1976 Seafair Trophy
Lake Washington, Seattle WA, August 8, 1976
Billy Schumacher Brought Up On Water
By George N Meyers
What could a fellow write about Billy Schumacher, I asked Billy Schumacher, if the word "hydroplane" never was mentioned?
"Oh, there might be a few things to write," said Schumacher, grinning. "But I don’t know how interesting it would be.
"Hydroplanes have been part of my life for 25 years. When you take that away, there hasn’t been that much. I was brought up on Lake Washington, you know."
What Schumacher (he pronounces it Shoemaker) really was brought up on was bread and water.
By age 7, William Schumacher, 3rd, was cleaning machinery in the family bakery founded here in 1915 by his grandfather and taken over by his father.
"My dad had me there with rags," said Billy. "I worked in the bakery all through high school. I am an accomplished baker."
By 8, encouraged by William Schumacher, 2nd, Billy was competing on the lake on water skis and in speedboats.
"My first racing boat was an eight-foot runabout with a five-horsepower outboard, good for 30 miles an hour. That’s pretty fast for an 8-year-old. I look at 8-yearold kids now and say, ‘Did I really do that at that age?’ "
At 6 feet 1 inch and 205 pounds, wide across the shoulder and strung together as by rawhide, Schumacher easily could be mistaken for an athlete.
"That’s weight-lifting," said Schumacher. "My father got me started in that, too.’ When I was about 15, I could clean-and-jerk 215 pounds. My body weight was about 175.
"My dad promised me any kind of car I wanted, if I could clean-and-jerk 300 pounds. I never made it. I still don’t have the car. But I got into the routine, and I have lifted weights all through the years.
"I tried basketball once at Lincoln High, but I wasn’t good enough. I turned out for sophomore football when Norm Dalthorp was coaching. Whenever I made a mistake, he would say: ‘Schumacher, you just went around the wrong buoy.’
"It didn’t bother me, not making it big on a team. Water was a lot more interesting to me."
Pursuing that interest, Billy became a national champion in limited speedboats and, inevitably, at 19, he could not resist a chance to drive an unlimited hydroplane.
That was in 1962. Billy the Kid’ s first drive was KUDY Radio [actually the U-1230-910 Cutie Radio in 1961 —LF]. Since then — and you may tick them off on your fingers — he has piloted Miss Tool Crib, $ Bill, Miss Bardahl, Parco-O-Ring Miss, Pride of Pay ‘n Pak, and Valu-Mart, Miss Weisfield’s and Olympia Beer.
That sounds like nine thunderboats. But it is only six. Valu-Mart, Weisfield’s and Olympia are the same hull which Schumacher drove last season to his third national high-point championship.
It took Schumacher five years to win his first unlimited race — Miss Bardahl, Tampa, 1967. The same season, he won a Gold Cup in Bardahl in Seattle. He repeated in Detroit in 1968.
Schumacher’s only other Seattle victory was in Pay ‘n Pak in 1971. This week, in the Seafair Regatta, he is shooting for his third victory on home waters.
Billy is married to the former Cyndee Dootson, a journalism graduate whom he met in Tampa in 1971, when she was helping Bernie Little in publicity for Miss Budweiser.
For Billy, hydroplaning is full time from May to September, "but I start getting ready physically in January. I add running to the weight-lifting. In any sport, the man who gets tired first is the man who loses."
At 33, Schumacher is among the elite of the "old pro" drivers. "Some drivers still pay their own way to boat races," he said. "But all now get paid for driving. The ones who drive best get paid most."
On that basis, Schumacher accepts that he is "one of the best."
"My guarantee means I can’t make less than $24,000 a season. With performance bonuses, I can make $60,000."
Fear plays "an important role" in Schumacher’s driving. "I’m proud to have a fear level. It tells you right from wrong. You have to have the ability to tell when to get scared. I don’t like to race against anybody who has no fear, at all."
Billy’s gradual separation from the family bakery may become wider with the proposed inauguration of a $300,000 grand prix circuit for tunnel boats — outboards with hull-length sponsons. He has been asked to be one of the directors, "and I’m building a 19-footer to race, myself."
Schumacher also has had a nibble to represent thunderboating in television’s sports-smorgasbord gimmick, Superstars. "I’m working extra hard in the weights, for that," he said.
Billy may collect that car from his dad yet.
(Reprinted from The Seattle Times, August 6, 1976)
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