History - Jersey Speed Skiffs

A chronology by Bob Moore


Harold 'Pappy' Seaman designs and builds the first Jersey Speed Skiff for PJ Bowers of Red Bank, New Jersey.  Powered by a 4 cylinder 22 hp Gray, this 15 foot skiff obtained a speed of over 20 m.p.h.



Design changes, more powerful engines and "tricks" enabled the skiffs to increase their speeds to close to 40 mph.  In Long Branch/Red Bank area weekend "club" races were held, featuring the Jersey Skiffs.



The '40's saw the Jersey Speed Skiff emerge on the national race scene.  In 1941 the Skiffs were on the program at the National Sweepstakes Regatta in Red Bank.  The APBA allowed them to race as a 'Special Event' and as many as 9 skiffs entered the event.  Spearheaded by Danny Ardolino and the Long Branch Ice Boat and Yacht Club, the Jersey Speed Skiffs were on their way.


Following World War II, racing returned to Red Bank in '46.  The skiffs were again on the program as a Special Event.  In 1947 the APBA recognized the Skiffs as a probationary class and they raced under that status.  In 1948, the Jersey Speed Skiff became an official APBA class.  The first official sanctioned race for the skiff took place in Wyomissing, PA not Red Bank, NJ as many people think.  As the decade of the 1940's closed, the skiffs approached the 50 m.p.h. mark.


One note of interest about the skiffs, were their habit of forming up in the Pleasure Bay area of Long Branch, NJ and running up to Red Bank for the National Sweepstakes Regatta.  Once they arrived at the Red Bank race site, they would anchor in a designated area until race time.  Given the signal, the skiffs would weigh anchor, put on their race and return to their anchorage.  At the conclusion of the races, they would again form up and return to Long Branch area.


The skiffs grew in popularity.  They also grew out of the Red Bank/Long Branch area, skiffs were now owned by racers from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York.  Danny Ardolino, one of the original skiff racers turned the driving chores over to his son-in-law, Bob Perri, and the Ardolino/Perri team with the 'Jo-Carol II' was the team to beat in the 1950's. 

The 50's also saw the magic 50 m.p.h. barrier fall.



Fiberglass hulls began to appear on the race scene.  Joe Julian and Bob Perri were among those who led the transition from wood to glass.  Speed skiff design rules and engine specs were sharply defined after former outboard champ Ron Zuback and his father John came out and 'cleaned up' with their rear-engine designed, Ford powered 'ski-skiff'.  So enraged, the other skiff owners rewrote the rules and outlawed Zuback's boat.  Today, the same set of hull specifications still apply.



The skiffs increased in popularity at race sites throughout the East.

A couple of the Long Branch area 'skiffers' moved to the south and took their skiffs with them.  It wasn't long before the skiffs became a feature on the racing programs in Florida.  Today in fact, there are more APBA registered skiffs in Florida than New Jersey!



The 1980's saw the skiff class become a truly 'national' class as a few skiffs were raced on the west coast.  Unfortunately they didn't last more than a season or two.  The big problem was the similarity between the skiffs and the west coast's Crackerbox.  This is also a two person race boat which is also noted for its' wild and exciting riding characteristics. Speeds for the skiffs were now in the 80 m.p.h. range.



Roll cages and safety harnesses were the major advancement for the skiffs in the 1990's.  At first there was much objection to this innovation; in fact the cage created as much excitement and discussion as the famous Zuback controversy of the '60's.  Today however the class is prospering and growing.  Speaking strictly as a race official, I can attest tot he fact that the harness and cage work, I have seen several instances where it it wasn't for the cage, riders and drivers would have been thrown into the water.


2000 and Beyond

What's the future hold for the Jersey Speed Skiff?  Speeds...probably into the low 90 m.p.h. range.  Hull design...a little heavier hull, more reinforcement...other than that - leave it alone..."if it ain't broke, don't fix it!"  Engine...no major changes...keep them stock, only change would be going to a larger engine (Chevy 350).


Legends of the Class

Among the standouts here, have to be the early innovators, Pappy Seaman, Pop Russell, and George Wolcott were some of the early skiff builders who helped to develop the design and build some of the top boats of the 40's and 50's.  Danny Ardolino helped to promote the class in the 1950's and early 1960's.  Danny, who started racing in the 1940's was very active in formulating skiff rules and was the 'main man' in bringing the class into the APBA.


Some of the driving legends are:


Ray Morris with his boat, the "Falcon" was the first National Champion and set many of the first speed records.

Bob Perri, was perhaps the best of the skiff drivers.  The "Jo-Carol II" was one of the top skiffs in the late 1050's and early 1060's.  Perri could put his skiff in the tightest of places...at one race site his competitors were blocking his way...Perri put his skiff up on one side and pushed his boat through and into the lead.

Dave Greenlaw started racing in 1964 and is still winning skiff races...this is Dave's fourth decade of racing.

Dave "Sked" Paraskevas. Sked is still racing today, has held multiple records with different boats and has built and driven many record setters, high point champions, and Eastern Divisional champions. Many  consider Sked one of the best in boat setup as Sked has built many record setters and national champions.

Rob Garratano, Mr. Speed Skiff, in the 1980's and early 1990's Rob held every skiff record and won every skiff title.  Rob's "Indian Summer" was the "Miss Budweiser" of the skiffs, he rarely lost a race.  Not only was Rob a top notch driver, Rob did everything from building his boat and engine to being the best at picking the right prop and setting the boat up.




There are countless others who helped to make the Jersey Speed Skiffs what they are today...Bender, Julian, Chris and Rosie Ziegler, the Primevera's, the Birdsall's, and on and on.  I'm sure I've overlooked many, but those that I listed are a few names that stand out.


Special thanks to:

Bob Moore

A current update by Bill John

Jersey Speed Skiffs remain very popular today, and fall basically into three groups:


Racing Skiffs - on the APBA Racing Circuit !!!

Jersey Speed Skiffs are still a very active racing class within the American Power Boat Association, and race at sanctioned APBA events primarily up and down the East Coast. These racing skiffs run under very strict APBA rules that have not changed much since the early 1990's. Roll cages and safety harnesses are required, engines are restricted to 283 or 305 cubic inches with very strict specs, and the hulls remain at 16 feet with very strict specs. As for speeds, the kilo record was recently set by Bill Darby on 4/6/2006 at 85.09 MPH.  


Vintage & Reproduction Skiffs - on the APBA Vintage Circuit !!!

Many of the older racing Jersey Speed Skiffs and newer reproduction skiffs now run on a very active APBA Vintage Race Boat Circuit. These vintage events are run under the rules and regulations of the Vintage & Historic Division of the American Power Boat Association. This is pretty serious stuff, complete with surveyed race courses, safety inspections, drivers meetings, crane launching and demonstration heats usually of 5 or 6 laps. We do have fun, but safety is our main concern, and we have a great record of running safe events.


Recreational Skiffs - lots of fun boat rides !!!

Many of the newer reproduction skiffs are also used as regular pleasure boats. Many have been updated with newer 350 cubic engines and transmissions, and they make for very fun, safe, and very fast recreational boats. With their lightweight fiberglass hulls and small block Chevrolet power plants, they are very simple and relatively inexpensive boats to maintain. And they are a hoot to run, with seating for two in the aft/driving cockpit, and room for a couple of adventuress riders in the front cockpit.



Click here for Project Photos

Jersey Speed Skiffs on Lake Winnipesaukee

The NH Vintage Race Boat Regatta first introduced Jersey Speed Skiffs to Lake Winnipesaukee in 2001. Several skiffs participated in that regatta, gave lots of boats rides, and generated much interest in these fast little speedsters. Click here for lots of photos.


That interest was nurtured by Bill John and his Vintage Race Boat Shop, and with his help a small fleet of Jersey Speed Skiffs developed on Lake Winnipesaukee.



Len Finethy

1983 Bender Hull


My Precious

Gerri Prusko Reproduction Bender Hull



Bob Mueller Reproduction Bender Hull



Lin Galeucia Reproduction Bender Hull

Here are two current Jersey Speed Skiff videos

Jersey Speed Skiff Video

Jersey Speed Skiff Video - Final Heat !!!

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Florida Vintage Race Boat Circuit

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