Race Boat Shop
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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 !!!
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.
here for Project Photos
Jersey Speed Skiffs on Lake
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.
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.
1983 Bender Hull
Reproduction Bender Hull
||Reproduction Bender Hull
are two current Jersey Speed Skiff videos
Jersey Speed Skiff
Jersey Speed Skiff
Video - Final Heat !!!
For locals, please join our:
Saturday Morning Gatherings
Monthly Fun Run &
Florida Vintage Race Boat Circuit
Some related vintage race
to Home Page - Vintage Race Boat Shop