The colorful life of Jerry Schoenith.
WHAT WOULD JERRY DO?
By John Woodward
Back in the mid- to late-60s, I have vivid memories of my face plastered up against the pit fence just to get a glimpse of my favorite boats. How I dreamt of being on the other side of that fence wearing a dirty crew shirt and crawling all over an unlimited hydroplane.
That dream would fester in my soul for several decades until the opportunity would present itself in the unlikeliest of all places: a bowling alley. “I think these guys (Muncey Racing) are looking for some help with their race boat, you interested?” said a fellow bowler. Information exchanged hands and two weeks later I found myself standing in an old barn that had been a worm farm and was now made into a boat shop outside of Redmond, Washington.
Jerry Schoenith drove unlimited hydroplanes in the 1960s, during the sport’s most dangerous period. He competed against the best drivers of that time, men such as Bill Muncey, Ron Musson, Rex Manchester, Chuck Thompson, and Col. Warner Gardner. Although he retired from
driving over 50 years ago, Schoenith continues to study hydroplane racing and imagines ways to pump new life into what he calls “an aging sport.” Schoenith himself moves more slowly now and occasionally walks with a cane, but he’s not shy about floating new ideas. Ask him about fixing the sport and he speaks with passion, exuding more energy than a tall can of Red Bull.
A dream comes true.
Shirley earned a degree in accounting from the University of Kentucky. Currently, she is Director
of Research at the University of Washington’s campus in Bothell, Washington.
“I help faculty members make sure their proposals are complete. Then I review them, sign them, and submit them to the sponsor. Being in that kind of position and that type of work allowed me, in boat racing, to understand how to stay calm and keep your head about you. When you’re working in grants and contracts, it’s deadline-driven. Very similar to boat racing.”
A conversation with
crew chief Cindy Shirley.
by Steve Nelson
The Clock is Ticking
Schoenith grew up when boat racing drew enormous crowds and the pits were sometimes packed with 18 hydroplanes. So, he is particularly saddened by the dwindling boat count and by the public’s lack of awareness about the sport. He says the decline is painfully evident in Detroit. “Ask the younger generation about hydroplane races and none of them have heard of the Gold Cup, he says. “That’s the problem we have. Frankly, if you guys don’t get your crap together in Seattle, in 10 years they are going to have the same problem. You are going to lose generations of fans.”
Schoenith claims that boat racing is dying, and it’s dying because they aren’t doing it right. “And, you can’t keep running the same show over and over and over again. You just can’t.”
Can it be fixed? Schoenith believes it can. But the sport must take a completely different marketing approach. Continued, click here...
UNJ: Did your interest in boat racing start at an early age?
Shirley: When the boats would leave for the West Coast, my mom would drive whoever wanted to go. It was always me, my mom, and sometimes my sister. WORX in Madison would carry the race. At 6:00 their time, which was 7:00 our time—this was when Madison didn’t change time—they would drop their power at 6:00. That was the time of the final heat on the West Coast. So, we would go into Madison and either picked up burgers over at the Dairy Queen on the Milton side, or maybe go to Key West [Shrimp House – Ed.] and take the transistor radio in. If we picked up burgers, then we’d just go over to the Madison side and sit in the car listening to the race from the West Coast.
Besides being a spectator, what was your first direct involvement with race boats?
Well, my ex-husband, Chuck Moore and I, started a website called Hydrofest. It had the Unlimiteds, but we also brought in the Unlimited Lights. We were the only people paying attention to them. My dad was traveling with DeWalt at the time, with the boat. Continued, click here...
John Woodward and Debi Muncey - Muncey Racing 1985
In the following NewsJournal interview, conducted by Craig Fjarlie on December 14, 2018, Shirley talks about her involvement in boat racing and her role as crew chief on the Miss HomeStreet team.
In this shop were three unlimited hydroplanes and a 280-class limited hydroplane. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. From late November 1984 until early June 1985, the Muncey race team worked on the 1972-51 U-15 Burien Hobby Center. Continued, click here...
Cindy Shirley has been around hydroplane racing most of her life. She was named crew chief of Miss HomeStreet in 2018. Before that, she was a long-time member of the Madison team’s crew. Shirley was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Madison was only 40 miles away on the Ohio River and, beginning in 1981, she attended the Madison regatta with her family. She was around boats before that, however. “I was a boater before I was even out of the womb,” she explains. “My mom was sailing, doing different things, I grew up walking on docks and grew up boating. That’s how I got started in boat racing.”