1954 Buffalo Launch Club Regatta

North Tonawandan Thrown Out Of Boat at 120 mph--and Lives

Suffers Only Bruises in Bouncing Over the Water Until Saved by Son; Undaunted, He'll Race Again

By Bob Feeney

Joe Less
Joe Less

Is it a miracle when a man flips out of a speedboat roaring along at 120 miles an hour . . . and lives to joke about it?

Such a miracle blessed Joe Less of North Tonawanda Saturday while testing his 17½-foot racing hydroplane, Mama's Mink, on the Niagara River near Gratwick's slip. Today he has a badly bruised, bloodshot right eye and aching ribs as mementoes of his “scare of a lifetime.”

The 46-year old aircraft instrument manufacturer, who still intends to race his fire red Mama's Mink in the Buffalo Launch Club's Al Endres Memorial Regatta this week-end, was testing his 266-cubic-inch hydroplane prior to racing at Toronto.

“It was hitting about 120 miles an hour.” Mr. Less recalls. "Everything was a blur. the shoreline, trees and cars. Then something sheared in the cable drum of my steering assembly. The Mink began to fishtail (whip from side to side).

“Faster and faster, she swerved. Suddenly, I was catapulted out of the left side of the cockpit. I remember curling up flying through the air before I hit the water. I knew it'd be like hitting concrete at that speed.

“I riccocheted like a skipping rock along the surface of the water. Right in the middle of this. I thought I wonder when I'll stop bouncing?’

“My son, Don, trailing along behind in my 19 foot pleasure powerboat, rushed over and fished me out of the water. The Mink by this time had stopped because its automatic cut off had choked the engine. The boat is all right. We'll race at the Launch Club Saturday," Mr. Less added.

--- August 9. 1954