Griffith, and he was fired up! He decided that we would race all the U.S. races, and the Cowes Torquay race in England. Suited me fine! We led and broke in the Around Frickin’ Long Island race, never got to race in an obscure offshore(?) race in the New Buffalo to Chicago and Back race, New Buffalo, Michigan. Just too rough for the local racers on their high speed Bayliners. Couple of great stories there, but I must wait until a couple more people die. Since we had inertia of sorts, heading west, we went on to Long Beach, California for their inaugural APBA offshore melee, the Hennessey Long Beach Offshore Inaugural Race. Swimmin’ pools, movie stars! I had been to the West Coast a few times on sales trips, but had never really spent any quality time with the local gentry (Get it?). They really are different. The was a boob out there who bet several hundred dollars that his 19’ Century Coronado would win the race overall. He only had to beat the leaders in the UIM Championship, Bill Wishnick and Don Aronow, in their 28’ Donzi full race boats, who had won the first two UIM races. It was foggy as hell. His Coronado held 40 gallons of gas for the 200 mile race. Lots of the guys bet him. I don’t recall his name, but he was known to some of the other local dorks. After the race, he protested our win, on the grounds that his navigation device showed that he had gone 200 miles, and he got back to port before we did, so he was the winner. The rules committee ousted him, and I bought some of the bet checks for ten cents on the dollar, figuring that I could send “Big Dirty”, our 6’3” mechanic to collect on them. Big surprise! They were good! It was fun hanging out with the celebrities. One of them, Dan Blocker, was actually entered in the race, in a pretty stock “left coast” vessel of some sort. Our mechanic, Bobby Moore said that he would give anything to meet “Hoss”. I offered to introduce him. “You tellin’ me that you know Hoss Cartwright?” “No, but he doesn’t know that”. I marched him down there and introduced them. Bobby was tickled pink. We had lots of movie stars and musicians at the cocktail parties. Best of all, the manager of the race, Sandy Kemp, and I became friends. I later appointed Sandy to the APBA Offshore Racing Commission when I was elected APBA Offshore Commissioner. Sandy took the existing UIM Offshore rulebook, which was the size of a Life Magazine, and condensed it to a few easy to read (and comply) pages. These rules were adopted by the UIM, and we were finally able to stop the Brits (Tut tut, stiff upper lip, don’t let the side down) from forcing us to carry a tea service in Class One. “But, what if one breaks down at tea time? My God, man! Have some civility!”
Another California entry was Bob Nordskog, a giant force in all things boat racing on the left coast. There may be something in the water out there. Bob, a millionaire industrialist, ran an 18 foot SK class flat bottom boat in the race. He ran right beside us until we hit a fog bank, and I don’t know where he went after that.
The race course ran from Long Beach Harbor to the south end of Catalina Island, then to the north end of San Clemente Island, around the backside of it to the north end of Catalina, and back to Long Beach. It must have been a beautiful course, but we never saw a goddam thing except the tips of the islands and their respective check boats. Our only real competitor was Don Aronow, in his Nassau winning 28 Donzi, 007. His boat was a stock 28 that we had taken off the assembly line and installed race engines for the Miami-Nassau race. He was lighter than us by half a ton, thus faster. Don carried a local navigator. I don’t recall his name. (I don’t recall a lot of other stuff, too). We didn’t. We lacked the cockpit space, recalling the jettisoning of Wishnick’s brother, Jack, in the recent Sam Griffith Memorial race. We had to outlast, and or, out navigate the speedy red Donzi to bring home the marbles. There were about 30 entries in the race. Most of them reminded one of Dunkirk, except with chrome. Strange bunch, them Californies…
The Pacific Ocean was pacific that day. There was a swell from the west northwest that surprised us, flying blind, as we rounded the islands to seaward. The shape of the swell was such that we climbed one side, then launched down the back side with just the propellers in the water for what seemed 40 or 50 yards at a time. At the bottom of the swell, we pulled a few “G’s”, temporarily disappearing from sight in the cockpit. Must have been weird for the check boats. I didn’t take long to figure Aronow’s strategy. He was following us, with the intention of “blowing us off” when visibility got better near the shore. We slowed, and sent him off on his own. We reckoned, correctly, that they had not been navigating while following us, and that they were pretty much screwed for the moment. We actually stopped and chatted with a local Abalone boat and got our bearings. They gave us a course to south end of San Clemente Island, and we retook the lead from Aronow, unbeknownst to him (and us). We knew the course to the northern tip of Catalina Island, and rounded it for the direct run to the finish line with Aronow closing fast from behind. The fog had lightened a bit, and we had a couple of miles visibility. The swells got progressively larger as we neared shore, and we began to collect air time in large doses. Aronow was inching up on us, and by the time that we could see Long Beach Harbor, he was only about 200 yards behind. A couple of miles from the finish line, we landed on some large aquatic form, maybe a shark, and our 1,000 HP blender made quick work of it, but the little pieces stopped up our cooling water intakes. We were about two boat lengths ahead of 007, with our temperature gauges reading 300 degrees when we took the checkered flag. Both engines expired as we crossed the line. Aronow was a grumpy second. We floated around the finish line for a while, but nobody else showed up, so we got towed in to the party.