Best known within the performance boat community for his involvement with Fort Myers Offshore, the Southwest Florida-based nonprofit scholarship fundraising club, Eric Belisle has decided to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, and officially share the news that he’s purchased a new Super Stock-class canopied raceboat from Doug Wright Designs in Melbourne, Fla., and is extremely excited to give offshore racing a try. Belisle’s decision was primarily influenced by the fact that his good friend, the two-time defending F1 H2O world champion Shaun Torrente, who also hails from Florida, was willing to show him the ropes and throttle the 32-footer as well as set up the boat and handle as much work as possible as long as it didn’t get in the way of his overseas job driving for Team Abu Dhabi.
Eric Belisle and Shaun Torrente can’t wait to race the new Doug Wright in Super Stock this season. Photos courtesy Shaun Torrente
Fortunately for Belisle, Torrente has had more time on his hands than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the boat, which is powered by twin Mercury Racing 300XS engines, is now ready to rock. In fact, it’s been completely rigged with the raceboat essentials plus a variety of custom parts from STR—Torrente’s company that specializes in components such as outboard brackets, laser height kits, hinges, throttles, shifters and more—and wrapped with its S-54 STR graphics thanks to Ryan Beckley of Kinetic Animation.
The teammates were able to test the boat last weekend and, according to Torrente, they could race it this weekend if necessary, which it’s not. Again, fortunately for the new team, there hasn’t been a big rush to get the boat finished with the postponement or cancellation of several races this season. Still, Belisle is hoping to get a good amount of seat time in the boat between now and the team’s first race, which is expected to be the American Power Boat Association Offshore Championship Series Thunder On The Gulf in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in late August.
“I’ve always been a racing fan,” Belisle said. “I enjoy going to the races. I’ve even been fortunate to travel to watch Shaun race in Qatar and Italy. I thought it would be awesome to race one day, but I never really thought about it seriously because it wasn’t something I thought I could do on my own. I especially didn’t think racing with Shaun would be an option.
“I’m so glad he showed the interest though,” he added. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Shaun in pleasure boats and have learned a lot and shared some good times. It’s time to make some new memories. Maybe even go out there and win a race.”
Check out the slideshow above for a few more images of the new S-54 STR Doug Wright catamaran.
Belisle admitted he was unsure how he’d handle the closed canopy when he first discussed racing with Torrente during their trip to Central Missouri for the 2019 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. So Torrente lined up a ride in a would-be competitor’s Super Stock-class boat to make sure Belisle was comfortable with it before reaching out to Doug Wright to order a boat.
Torrente explained that the new boat, which is sponsored by STR as well as the accounting firm Belisle is partners in, Forrester, Hart, Belisle & Whitaker, P.L., is an updated Doug Wright design. Not only is the bottom different than previous 32s Wright has built, Torrente said that the boat features a new deck design and a new cockpit.
“From my side, I can’t wait to race with someone I hang out with all the time,” said Torrente, who credited longtime associates, Dewald Propellers and Electronics Unlimited, for supporting the team. “Most of the time I’m by myself in my F1 boat, but in the case of X-CAT, I’ve been paired up with a teammate not someone whose wife is friends with my wife and we take trips with each other. Because of that, I have a responsibility to keep him as safe as possible. We’ve implemented some of the better practices I’ve seen racing overseas into the canopy and inside the cockpit. I feel like it’s as safe as it’s going to get.”
The slideshow above includes several pictures from adventures Belisle and Torrente have been on together over the years.
Belisle, who said he feels very comfortable in the 32-footer so far, realizes it’s going to be different when there are six, eight or even 10 other boats on the course with him.
“I can’t wait to see what that is like,” Belisle said. “I feel like I’m going to have the best possible person sitting next to me though to help me feel as comfortable and confident as possible.”
Both Belisle and Torrente thanked their respective wives, Keri and Flavia, and their families for their support, as well as a few good friends who are going to be helping the team out this season—Adam and Kathi Ramirez, and Brad Sanders.
“This is going to be fun,” said Torrente, who generally doesn’t associate racing with fun because he takes his racing very seriously. “Eric is going to love it, and I know we’re going to have a competitive boat. It’s also going to be neat to be able to showcase some of my new products right here at home.”
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