Remembering Lucile Woods
Veteran boat racing official Lucile Woods passed away on May 28, 2007, in Spokane, Washington. She was 94. Lucile was preceded in death by her husband Harry.
Harry and Lucile first joined the racing community in the late 1920s. Harry was an outboard competitor and Lucile was his crew chief. Safety equipment and standards left a lot to be desired in those days. Harry stopped driving and started officiating when he saw so many of his fellow drivers losing arms and legs as a result of accidents.
The husband-and-wife team officiated at countless Limited races over the years. From the 1930s to the 1970s, there was hardly a race of consequence in the Pacific Northwest where Mr. and Mrs. Woods were not present and actively involved.
When the Unlimited hydroplanes came to Seattle for the first time in 1951, the Spokane-based Harry and Lucile were asked to lend a hand.
Harry and Lucile worked at the grassroots level on a number of Unlimited race committees in the 1950s and '60s. These included Chelan, Washington, and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
At the West Coast Unlimited races in the 1960s and '70s, Harry served as Assistant Referee to Chief Referee Bill Newton, a close friend. Lucile served as Chief Scorer. When an airline strike prevented Newton from attending the 1966 Coeur d'Alene Diamond Cup, Harry Woods replaced him.
As Assistant Referee, one of Harry's responsibilities was the qualification of rookie drivers. Woods was a straight shooter. He went by the book. With Harry, you didn't lie and you didn't hedge. You'd better know the answer or tell him that you didn't.
One (unnamed) rookie tried to put one over on Harry. He rattled off an impressive list of Limited boats that he had supposedly driven. Woods was not impressed: "Look, bub. I know who the guys were that drove those boats. And I've never seen you before!"
The most legendary accomplishment of Harry and Lucile Woods was the time when they almost single handedly "saved" the 1965 Ogden, Utah, race.
The Ogden race was promoted by a man out of Detroit named Erv Steiner. This was a new and inexperienced committee. Steiner hadn't followed through and had left this group of beginners to their own devices.
When the Unlimited hydros arrived in town in August of 1965, nothing was ready! The fledgling committee had installed a Public Address system and published a program book. The pits were not ready. The judges stand was not ready. Nothing was ready!
Harry and Lucile sized up the situation and immediately took charge. It was a frantic race against time. In the space of 72 hours, everything was in order. The Utah Cup race was run as scheduled. And the sport breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Lucile Woods continued her involvement in boat racing for many years following the death of Harry.
In the words of her good friend Duncan Wilson, "She was a sweet and gentle soul. She would travel every year to the Tri-Cities and Seattle races. This small, frail woman was as tough as they come...sitting in 108 degree heat or climbing a ladder to the tower at age 93." Lucile has now gone to join her beloved Harry. Mr. and Mrs. Woods are fondly remembered as two of the sport's hardest and most conscientious workers.