1954-55 (Sharkey) / 5455 (UNJ)


The First Gale V

by David Greene

Lee Schoenith spent the 1952 Gold Cupper season in Korea. As homecoming in 1953 his father planned a new Gale III. The new Gale was to have a Rolls Merlin engine and two counter-rotating propellers requiring a complex and expensive gear box. The early season Detroit Memorial and then the Seattle Gold Cup and finally the Silver Cup went by without an appearance by Gale III. A late season mile trial was scheduled for Lake St.Clair with the III showing up but without a redeeming performance.

Nevertheless the Gale III was planned for 1954 as Lee Schoenith’s boat as the Gale II had been sold In the fall of 1953. Bill Cantrell was hired in March 1954 and a new Gale IV was to be his boat.

In April 1954 Gale III was given a two day test by Cantrell with disappointing results – the Schoeniths were unhappy with their new boat.

After a month of indecision they decided to purchase a hull built on speculation by Les Staudacher like Gale II (1955), Nitrogen (1958), Notre Dame (1962) and Miss Budweiser (1966). The new Gale V had tear drop sponsons that had been used previously only by the first Such Crust III – a failure in 1952. Two weeks after purchase Gale V won the Maple Leaf Trophy. She was not as fast as the rebuilt Miss U.S., but was much more consistently driven by Lee Schoenith.

This was Schoenith’s first victory as a driver over competition as there had been no competition at the 1951 American Speedboat Championship and he had a co-driver in taking the 1953 Silver Cup.

Two weeks later Gale V triumphed again although Miss Great Lakes II driven by Danny Foster was the faster entry. At this regatta, Gale V posted a lap of 93.345 m.p.h. as opposed to a rough riding 94.407 for Slo-mo-shun V at the 453 President’s Cup and an estimated: 95 m.p.h. for Slo-mo-shun IV with Joe Taggart at the wheel. Although Slo-mo-shun V had a higher speed potential when riding well she had not rode well in recent competition and had failed in two of her last three regattas.

On the other hand Slo-mo-shun IV had won the 1953 Gold Cup. With her two straight triumphs without missing a beat Gale V had a good chance to win and was picked #2 by the Seattle P.I.

Unfortunately, Gale V lost all chance of winning by jumping the gun in the first heat finishing a physical second to Slo-mo V 4 m.p.h. behind the leader. In the second heat she was fourth all the way but was always within hailing distance of the leaders. In the final heat with a new propeller Gale V passed Slo-mo-shun IV for second place and nearly nipped Slo-mo-shun V at the finish, losing by three seconds. Both Gales evidenced a parity with the Slo-mos at this juncture: Gale IV by poking its nose in front of Slo-mo-V in the first heat before going dead, and by Gale V nearly doing her in in the final.

As a result Gale V was a clear favorite to take the 1954 Silver Cup as the Slo-mos were not going east and the other entries in her speed class - Miss U.S. and Gale IV - were inconsistently driven. However, Gale V came to grief in heat 1-A by being holed by some floating debris.

At the President’s Cup Gale V tore a piece out of one of her sponsons and could not challenge the winning Gale IV, spending the race in third place.

Gale V found redemption in the next two races at New Martinsville and Elizabeth City, North Carolina. She was competitive with Gale IV at the former race winning by less than a second. At Elizabeth City, Gale IV took herself out of the running by faltering in the second heat and Gale V won the race by placing second in the final, but by less than two seconds behind the winning Gale IV.

At the final race at Madison, Gale IV again prevailed with Gale V having trouble getting out of third place. However, Gale V won the National High Point Championship over Gale IV - the only contender to go to as many races as the V. The Slo-mos and Miss U.S. did not contest the High Point Championship.

Ted Jones served as boat doctor to Such Crust III in 1953 and increased the boat’s speed by about 10 m.p.h. Around the standard three mile course, Such Crust III was the fastest boat of the season exceeding the marks of Miss Pepsi in the early 1950’s. Probably as a result the Schoeniths engaged Jones to design a new twin engined Gale VI as Such Crust III had been a double engined entry.

While he was at it, the Schoeniths had Jones redesign the Gale V. He transformed the V from tear drop sponsons to a conventional set up. This was a curious development as Gale V had won four of eight races in 1954. However in two of her eight 1954 races Gale V was a back in the pack entry. Nevertheless in the first two races of 1955 Gale was back in the pack in the initial two heats of both races. However in the final of the Maple Leaf Trophy, Gale V was less than a second behind the winning Miss Supertest II while beating Gale IV by a little over a second. At the Detroit Memorial a week later Gale V was a clear winner of the final heat as Gale IV had the race won on the basis of taking the first two heats of the regatta.

Heading into the Seattle Gold Cup, #IV was the hot Gale having triumphed in two of her last three races. Over the same track Gale V had been blanked. Both Gales along with the Miss U.S. had high dome pistons, the Slo-mos had Rolls Merlins, Tempo VII had hot fuel and Miss Thriftway had a stock G-6 Allison engine better than the earlier models, but not in the same league as the aforementioned boats. However Miss Thriftway was a light boat, but not substantially lighter than Slo-mo-shun IV or Tempo VII.

Lee Schoenith got out in front of the first heat of the 1955 Gold Cup and stayed there for a couple of laps before Joe Taggart took the lead in Slo-mo-shun IV to win the heat. Gale V lost the heat by 7 seconds. Bill Muncey’s Miss Thriftway finished third 54 seconds behind the leader although beating out the faster Gale IV. The Thriftway brain trust had told Muncey to take it easy in the first heat thinking that they did not have much of a chance to win.

In the second heat Miss Thriftway on the inside and Gale V on the outside got a good start as the others including Slo-mo-shun IV had to back off to avoid jumping the gun. Surprisingly the underpowered Miss Thriftway got the best of Gale V over the 30 miles beating her by 20 seconds. This reduced Gale V lead over Thriftway for the fastest race bonus to 37 seconds. Thriftway’s winning pace of heat two was 23 seconds short of Slo-mo-shun IV in the first heat. Thus although the Miss Thriftway was tied for the lead in heat points she was not a good position to take either bonus which was necessary to win the race unless the Slo-mo or Gale V failed to finish.

Along with Thriftway, Slo-mo-shun IV had 625 points, but had the fastest heat bonus somewhat secure by 7 seconds over Gale V. The latter had 600 points with two seconds and a lead over Slo-mo-shun IV of about 10 seconds for the fastest race bonus. Thus Schoenith had to defeat Taggart in the final heat to beat her on heat points and maintain her fastest race bonus.

Muncey had to get some bonus points to win the race which was a slim prospect, because she was down too many seconds in regard to either bonus. Thus it did not really matter where she ran in the final heat. The 1955 Gold Cup broke down to Slo-mo-shun IV versus Gale V, with the Mo favored due to her first heat victory over the Gale V.

Slo-mo-shun IV made up for her bad start of heat two and led for the first half of the race. Miss Thriftway was trying to get around Walt Kade in Such Crust III for second place. Gale V was fourth, well behind Miss Thriftway - her chance for the Gold Cup seemingly gone.

But on lap 5 Miss Thriftway finally got by Such Crust III.

Heading into lap 6 she was 9 seconds behind Slo-mo-shun IV. A this point the Taggart looked to get both bonuses. Muncey continued to move up and had closed on the Slo-mo to one second heading into the 7th lap. Suddenly the Slo-mo pulled into the infield. She had a stack fire that threatened the integrity of the deck that shielded a gas tank.

Now it was Thriftway in first place versus Gale V in third place.

The race would be determined by the fastest race bonus as the fastest heat bonus was off the boards with the demise of the Slo-mo, with Thriftway and Gale V unable to come under her fast heat time. As the contestants approached the final lap Muncey incredibly had 43 seconds over Schoenith - quite a contender in the first two heats. In the last lap Muncey backed off by 10 m.p.h. to ensure a finish, but was down 3 seconds to Gale V instead of being ahead by 6 seconds over the 90 miles.

Bill Muncey and the men of Thriftway were thrilled to death and Lee Schoenith was disconsolate, blaming himself for Gale V’s poor showing. Nevertheless he figured the bonus and felt he had lost the Gold Cup by 1/10 of a m.p.h. The Schoeniths knew they might have a chance, but were not optimistic.

Then about a half an hour after the race it was announced that Gale V had won the race due to the fastest race bonus. Lee Schoenith said,” It beats me how I won the race without winning a heat, but it’s wonderful.” With the regard to the previous paragraph he said, “I’m sure glad we can’t add.”

This set up a contest between Miss Thriftway and Gale V for the Silver Cup. Muncey had a bad race, making a poor start in the first heat while being disqualified for an inside the course start as well as being wet down in the final heat. Gale V won her first heat, but finished fourth in the second heat. Bill Cantrell took over Gale V for the final heat and gave the winning Danny Foster in Tempo VII all he could handle. Tempo VII won the race ;th two firsts and a second, although both Miss Pepsi and Gale V were in her speed class.

Parity with Tempo VII ended in the President’s Cup as she had a couple of m.p.h. on the field - 5 m.p.h. on Gale V Gale V won her second heat over Miss Thriftway, but was otherwise back in the pack.

On to Elizabeth City, North Carolina and the International Cup. Gale V was again down by 5 m.p.h to Tempo VII and could not touch her although defeating Jack Bartlow in Miss U.S., who had won the Rogers Memorial two weeks before. At Madison on the first day, Gale V could not close the 5 m.p.h. gap on Tempo VII.

But on the second day Bill Cantrell took over in heat two and in the rough water again gave Danny Foster all he could handle. In the last heat Lee Schoenith was back, and Foster in the Tempo made it look interesting by just barely beating the V at the finish.

After the last race Gale owner Joe Schoenith challenged Donald Campbell and the Bluebird II to a race over a closed course as Campbell said that jets would make pistons obsolete. He proposed to use Gale V as his charger. The V’s best heats were 99, 97, 97, 97 and 96 m.p.h. as opposed to 93, 92 and 91 for Gale IV. Campbell declined the challenge and few weeks later Gale V, Tempo VII and Miss Detroit were put on the selling block. Perhaps Bill Cantrell favored the Gale IV as he had a hand in its design and Lee Schoenith was scheduled for the possibly super Gale VI.

Later in November Schoenith went out for a run in terrible water for a TV commercial. Reportedly, Gale V was so bashed up as a result that she was discarded by the Schoeniths and never bought by anybody else.

In January 1956 a new Gale V was announced that would be the same design as the previous Gale V, but lighter. Sometimes a design cannot be translated to a lighter weight as the new Gale V never got over 96 m.p.h. for a heat. While the 2nd Gale V ran in 1956 and 1957 the speed spectrum moved up by 4 and 10 mph over 1955. Gale V won the National High Point Championship for the 2nd time in 1955 over Gale IV and Miss U.S. Tempo VII, Miss Pepsi, Miss Thriftway, and Slo-mo-shun IV did not contest the championship.

[Reprinted from Thunderboat, March/April 2011]