The second round of the Amsoil Offshore Racing Series made its stop in beautiful St. Clair, Mich., for the 17th Annual St. Clair River Classic last weekend. Although with 37 entries spanning multiple classes, the boat count was down from that of previous years—the event has seen as many as 55 boats in the field—the weekend lacked for nothing, especially hospitable and enthusiastic crowds. Racers and out-of-town fans alike had local folks actually thank them for bringing the event to their town. Throughout the weekend I heard from one local after another, “It’s the highlight of our summer.”
At a time when more than a few offshore races are struggling to find happy homes, they would do well to look for such venues where they’re not just welcome, but actually wanted.
As for the racers, they love the entire St. Clair event as much as the fans. And like the fans, many of them describe it has the highlight of their season.
Much of the credit for all of this continued success has to go the local Blue Water Offshore Association, which after 17 years has putting on a successful event on the St. Clair River down to a sweet science. They know it takes more than good racing, which is why there was live “floating” entertainment—the stage was a barge in front of the park—both night including Eddie Money, John Waite, Sponge and Mitch Ryder. For the musical acts alone, the St. Clair River Classic was worth attending.
Still, for both hardcore and casual offshore racing fans, the action has to be good. And once again, the event didn’t disappoint.
Saturday, July 30: Dialing in for the Water
Saturday was a pretty quiet day as most of the teams tested to find that perfect set-up. And for an inland course, the St. Clair River makes set-up a challenge.
Current is a big deal. The course is set on the river where it connects to Lake Huron and Lake St Clair. That connection provides a seven- mile-per-hour current. Classes No. 1 through No. 6—the bracket racing classes that have a speed limit—have to factor in that current speed to avoid going too fast and being disqualified.
The swift current also presents challenges in the corners. As boats cross the start-finish line, they are headed upstream. So as they make the right hand turn, the current pushes them down into the corner.
The back straight provides some great speed for the boats as they run with the current, but the most treacherous turn is ahead.
The bottom part of the course has three tricky elements. One is the current that wants to carry boats away from the turn. The second is a “hole” in the middle of the turn, which gives the boats a nice little as they negotiate the turn. The third is a number of random whirlpools, which can make for some unpredictable handling quirks, throughout the turn.
Sunday, July 31: Race Day
The first of three races kicked off at noon with Classes 3, 5 and 6 taking to the course. Although the smaller boats of the series make up these classes, they provided the most action-packed racing. Class 6 saw PFE Racing (Michigan Mafia) get the holeshot and lead the entire race. Crockett Rocket and Wazzup II gave chase but proved to be no match for the 26 Velocity.
Or so it seemed, because this is bracket-racing and staying within class speed limits is essential. As it turned out, the PFE Team let it all hang out a little too much, and that handed over the win to Tyler Crockett with Wazzup II in second and Joker Powerboats in third.
Class 5 saw a pair of Super Boats jump into the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. Optima Batteries/Reinforcer and Mighty Macs looked as if they had a rope connecting them as the raced around the course. It was not until the final few laps that Mighty Macs started to make up a little ground, but it was too late as Optima Batteries/Reineforcer took the win. Might Mac held on for second and Adrenaline Rush takes third.
Class three—the final group—had the most interesting turn of events as the race unfolded. Car Plugs jumped into the early lead and checked out fast on the four-mile course, but as it came around to complete their first lap the boat pulled into the middle of the course. That handed the lead over to TKO, which seemed to have a big enough lead to take the win and just cruise the course—until it, too, pulled into the center of the course with a mechanical problem. That left the Bull on the Beach Skater and the Super Vee Lite of the Time Bandit Team to slug it out. But fate and a broken battery cable sidelined Time Bandit, and Bull on the Beach was the last team standing. Or floating.
After a couple of freighters moved through the course it was time to start the second race, which consisted of Class 4, Class 1, Super Vee and Super Stock. Class 4 proved to the feel-good story of the day, or at least it looked that way. It was no surprise that Simmons Marine.com jumped out to the early lead and looked to have the race won, until Jersey Outlaw started knocking on their door. Jersey Outlaw played the race very smart and waited to make their move at exactly the right time. They tucked to the inside of Simmons and took over the lead and held onto it to take the checkered flag.
But the story wasn’t over. It appeared Jersey Outlaw broke out of its speed bracket, just as PFE had earlier in the day. That should have given Simmons the win—but they broke out also. In the end it was Formula Boats taking the win in Class 4 with Simmons and Jersey Outlaw rounding out the top three.
Class 1 is the fastest group of the bracket-racing class. The boat everyone wanted to watch—and the sentimental favorite—was of course the local team Cleveland Construction, which is based in St Clair. The GEICO Caveman boat tried to spoil the party by jumping out to the lead, but once again mechanical gremlins proved the be the spoiler and took GEICO Caveman out of the race.
The hometown heroes reclaimed the lead, but Lighting Jacks caught up as it appeared that Cleveland Construction was slowing with mechanical issues and eventually handed over the lead over to Lighting Jacks, which cruised to an easy victory. Cleveland Construction and GEICO Caveman rounded out the top three.
The final group in this race consisted of Super Vee and Super Stock. Strictly Business took the early lead and the win over Wazzup in Super Vee. Talbot Excavating also grabbed the early lead of Frank and Jimmy’s Propellers, never looking back. The Ringleberg/The Wharf Team had a mishap at the tricky bottom end of the course—sliding into the corner and flipping over—but the boat and team were ok.
The final race of the day was for “the big boys,” and once again mechanical gremlins proved to the equalizer. In the Turbine/Extreme Class Miss GEICO cruised solo to victory as the Jarvis Restoration entry was unable to start because of mechanical problems.
The Super Cat class had a lot of buzz with the return of Talkin’ Trash with a new setup, Suncoast Power Boat Sales, and JD Byrider/BWP Tanks all making their Amsoil Offshore Racing Series debut for the year. Suncoast and Talkin’ Trash battled deck to deck for the first few laps, but Talkin’ Trash was a little off in its setup as Suncoast started to pull away. Just when it looked like Suncoast had it in the bag, the boat broke a prop, which took them out of the race and handed the lead over to Talkin’ Trash, which put it “ cruise control” and coasted to the victory.
Supercat Light was the final group in this race. Phoenix Parts.com and Amsoil had something in common besides being in the same class. Phoenix hurt a motor in testing the day before and borrowed a spare motor from Amsoil allowing so they could compete. Amsoil’s exceptional gesture of good sportsmanship proved to be its undoing, as Phoenix jumped out and checked out to take the checkered flag.