Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum

We're racing through history!

By Fred Farley - H1 Unlimited Historian

Joe and Lee Schoenith raced Unlimited hydroplanes from 1950 to 1975. Most of their boats were named GALE, sponsored by W.D. Gale, Inc., a Detroit-based electrical contracting firm, which the Schoeniths owned.

Their most famous boat was the first GALE V, designed by Les Staudacher, which was National High Point Champion in 1954 and 1955 and won the APBA Gold Cup in 1955 on Seattle's Lake Washington with Lee Schoenith driving.

The original GALE V was retired after 1955. A vastly inferior namesake took its place in 1956. The Schoeniths gave up on it after an unsuccessful season and a half. GALE V the second re-appeared a few years later as Leo Mucutza's YELLER JACKET and Jack Schafer's SUCH CRUST IV.

GALE V the third debuted in 1958. Patterned after the Gold Cup winner, it won a few secondary races in 1960 and 1961 with Bill Cantrell driving but was only sporadically competitive. It last raced in 1964.

The various GALE V drivers included Lee Schoenith, his younger brother Jerry Schoenith, Cantrell, Doc Terry, Roy Duby, Bud Saile, Bob Schroeder, and Rex Manchester.


The three GALE V hydroplanes each used a single-Allison set-up, while the two boats named GALE VI were twin-Allison-powered.

The first GALE VI, built in 1955, raced until 1958. Unlike most Detroit-based Unlimiteds, this one was designed by Seattleite Ted Jones. It managed to win the 1956 St. Clair, Michigan, race against mediocre opposition with Lee Schoenith driving. But it had trouble keeping up with the smaller, lighter single-engine boats of that era. Roy Duby drove it a few times but was likewise unable to achieve results.

A second GALE VI, designed by Staudacher, arrived in 1959. It was one of the biggest Unlimiteds of all time and measured 36 feet in length. It managed to lead a few laps of the 1959 Seattle Gold Cup with Fred Alter at the wheel but was otherwise a failure.

GALE VI the second (with driver Leo Mucutza) ran with a single Allison in 1960. But this idea was quickly abandoned. For 1961, it was equipped with a V-16 Packard marine engine and renamed GALE VII. But it was still a tailender and defied the efforts of drivers Bob Schroeder and Danny Foster.

GALE VII's last appearance was the 1963 Detroit Gold Cup where it sank during a test run.

The 1963 SEATTLE SEAFAIR PROGRAM summed up the boat's career in these words: "Four years, four drivers, and thousands of man hours have all so far failed to make GALE VII tick. She finishes last most of the time and the consensus is: 'She couldn't do it with two Allisons; she isn't going to do it with one Packard.'"

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