Although not directly involved in Jersey Speed Skiffs, Steve Jones' experience and wisdom in regard to racing runabouts did find it's way into the boats I built. Many of the construction techniques I used and design principles I learned were taught to me by Steve. He influenced me tremendously as he did all those who had the pleasure of being friends with him. Even now, just over twenty one years after Steve's untimely death, he is profoundly missed. I still think of Steve often and cherish the memories of the short time we spent together and the many hours of conversation we enjoyed. A truly unique person, I've yet to meet anyone of his caliber. The excellent article below gives pretty good insight as to what Steve Jones was like and I really couldn't have said it any better myself which is why I reprinted it here. Sked
Racing Through Life and Having All the Fun, the Steve Jones Way
by Eileen Crimmin
Some people have all the fun. Because they plan it that way.
Stephen Frederick Jones, who died last month in a boat-racing accident on Soap Lake, was one of those people.
Boating was Steve Jones’ work and play. At first, his boats were toys; then something to pull a water skier, then a challenge to build.
Boat racing presented Jones with a challenge which he answered with intelligence, new design principles, diligence and a touch of genius.
The challenge, however, was combined with the building of commercial boats for a living, and the performing of various sub-contracted activities for a ship-building firm owned by his brothers, Ivor and Jack.
Extracting Steve’s boat-building obsession from the family’s commercial ventures between 1950 and 1970 is not possible, so intermingled were the ideas, working hours and concepts.
By 1960, after stints at the University of Washington and in the Army, Steve was ready to challenge the boat-racing world, Super Stock class, with a new knowledge of flatbottom design and construction, and new concepts in engine re-manufacturing.
The reigning champions then were running 19-foot hulls. Ivor came out with a 17-footer so compact and tidy it resembled a toy.
People laughed, people scoffed. Then it ran a few laps, and people swore. Damn, it looked something like a winner. It rode better, accelerated faster, cornered more smoothly and handled more easily than the existing fleet.
The Jones Racing Team did not win everything immediately. What it did was win everything ultimately, symbolizing the family attitude: start quiet and humble, but finish strong and secure.
Steve set three speed records. Ivor set two and Jack set six. The guesstimate is that other Steve Jones-built boats have set at least another ten records. Existing Jones boats will continue to set additional records. The saga of speed and fun is not yet finished.
Serious Steve Jones was, stuffy he was not.
Steve opted to remain separate from his brothers’ firm, Delta Marine.
"Steve couldn’t stand the drudgery of building anything exactly the same more than two or three times," Ivor explained. "There was no fun for him in that. But his shop is on the family property. He did research and development work for us. We subcontracted jobs to him. And the three of us consulted each other about everything. In this area there is no possible replacement for him. Absolutely none."
Jack added, "Ivor and I never drove any other hulls but Steve’s. Certainly Steve was responsible for everything I ever did in racing. He never missed a race in which I competed. I’m having serious thoughts about whether I ever want to race [again] without him."
True to his theme of upbeat living, there was no single pinnacle experience in Steve Jone’s life.
"Every time one of his boats set a record, Steve was thrilled beyond expression," said Ivor. "Also, most people weren’t aware that Steve drove every single boat he built. He tested each one before delivering it to its buyer. Few, perhaps no other builders, do this."
Personally, Steve exhibited two fixations about mechanical equipment. He believed speed was hazard enough for racers; therefore he strained always to build a safer boat.
His boats were not destroyed after a spinout or a dump. They were repaired to live and run again; even to set more records.
Steve also believed that properly built mechanical equipment should function, period. He was affronted that his toaster’s door constantly fell off. And it seared his soul that his station wagon weighed 5,100 pounds and experienced malfunctions before it had logged even 50,000 miles.
"Cars can and should run trouble-free for 150,000 miles," he once said.
As a dedicated reader in numerous fields, Steve’s knowledge on subjects from philosophy to rocket engines astonished listeners. Once asked what he knew about knitting, he fired back with a wink and a grin: "Nothing. But try me on crochet and embroidery!"
Another Steve Jones fixation was his constant smile, accompanied by an almost insatiable desire to talk with people. He was so filled with news, knowledge, joy, logic, ideas, theory, energy and plans that it was as if he sensed he’d never get time enough to pour it all out in words. He’d had 47 years to live and 47 more weren’t going to be nearly enough.
He tried to enlighten and entertain everyone who liked or loved him. And the love was shared by many—his racing brothers, Ivor and Jack; his wife, Marilyn; his children, Joanne, Laurie, Stephen, and the entire Jones clan.
Steve’s one tremendous pride was that no driver ever had been injured seriously in any Steve Jones boat in any scheduled regatta.
That’s why it was with confidence and a conservative attitude that Steve, who’s just set a record of 103 miles an hour in Jack’s Hot Shot at the Black Lake Regatta in July, took his new boat onto the Soap Lake course.
Halfway through the first turn, Jack saw the bow come up, then the entire boat go airborne. It peeled off to the right, flipped over in the air, spat out its driver, and splashed back to the surface.
A crew’s natural worry about its driver is tempered with the knowledge that a boat’s speed generally sends it many feet ahead of its dumped driver before it returns to the water with a splash.
Only later did Steve Jones’ crew learn the stunning unreality—as the boat fell back to the water, it struck him. He was killed instantly.
At 1:30 p.m., on Sunday August 30, 1981, Stephen Frederick Jones died precisely the way he had planned his life, exactly the way he had lived it—having all the fun.
Source: The Seattle Times, Friday, September 18, 1981.
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